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Aikidoka’s Shugyo

Aikido Demonstration of centerline

Aikido Demonstration of the Centerline: this centerline forms from the head, the hips to the tips of the toes acting as the structural integrity of the body. http://www.AikidoDelMar.com

I saw a translation of the Tao Te Ching (道德經) naming the Tao (道) as the Great Integrity. In my engineering experience the word integrity means ability to withhold structural properties. The Cambridge dictionary definition of integrity refers to the quality of being whole and complete, or the state of being unimpaired. In mechanical engineering we also stress the importance of structural integrity. In any kind of construction, we combine materials together to complete a working whole. And this working whole must withstand outside stresses being applied. If the bridge you are standing on is unable to hold its structural integrity, the whole would break apart and the bridge might crack or worse collapse.

What does structural integrity have anything to do with Aikido (合気道)? In my experience, there are three levels to Aikido integrity. First, the physical level – the strength of the body’s integrity can produce extremely effective techniques. In Aikido Shugyo, Shioda Sensei explored this effectiveness from the angle of the body’s centerline. This centerline forms from the head, the hips to the tips of the toes acting as the structural integrity of the body. We have seen demonstrations of a student standing on a sensei’s back leg without causing the leg to bend and the body to collapse. The strength of the body’s centerline is due to years of training where the body eventually learns to find and stays within its most productive state. For a beginner it takes longer for us to find our centerline and it is also more difficult for us to maintain it. On the other hand, a master might momentarily lose his balance yet within no time he can gain the balance back to maintain his center.

Second, the psychological level – the strength of our mind’s integrity can bring certainty into our choices and peace into our hearts.  Many of us spend hours per day planning and deciding what to do and what not to do. Many of us second guess ourselves and question if our earlier decisions were indeed the best for us. As you can see this can often bring added stress and wasted energy. According to the Harvard strategy expert Michael Porter,“the essence of strategy is deciding what NOT to do.” Basically in order know that we have made the right decision we must see that the decision does in fact align with our integrity so we can let go all the choices out of alignment with our values and beliefs. For example, I believe in doing our part to help bring-forth a green planet. Therefore I don’t spend my time looking at merchandises with extensive and unnecessary packaging and I find peace within myself by purchasing items that are green-oriented. The more I chose to be in alignment with my values and my beliefs, the easier it is to make the next decision and the more peaceful I feel.

Third, the spiritual level – the strength of our spirit’s integrity can reduce ego conflicts and cultivate harmony. Most of us have learned very early on to use our ego to manipulate or force a situation. We don’t listen to our intuitive soul urges instead we follow the logic of linear thinking. By using our ego instead of our spirit to accomplish goals, we have overlooked the fundamental reasons why we are alive. We are here to learn the right way of living that will bring-forth more love and harmony into the world as well as to cultivate our spirit to align with the longings of our soul in order to become purified into our authentic self – our natural structural integrity. Whenever we follow the demands of our ego instead of listening to the guidance of our soul, we drift further and further away from who we really are and we deteriorate inside out. The results can range from emotionally wounding ourselves and those closest to us to killings thousands of innocent people to achieve a stand of superiority. Hence it is essential to build the strength of our spiritual centerline and practice coming back to our loving nature whenever we are out of alignment.

Where does shugyo come in? In shugyo, the kanji characters are 修行. Some have translated 修 as “using a brush to strike away the dust that obscures the viewing of a person’s original elegance“. The combination 修行 are often translated into “conducting oneself in a way that inspires mastery“. To me these popular definitions have over simplified the ultimate intention of shugyo. The deeper meaning of shugyo really lies within cultivating oneself’s own state of wholeness and nature integrity while using that personal integrity to harmonize with Tao of the world.

I came across shugyo (修行) when I learned to meditate in a Buddhist temple at the age of six. We learned that shugyo is the life-long devotion to one’s Tao. It is often called kugyo (苦行) where 苦 means long-suffering. In my Chinese calligraphy training at the same time I learned to examine each part of the kanji characters to find deeper meanings. My grand-uncle the 77th descendant of Confucius showed me ways to decode the meaning within each characters as Confucius did in his study during the late 500BCs.

