It has been four years since the occurrence of my awakening from the mind. That particular awakening felt like a big bang where my perception shifted forever. Like many individuals passing through the same terrain, I had thought that point marked the end of my journey, now looking back, I am humbled by the continuing movement that is still being graced into my life – knowing now, that big bang of awakening was just the beginning.
In one of Adyashanti’s books, he said that enlightenment happens in three stages – the mind, the heart, and the gut. Now that I have lived through the first two and am still deeply immersed in the third stage, I am able to look back from the very beginning and mark several key points through my journey.
1. Desire – As early as I can remember, I’ve always had an unshakeable desire to know. During my childhood that feeling was very strong, but I never understood what exactly I wanted to find. I spent most of my childhood searching through nature, Buddhist monasteries, and science fiction stories, hoping to gain a glimpse of a greater truth. Most of my free time was spent by myself gazing at flowers, sitting in meditation with the monks, and reading endless stories of alternate realities.
One of my favorite science fiction stories at the time was about the last human colony living in a space ship completely unaware that they were living within the ship’s virtual reality program. Everyone believed that they were still on the beautiful planet earth with endless harmony. By accident, a young boy found a glitch in the system and discovered the truth – yet people on that ship still chose to live in delusion – until a catastrophic collision was about to happen… Somehow I was deeply touched by that story as a child. And I too was determined to find an opening where I could discover the truth – into a greater world I knew I must find.
2. Choosing the Untruth – During my late childhood and into my teenage years, I had given up my internal search; instead I wanted to be popular and agreed with the judgmental selective preferences of society just to fit in. When I turned 12 years old, my family moved from China to America. The most shocking part of the whole transition was not the food or language, but the vastly different belief structures of these two groups of people. Feeling different and inadequate after the move, I completely let go my quest of internal inquiry and jumped into an external seeking of new beliefs and new gadgets. A need to fit-in became the most important drive in my life. Time after time I muted the voice within and followed the path of popularity.
In college and my career thereafter, I worked hard to gain approval. Somehow the path of seeking approval killed my internal voice all together. With each choice, I focused on what others might think of me. With each choice, I valued the superficial face value more than my core value. I became a popular young woman, but in my heart I felt fake and lonely. Always pushing down that nagging feeling that I’m living a lie, I continued to immerse myself into expanding my social life and working on the next big scientific discovery.
3. The Momentum of Suffering – There was a man I worked with who suffered in silence. No one paid attention to his pain, but I felt his suffering like my own. Externally he was excellent in every way. But I could sense he was breaking apart quickly as he struggled to keep his life together. He was like that child in the story – as he begin to discover the delusion of his choosen reality. I wanted to understand him because I wanted to understand myself. At that time I didn’t know the reason for our mutual understanding, instead, I entered into an endless discussion with him about life, psychology, relationships, suffering, religion, and science. We wanted to connect the dots as both of us felt a need for a greater perspective.
As our intellectual friendship ended, he gave me a book by Stephen Batchelor called “Buddhism Without Beliefs – A contemporary Guide to Awakening”. I read the book several times in my mid and late twenties as I struggled with his choice to end our friendship and had to make peace with losing a friend who also searched for what I seek. The suffering of impermanence took control of my psyche for the first time.
4. First Glimpse of Truth – The first posts of this blog were my first glimpse of Truth through a near death experience. Truth – call it God, Ultimate Reality, Bliss, Buddha nature, or anything you like – came as a shock. My perspective at the time seemed to float above the gravity of everyone else’s busy life. I was losing blood and on the verge of being facially disfigured when the hospital staff rushed me through X-rays, CT scans, blood tests, and surgeries. Everyone I encountered felt sorry for me. I was in bliss – no one could make sense of my euphoria as I knew for the first time in my life that my state of being can never be touched by my external circumstances nor physical conditions. To me, these several hours before heading into surgery made me feel safe – as if I had always been Home – in the way life has always been before I was born. The whole experience was more real than anything else I’ve ever experienced in this lifetime.
I told people I met God. But it was much more than that. I couldn’t communicate that the far-reaching, limitless, spaciousness of God is much more than their ideas of God. I tried to write about it but my attempts only ended up in disappointments as I could no longer embody the overwhelming sensation of God. I must tell people about God, and I must find God again.