If we were to break down shu (修) into pieces, we will find the left side of this kanji represents one individual. The line in the center was explained to me by the head monk in the Buddhist temple as ku (苦) – the long-suffering obstacle the mind must overcome in order to find itself in harmony (合) with the origin of the Self. On the right side of shu (修) there are three layers of training to achieve purification of healing (which 修 also represents healing in ancient text). To me these three sideways lines represent the physical, psychological and spiritual levels of shugyo training.

The second part of shugyo 行 can also be broken down into parts. The left side is no longer one individual instead two people or multiple of individuals. The right side becomes 亍 which means to take small but deeply grounded steps. The whole character carries the meaning of traveling, to walk on the Tao (道 or Do). By seeing the combined effect of 行 we can tell that this traveling on the Tao no longer consists only one individual but must be achieved by sharing the journey with others. In a way, just like the principles of aikido, shugyo (修行) means first we must overcome the obstacles in order to heal and purify the self to become one’s original elegance by finding our own centerline then we can form relationships with others to combine our individual centerlines to form something even more powerful. Together, we can become a bridge that can function on a holistic unimpaired level for the goal of greater goods.

On the physical level, the development of our physical centerline will allow us to attain holistic execution of movements that results in combined energy of powerful techniques. On the psychological level, the cultivation of the mind in alignment of our truth will allow us to become less stressful and more peaceful. On the spiritual level, the purification of the self into alignment with the depth of our soul will allow us to become authentic and form impactful relationships with others. In the end, Tao Te Ching is indeed the Great Integrity and Jacques Payet Sensei is dead-on when he signed my copy of Aikido Shugyo with “Aikido is Life!”

To all the aikidoka sharing the journey of shugyo, this kind of complete devotion to our Tao is not for the faint of heart, we are walking on the road less traveled and that will make all the difference. Osu!

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

True Aikido is Egoless

Payet Sensei 7th Dan Aikido Mugenjuku

Effortless power comes from the dissolution of the ego

“Relax, relax…” Payet Sensei tells me gently as he guides my arms to completely let go.

“No way, then there’s nothing!” my mind never could grasp the act of surrendering. It doesn’t make sense.

“Watch, it is nothing.” He turns around, connects with me, smiles and sinks into his own body. He radiates relaxation. I feel nothing. Yet my body starts to bend as I begin to lose my balance from the top down. Within a second, I am a part of his movement, his energy, and him. Unable to stand up or move, I still feel nothing but vast openness and joy.

It only happened a few days ago during Jacques Payet Sensei’s yearly visit to the U.S. After a weeklong intensive training with him, I feel like a new person – with my arms a little more relaxed and my heart a little more open. The sensation of his energy feels like the base note of a perfect perfume, subtle, vast and lasting. The profoundness within that single moment is remarkable, leaving me raw and exposed while immersed in the pureness of its nectar.

“So this is egolessness,” I finally experienced what I’ve been searching for. The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron speaks of egolessness and no-self as a fact of life but there was no meaning within the words until this chrysalis immersed herself within the purity of True Aikido.

Pema speaks of the psychological egolessness. “Egolessness means that the fixed idea that we have about ourselves as solid and separate from each other is painfully limiting. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem. Self-importance is like a prison for us, limiting us to the world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up very dissatisfied. In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity. It manifests as inquisitiveness, as adaptability, as humor, as playfulness. It is our capacity to relax with not knowing, not figuring everything out…” In other words, living in the illusion of separation we become prisoners to our own ego. We become rigid, tense and dissatisfied. Only by allowing ourselves to let go and dissolve our boundaries, we can then relax and experience each moment with a fresh view.

In Aikido, our rigidity in thinking is reflected in our movements. Whenever the mind wants to do something to someone else, the arms tense up and the body loses its centerline – and the technique fails. However, when we change the view from “me doing something to you” to “let’s connect and do it together” the mind naturally accepts the other person, the arms soften, and the body’s more grounded – and the technique flows with zero force. Some of the most effective Aikido partners I’ve seen have been the most humble individuals I know. Their flexible thinking allows them to relax into the unknowing with their core strength perfectly intact. They embody a sense of confidence that is beyond superficiality because they know that the power of their core will never fail them and their strong centerline is made even stronger if they are accepting and adaptable.

A self proclaimed master once told me that Aikido won’t help me live a better life, I beg to differ. Aikido has helped me tremendously in my own psyche as I embrace the we in all situations. As I soften up and sense the feelings of another as my own, I become more compassionate. And that compassion makes me stronger in my own ground. The future is no longer based on competition instead true cooperation. When you suffer, I suffer. When you live in joy, as do I. Aikido has helped me to use my body as a guide to dissolve the illusion of boundaries that have kept us separate by authentically blending our energies together to create unity. In turn we gain astonishing power without force that is gentle, unfailing, and ever-lasting.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, World Transformation | 3 Comments

Where I am today

Inner Success Blueprint

Jump up, celebrate our inner success!

The interview with Eiji from Genius Squared Trainings was amazing today. On the call, I delievered 5 simple ways you can use right away to be happier and healthier. It is fascinating that all areas of our lives are connected. So if you work on one part, another part will click in as well. By noticing our body, we can then adjust our mind, and improve our health and happiness, therefore really live our fullest potential. Click on the link below to access the reply from this morning’s call.

How to be happier and healthier in 2010 with these 5 simple techniques!

In this call you will learn

1) How to appear slimmer in 5 seconds
2) How to work on your abs without working on your abs
3) How to reduce your daily stress
4) How to have more satisfying relationships
5) How to feel more loved and fulfilled on a daily basis

I have also launched www.InnerSuccessBlueprint.com which is an improved version of i-Teles without the VC money backing us up. This is entrepreneurship at its core baby! I’m using mostly friends and social networking to take this site live. Take a look at the video and I would be interested to know your feedback and any suggestions for improvements!

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Choices, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth, World Transformation | , , , | Leave a comment

Learning from a Pistachio

Pistachio is also called the joy nut or open heart nut in Chinese

Pistachio is also called the Joy nut or the Open Heart nut in Chinese

I was snacking on some shelled pistachios while writing in my journal the other day.  By the end of the plate, I got to this beautifully smooth pistachio.  It was off white, perfectly shaped, and nearly glowing.  As I held it in my hand, I admired its beauty and wanted to dig into its shell to retrieve the nut…

Quickly I realized that this particular pistachio was hardly open…

I was getting more and more frustrated putting way too much energy into getting it open…  I finally had to give up…

You are probably asking “why would you be frustrated with a pistachio?”  I asked myself the same question.  Why something this small ended draining so much energy from me is a very good question to ask.  The answer is “well, there’s probably a really big lesson in this!”  Hmmm, what lesson can a pistachio bring to me?

Suddenly I realized that in Chinese, we call the pistachio an open heart nut.  It opens gracefully to allow us the access to its core beauty while offering itself in service completely.  A pistachio nut gives itself up fully to become us, without reservation.  A pistachio’s purpose is in its service.  Only when a pistachio is fully open, the nut can then be retrieved, and the purpose of the pistachio is fulfilled.  Only by opening its heart fully, its beauty is revealed and its life is worthwhile.  In this particular case, the very pistachio I was holding only opened its heart “half-heartedly”.  Maybe it didn’t think it was good enough or it was too afraid to open up completely.  Nevertheless, the result of a half opened heart is an unfulfilled purpose and a wasted lifetime.

The fate of this pistachio is a potential fate of mine!  I know that I would like to be of service to mankind and yet I am holding back and only opening my heart “half-heartedly”.  By doing so I am not living up to my highest potential and robbing away my ultimate service to the world.  I asked myself, “isn’t it time to open up my heart fully and completely without reservation?”