5. The Quest – From my late twenties into early thirties I felt the urge to re-instate my quest. Initially I felt this nagging unshakable feeling inside me asking me to embark on something greater than myself. During the journey, I took many paths trying to find this glorious quest that would turn me into someone dazzling. I climbed the corporate ladder; completed marathons and century rides; embarked on new science/technology entrepreneurship; flaunted millions of dollars to invest in new ventures; mingled with the rich and famous; conquered the path of multiple personal development betterment; and even started my own daring undertaking to become “bigger than life” through a large format emotional support firm. At the time I was convinced I was chosen to become someone special and that I must do everything I could to meet this grand purpose head on.
Well, I was wrong. With every step in the external direction, I felt more and more fraudulent than the step before. I remember shaking the hand of a personal development guru as I signed up for his workshops – as I touched his hand I felt his cold, lost, empty sadness locked away from his own consciousness. I quickly took my hand back and wondered what just happened. Looking back, at the time I didn’t have the mental awareness to have faith in my own judgement and trust this deep-seated awareness. So I continued to walk on – hoping I would reach a point to conquer all that is – that is to conquer the external life and finally become SOMEONE.
6. The Awakening Mind – In a way, all the things I did were leading me away from my truth. Lucky for me, as I was convinced that I was in control of life, there was a barely noticeable undercurrent that was always present, flowing just beneath my perception. With every “wrong” step, I was greeted with a faint light of truth. With every external conquering, I was gifted an unnoticeable seed of internal potential. As my external conquering started to break apart rapidly, I was left with a broken heart – raw, open, and empty.
So it climaxed at the age of 33. After a rear-end car accident, my body, my mental health, and my life fell apart. I was in so much physical pain and negative mental chattering that I actually contemplated ending my life several times. Somehow something within me with a gentle strength always pulled me back to face my pain. I couldn’t escape the tears, the screams, the sadness, the loneliness, the heartache… All I could do was to witness my own suffering.
Such witness took place as I gazed upon what I called myself – body, mind, and emotions – and noticing my awareness was outside of “myself” – and this awareness was untouched by the action of witnessing the drama I called my life. There were several weeks I lost my will altogether. I just sat, stared off into the distance, cried and cried. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t make it to any of my appointments. With each spontaneous crying session, I felt lighter – as a layer of skin had just been stripped away. During that time since my life had completely fallen apart, my only job was teaching aikido to the children. Fortunately my boss, who is also my sensei, understood exactly where I was. There were days I didn’t make it to work at all and I couldn’t even pick up the phone to call. Sensei never complained. He only encouraged me with a smile – “trust the process,” he told me.
7. Naked Newborn – I lost count of how many weeks or lifetimes were spent doing nothing when the unseen current took over. One particular day I woke up and I knew to mark this date. July 7th. I was naked. I walked around and felt no shame. It is hard to explain what took place because at the time I had no mind. I was so clean, natural and filled with wonder. It was like my hard drive was completely erased and I was left with only this shell – and that shell was all I needed.
There were times I could not speak and make sense of words. Slowly, I regained my sense of how to behave in the world as I gradually started to socialize with those who might understand. One day I met up with my old friend Chris and told him about what had happened when I never returned his phone calls. I wanted to apologize but knew it wasn’t necessary. As I opened up and told him my experience, he calmly told me similar stories of Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. As he explained to me, even though he never had experiences as such, he was however sensitive and empathetic to where I was. His sharing of simliar stories helped me to ground in my own nakedness with more solidity.
In the next several months, I slowly regained my ability to drive, to have a conversation, to reconnect with family and friends. I felt like I was walking on cloud nine, being completely one with God – and I have never been separate from people, nature, and life.
8. The Purge of stale Emotions – The spiritual honeymoon on cloud nine ended as I discovered the untruth within me still controlled my body and my emotions. This is where the real work begins. Enlightenment is not a one time deal of crossing some kind of invisible finish line, it is actually the beginning of something big – the beginning of life! I discovered in order for life to truly flow through me, I have to purge out all the untruth that is still governing my every move.
At the time as I was going through this during the first, second and into the third year of my awakening, I discovered an enlightened master who helped me uncover all the untruth I still carried in my body. His extensive list questioned nearly all assumptions that are common but untrue. We worked through categories concerning mother, father, society, self, and the collective archetypes. Things were getting pulled out of me I never knew existed – until I questioned the validity of the judgmental selective preferences of society I took upon myself to believe in. I processed non-stop as I looked at my life with a magnifying glass all hours of the day. There were days I discovered dreams carried my unconscious assumptions, and after a period of cleaning the “house”, I began to see I even respond differently in dreams. As in my daily choice, I found how much of my past conditioning governed how I walked through life – and how cleaning the “house” would free me from being tied down by belief structures.
9. Healing of the Physical Body through Movement – At the same time, I was battling with the physical neck pain of a pinched nerve from a car accident. During the internal healing work, I was beginning to see at this stage of my spiritual development that only I can heal my own body. In the last year, I had given up on all doctors attempting to help me to regain the movement back in my neck and spine. I used my own perception to accept the healing from the Source.
There were days I did traditional upa yoga and hatha yoga from Isha while finishing with the Isha Yoga’s Inner Engineering Shambhavi Maha Mudra. Usually near the end of my practice, a surge of energy would become alive in my body as my physical system and nervous system were completely relaxed. Other days I could not do my normal routine of practice, so I just sat. This was when the inner energy from the hollowness of the body started to guide my movements. I never moved unless I was taken over by this energy. Somedays I would just sit and nothing happened. Other days as soon as I sat, my body began to move in ways that mimicked animals or some strange rotation I could not logically understand. Nevertheless, I just went with it.
On multiple occasions, my neck would start to rotate by itself to one direction and another direction. The switching of directions happened by itself and the number of repetitions was dictated by the internal energy as well. My body would relax and tears would fall down from my eyes naturally. Sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes several hours later, my body came to a stillness, and after sitting for a while, I could finally open my eyes. Profound shifts happened during these spontaneous sessions and I experienced more healing during these sessions than all the lifetimes of doctors put together.
10. The Commitment a Life with God – Unfortunately the gravitational pull of the ego still takes over at times. One way to flow through dark moments when the ego is acting through me is for me to completely allow it to happen while watching every move consciously. Another way to flow through dark moments when my energy system is getting cleaned out is to just sit. In stillness, in the deep space of emptiness, things just wash though as the “I AM” is completely untouched.
The trick to go through any internal challenges is a full commitment to God. By now, you must see God does not refer to a old man watching us from the sky, God is the source of creation that is either alive or dormant within each and everyone of us. This commitment to God is a commitment to the source of creation. Jaques Payet sensei would always tell me to be in my center, move from my center, never resort to use the passive aggressiveness we all experience as a way to end conflicts. In aikido’s teaching, the only way to create peace is to be that peace yourself – to always move and act from the source of creation.
I have just recently received my nidan (second degree black belt) in aikido during a visit to Canada to train with Payet Shihan again. I was not particularly satisfied with my lack of knowledge of the aikido techniques during my exam, but I was very much content with the energy I carried out in my exam – I was in complete devotion to God as I moved from the source of creation. In a way, my exam felt like a passage leading me into the next phase of my enlightenment – always choose to be God.
11. Every Moment Choosing Truth – Choosing to be a living expression of Grace is the same as choosing to live in complete Truth moment to moment. If I can become the full embodiment of Truth, I become the embodiment of God consciousness. This sounds simple but it is not an easy task. As I choose to stay conscious, accepting, allowing, and committed, I am beginning to become more and more clear in my perception, and in my being. Life is no longer about doing, it is about being or better yet “doing the being”.
I am just at the beginning of my journey to live in the non-abiding expression of Grace, since I don’t have much experience with this section, hence I’m just going to leave you with a quote as you enjoy the journey –
“Enlightenment is not like a Big Bang – it is an ongoing process.” – Sadhguru
Happy World Health Day Everyone! お元気ですか? (Ogenkidesuka)
Today is April 7th, World Health Day. I would like to explore the translation of the above Japanese greeting regarding your health.
When someone asks you “お元気ですか”, they are asking, “how are you?” Well, loosely speaking. The English translation is usually “how are you” or “how are you doing” or “how is your health?” The Japanese word 元気 (genki) stands for health. But it has a deeper meaning. 元 is pronounced (ge-n), it stands for the source of origin, the source of prana, or the place of wholeness. 気 is pronounced ki, as in 合気道 (aikido). 気 stands for energy – which includes your body, your emotions, and your spirit. The literal translation of 元気 (genki) is original energy. This is actually the most foundational, and most precise description of health.
In the western world, when we speak of health, most people would assume that of the body. Major hospitals are dedicated to the health of individuals by treating various bodily ailments. Then there is the emotional side of health, where psychotherapy is used for the healthy mind of individuals. Nowadays holistic medicine recognizes that health is psychosomatic – bridging the gap between the mind and the body is becoming a standard practice. In the eastern world, stemming from the yogic tradition and Buddhism, the energetic aspect is greatly emphasized. And nowadays, holistic healers can use energy to heal the body as well as to bring peace of mind.
During my lifelong research of health – starting with preparation for medical school, then deviating into bioengineering, then adding psychology and NLP, and ending up in the origin of spirituality – and from my personal experience, I know that the body, mind, and energy all play a part of my overall health.
I would like to share a short Sadhguru talk which reminds me of the core of my aikido practice – 元気, health comes from within.
Sadhguru: The word health comes from the word whole. When your body, your mind, your emotion, your energies are in tune with each other and you feel wholesome within yourself, that is when you feel healthy. A large number of people in the world, including many who are considered medically healthy, are unhealthy. They may not need any medication but their system does not know any wholesomeness. There is no sense of peace or joy in them. You think you are unhealthy only when you get depressed beyond a certain point, but you are unhealthy if you are not bubbling with joy. There is no wholesomeness in terms of the internal composition of who you are.
This has happened because you never paid any attention to it. This whole attitude of trying to fix everything from the outside has to go. No doctor or medicine can ever give you health. They can assist you when you have fallen into ill health and help you out of it a little bit, but health has to happen within yourself.If health has to come from within, we definitely have to do some inner engineering.
Health is not just a physical aspect. Today modern medicine says that man is psychosomatic. What happens in the mind naturally happens in the body. What happens in the body in turn happens in the mind. So the way we are living here, our attitude, our emotion, the basic mental state, the level of activity we are going through, how streamlined our minds are, all these are very much a part of your health.
Health is a side effect of spirituality. If you are complete within yourself, being healthy is natural.
Today, on this World Health Day, I would like to invite you to discover when you feel the most healthy. How does your body feel overall? How do you feel emotionally? How smooth and full is your breath? How relaxed or joyful do you feel? How grounded and loving do you feel? And for the extra sensitive individuals, how is the expression and expansion of your ki?
Thank you friends for walking with me on this journey of life. May your find the natural health, beauty, and joy is already part of you. The next time I ask you “お元気ですか?” you can smile, and say “my original energy is with me – 元気です.”
One of the most defining moments of my scientific career occurred during my junior year in college. After receiving the highest scores on several difficult engineering exams, I started to feel arrogant in my ability to design complex systems through various published research and logical deductions. One day after my presentation in class, as I was basking in glory, my professor interjected me with several questions to inspect the quality of my assumptions. He was particularly interested in a key assumption I made using the data from a recently published paper. He was digging deeply into the details of that research which at the time I felt was completely irrelevant. After a period of agonizing cross-examination, it was clear to me that I had made a mistake in my design. As I packed up my computer to leave the lecture hall, he said something to me I have never forgotten.
“Do not believe in the things you read, you must do your own experiment.”
Years later I still felt awkward about the incident. Having not fully digested the significance of his words, I went on to make a mark through my science/engineering research and design.
I worked on a LED and photodiode based magnetic microsphere fluorescence system for infectious disease detection. Within our research and design group, we read lots of theoretical papers and countless research experiments. Not once did we take someone else’s experimental results as the ultimate truth. We always duplicated the experiments in the same and often varied conditions.
I remember one of the theories we researched was regards to the chemical and magnetic field effect on different sizes of magnetic microspheres. We theorized the chemical suspension of magnetic spheres would form dipole-dipole interactions which in turn would give us an amplified field for signal detection. The magnetic experts supplied us with their spec data, mathematical models, and prediction of outcomes, and also theorized the same phenomenon. With added mathCad prediction models we reached the same conclusion. Only upon the arrival of our expensive lock-in amplifier used in conjunction with phase contrast microscopy and other instruments along with endless experiments, we were able to detect and see our bio-chemically treated microspheres behave very differently than the expert opinions. They never formed chains of dipole-dipole interactions.
Time after time, in science we found someone else’s data is always just someone else’s data; if I have to find what is true for me, I must empirically come up with my own results. Now looking back, my science career gave me the proper foundation for my spiritual journey – to always find my truth through empirical inquiry.
During the days of my spiritual seeking, I read books, listened to talks, and attended many training events. The scientist in me never allowed me to take in anything second-handed without questions and empirical data. I only used what was fed to me as a point of reference. In the process I found myself diverging from popular opinions; in the process I had to give up what others believe to be true so I could remain faithful to my inner integrity; and in the process I slowly stumbled upon the Truth empirically through my own experience. Many people have tasted a single moment of awakening.
In movies, novels, songs, and even everyday conversations people speak of out-of-this-world experiences that came out of nowhere but somehow gave them the power to see and feel a moment of clarity. This is a great starting point to journey into the ultimate Truth through empirical data, as our first awakening experience is uniquely our own. However, many people grasp tightly to that single experience and never take another step forward into the journey. They would claim their old data is the ultimate truth and not just a speck of whole puzzle along the way. Like in science, each experimental result only makes a part of the whole puzzle, only through different sets of statistically significant experiments, looking deeper into the details, and our ability to put the pieces into a whole, are we then able to arrive at the clarity of the whole Truth and the ultimate expression of the Truth through us.
I’ve always enjoyed this quote from Adyashanti – “to take awakening into enlightenment requires a certain sort of fierce commitment to the truth.” That means we will not fake our data to make certain results happen. Just as in scientific integrity, we are committed to the unveiling of truth so we never lie and manipulate data to make the data match our theory.
In a way, my yoga and aikido is just my experimental ground. In yoga, the theory is if you “do” yoga, then you will be physically, mentally, and spiritually fit. Is that really true for you? I know for me, when I “do” yoga – meaning force my practice to be done as an exercise – I can feel more pain in my physical injuries along with a sense of deep sadness and a screaming out “STOP!” I could feel the movements becoming unkind and hence making me more tense. Other times when I stop the “doing”, I allow my body to come to a balance on its own time as I fall into a spacious place of deep peace, the movements somehow would just flow out of me. My physical injuries feel healed, loved and cared for. The unit of my body, mind are naturally in sync with the movement of the expressed energy – which all falls into a state of yoga – ending up giving me more clarity, flexibility and even deeper peace. Similar experiments apply to my aikido practice – which I will elaborate at another time.
If you are a logical person, use your logic to your advantage to find the truth for yourself. A strong scientific mind will not stand in the way of your seeking, in fact, it will enhance it. Don’t take what I say at face value, conduct your own experiments, repeat the experiments again and again – you will arrive at your own results. The Truth will not come to you through someone else’s experience, what you are looking for will find you if you commit to the path of scientific integrity – a fierce commitment to truth.
I read this tonight and thought I would share the wisdom of Sadhguru from the book “Mystic’s Musings”. On one level, it echos the teachings of aikido, on another level, it is exactly what I needed to hear. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.
Of all emotions, compassion is the highest that man can experience. When someone lives in compassion, not just love, only then he is a real seeker, because very easily love becomes attachment and a bias. Love can become a great prejudice against you, somebody else, or anything.
In the Indian culture you never told your parents, your wife, your husband or your children, “I love you.” This was not a part of this culture because the moment you say it, it’s almost like it’s not there. You’re only trying to assert it. Love is not an assertion. Love is supplication. An asserting mind can never be a loving mind. ON the day of the big men’s only booze party, a gentle, quiet, and unassuming fellow who had missed a few of these kinds of parties was goaded by his chauvinistic friends to be more assertive with his wife. “You don’t have to always do the things your wife asks you to do. Go home tonight and show her you’re the boss.” The man, after hearing these same words many times over, was finally set on fire with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to try the friends’ advice. He rushed home, slammed the door, shook his fist in his wife’s face, and growled, “From now on you’re taking orders from me. I want my supper right now and after you put it on the table, go upstairs and lay out my best clothes. Tonight I’m going out with the boys and you’re going to stay home where you belong. And another thing, do you know who is going to comb my hair, iron my pants, polish my shoes, and tie my tie?” “I certainly do,” said the wife very calmly, “the undertaker.”
Patanjali (who is considered the father of yogic sciences), to differentiate between asserting and loving, called this ‘the original mind’. What is this original mind? The mind that you carry right now is a collection, an accumulation. It is garbage that you have piled over a period of time. If you can leave it behind and walk away, then you are in your original mind. Others may call this no mind, this original mind. This is something that ‘was’, something that when you tasted our original mind – true love or compassion just well up within you. Only if you can leave your garbage and walk away this moment, only then is this possible. Only then the seeker who carries my message becomes a Master, otherwise he just stagnates. Just carrying my message is itself an accumulation, some nonsense that you gathered somewhere. Maybe it is useful for a few people, but many never lead to any great transformation.
The few who carry my message to the outside world are teachers. A teacher is an eternal student. The moment he stops being a student, he is not a teacher anymore. This is the way it is. The day he thinks, “I am a teacher,” he is finished. It is over. This is a constant process of learning. Once you are in this moment of original mind, there is no past. Everything is new, everything is fresh. If at any moment you think you know, and you teach, that means you’re carrying the past burden. Maybe right now this is convenient, but the same convenience will become a tremendous torture after some time. It will. I have seen people systematically destroy themselves, step by step. Not carrying the past burden can be very easily done for the person who can simply be here.
The process of training people to carry my message is not to go out and do some nonsense to somebody else. This is not the point. This whole process is a way of growth. It is an effective tool for your growth. Teaching is for you to grow and during the process somebody else might be benefited. In the African lore there is a saying “When the lion feeds, many animals eat.” That’s all it is. It’s not a service that you’re doing. It is just that you chose that kind of a path, that when you walk, many others benefit. When something is left unfulfilled within you, when a complete illumination has not happened with your own being, there is nothing one can really teach. There is nothing that can be transmitted. It is just that you’re a driver, and you take the passengers along with you. maybe you have the opportunity of handling the wheel for a while. That does not make you better in anyway. It is just that you’re also a passenger, but happen to be the one who is holding the wheel.
If a person has to develop, he has to grow into humility and love. He has to evolve into a certain gracefulness; a gracefulness not of the body, not of the clothes, not of the exterior, but a certain gracefulness which can’t be expressed in words. If a person has to grow into this, it can only come when moment-to-moment life becomes caring, the kind of caring which hurts. This can happen only out of deep love and compassion.
Last Saturday I tested for my shodan in aikido and was awarded a black belt. People asked me how it feels. To be honest, I feel no different because getting a black belt was not my aim. At the same time I feel deeply touched because I have devoted myself completely through sunshine and rain, and in a sense, to have come this far without giving up along the way is what I’m most proud of.
Looking back there were numerous times I questioned my sanity when things got tough. Especially when it came to the aikido forward roll. I was never talented at being up-side down nor I enjoyed it very much. The forward roll seemed to me like purposefully tossing myself onto the ground and hoping my body will be round enough to carry me through so I can make it to the other side and be back on my feet again. In a way, I thought I had to be at least a little crazy to attempt such a stunt. I was – a little crazy – priding myself as a good athlete I didn’t want to back down from such a challenge. Wanted to protect myself I often closed my eyes, held my breath and prayed I won’t get hurt. I suppose my teachers were amazed at times that I’m willing to try and other times I would tremble in fear while everyone else proceeded before me. There were times I walked out of it all together. Not to mention injuring my right shoulder a few months into the training when I tossed myself too high off the ground with my eyes closed, and later only to discover that I have landed on the weakest part of the shoulder that was not meant to support such weight. I cried my tears and swore I would never put myself through another ordeal again yet somehow there was another force quietly pushing me forward.
Four years have gone by that I rarely missed any training at all. I selflessly worked on anything else the dojos needed from mopping the mats, updating the website, hosting oversea guests, to teaching the kids class. There was never a day went by I didn’t at least think of aikido. Why? I really can’t say. After years of training my goal-oriented ego has been washed away slowly. I could no longer say I train so I can look good in other people’s eyes because I no longer care. I don’t do it for the money, I don’t do it to gain approval, I don’t do it to even be physically fit. Unknowingly the subtle flow slowly pushed me forward through my sadness, through the obstacles, through sunshine and rain and somehow I found myself on the other side of the forward roll – landing on my feet continuing to walk forward.
What did I give up? A lot. I had to give up fear. I had to give up aggression. I had to give up the need to be perfect. I had to give up indulging in my neurosis. I had to give up forcing a particular outcome to suit my needs. I had to give my limited view of separation of humanity. … The list goes on.
What did I gain? Even more. I gained true self-confidence. I gained a disciplined mind. I gained the awareness when I’m acting from ego. I gained the ability of acceptance and peace. I gained a keen sense of focus amid emotional turmoil. Most importantly I gained love and compassion for myself and the ability to expand that love outward.
The truth is, the black belt itself has no meaning, yet this black belt is a symbol of my perseverance. This black belt reminds me to stick to my path through thick and thin – knowing I will land on my feet and walk forward again each time I fall.
People walking around wearing masks hiding their soul. Believing the masks are their true face. Thirsty for a deep well that can satisfy their yearning. Secretly hoping to fly free…
Each day she wakes up in the morning thought she had woken up from a dream yet not knowing that she still lives within another. She walks up to the mirror to put makeup on her mask. Finds the right shade of rose to paint the lips. Picks up the outfit that presents the day. Floating with thoughts and emotions, she questions if she were her mind alone. Looking out the window, she wonders if everyone else was pretending to be somebody too. “Someday I feel like I’m acting in a dream,” she says, “knowing my superficial layers must appear surreal.”
One day as she drives in her car and feels a complete sense of Oneness. She is the One. She is everything and nothing at that same instant. There is no different between her, the car, the road, the trees, the birds and the sun. She is completely a part of all that is. Amazed, she looks down at her own hands and smiles like she never seen these hands before. She inhales and finds fullness in all that vast space. “Oh there, a thought!” Yet how insignificantly it passes like a snail on the path of a garden. “I am not the body, nor the mind!” The experience is unmistakably true – PURE essence – without the contamination of believing every passing thought. Just light, just being, just spirit. “That is what I am.”
“What a dream it has been! Nearly 100% of life was just an illusion – lived in an endless loop of thoughts, beliefs and derived emotions – repeating itself in a wheel of karma. False beliefs tying us down. Wake up a little friends! WAKE UP! Come and dance to a new song as Gods! We’ve been asleep for too long!”
She exhales. And sees the masks floating away. She smiles. And notices the smile of a Buddha. She looks within. And sees the whole universe throbbing within her. “This is it! This is the moment of awakening.”
~ ♥ ~
“I suddenly realized I was as much the sound as the bird as the one hearing the bird, that the hearing and sound and the bird were all manifestations of one thing. I cannot say what that one thing is… I opened my eyes, and I found the same thing was happening in the room – the wall and the one seeing the wall were the same thing… At that moment, consciousness–spirit–realized it had been so identified with all these forms that it really thought it was a form right up to this lifetime.” – Adyashanti, from the book Emptiness Dancing
~ ♥ ~
Cast off the tattered robes that stain your soul! Open yourself to Heaven’s dictates and shine brightly! – Morihei Ueshiba, from the book The Essence of Aikido
~ ♥ ~
If you hear the word “Buddha,” you may think in terms of Gautama the Buddha. But Gautama is not the only Buddha; that was not his second name. His name was Gautama Siddhartha, and he became a Buddha. Buddhi means “intellect,” or the logical dimension of your mind. Dha means “one who is above.” So, one who is above his mind is a “Buddha.” – Sadhguru, from The Huffington Post
There’s a saying in Chinese – 心同日月