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” – Rumi

Interesting fact: Open Heart = JOY (in Chinese).  Hmmm…

First published on March 5th, 2009 on Atomic-Flow

July 8, 2009 Posted by | Self Realization, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Inner Evolution for World Transformation

The power of love is infinite

The power of love is infinite

We’ve all done plenty of personal development and spiritual work throughout our lifetime. Does any of that actually matter? Does our own internal evolution send an uplifting aroma to the outside world? Does our loving conscious actions improve the well-being of our society? I’ve heard numerous claims such as “inner evolution for world transformation” from various leading edge spiritual teachers but I never truly believe it myself. How could the little subtle things I do within me make any difference to impact the world? That seemed not only improbable but it was almost narcissistic. Of course someone would make such a claim – in order to appear important!

Nevertheless, somewhere deep inside of me wondered if it is at all possible. If I’m loving,would the world become more loving? If I’m compassionate, would others become more compassionate as well? If I’m happy, would all the people around me live in that happiness as well? … The endless possibilities boiled within me and my curiosity wanted to know more. If at all these narcissistic claims are possible, how would I experience it or even capture that data?

I finally decided to conduct an informal scientific experiment – at the airport. I knew I had to find something to keep me intrigued while waiting in the endless lines at LAX, so why not make use of that time wisely? The objective – to find if my sincere openness and loving smiles would allow others to be more open and loving. The time – 6pm, May 6th, 2009. The place – LAX. The subjects – anyone I can naturally strike up a conversation with.

Subject #1 – The curb side assistant
Input – I smiled at him openly and nodded my head to acknowledge his presence.
Result – He quickly smiled back and started running to help me with my luggage.
Input – I said “thank you” sweetly.
Result – He glowed with love and said “you made my day sweetie.”

Subject #2 – The airport security
Input – I acknowledged him with my eyes as I walked pass him seeing the beauty inside of him underneath his hard emotionless professional mask.
Result – He softened and started to glow with happiness. Everyone around him seem to have been hit by this magnetic radiation as well without realizing what just happened. As I watched him from afar, all of a sudden he was giving helping hands to the elders and giving directions to the lost – with a sincere smile on his face! He later enthusiastically waved to me as I walked by the second time.

Subject #3
– The old lady in line behind me
Input – No one was conversing in line so I decided to strike up a conversation with the old lady behind me – with a smile.
Result – Laughter and smiles somehow penetrated each person like a domino effect. All of a sudden people were talking to each other about the weather, about traveling, and about secrets to happiness! Within 5 minutes, we were all introducing ourselves to one another and I’ve gained 10 new friends in the process.

Subject #4 – The carry on security check lady
Input – “Gosh, it smells like feet here!” I exclaimed with such intensity.
Result – She was grumpy and soon started laughing and replied “I wonder why?!” Suddenly she passed on my comment to several other attendees near by and we all started laughing.

Subject #5
– The Segway police officers
Input – “Awesomeness!!!” I exclaimed as I check out their new toys.
Result – Three Segway officers and I started chatting. One of them offered the other’s Segway for me to test drive. But we realized the security cameras are on, so someone would get in trouble if I actually got close to the Segways. They did give me demos such as the figure 8, two Segway dance, and top speed up a ramp. It was totally radical! By the end we were all laughing so hard and glad to be working our abs in the process.

SO – that was how I spent an hour of my pre-boarding time in LAX – conducting my experiments and having a blast!

Conclusion: My positive attitude and loving smiles do have an extraordinary impact on the world around me.
Discussion: I have asked why this was the case. Does that mean as I heal myself – through inner evolution, my state of being becomes more positive and fun loving naturally? Does this act  turn another opportunity for others to experience the warmth radiating through me? Does the power lie within the authenticity of my beingness? What is the scientific basis of this conscious infection? As I dive into this subject, there are only more questions floating to the surface. More experiences are needed for a greater conclusion and I hope we can all gather as much data as possible.

I hope you will conduct your own experiments and see if your attitude and actions have an impact on your world. I would love to hear about your experience during your own research on the quest of “inner evolution for world transformation.

 

May 6, 2009 Posted by | World Transformation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment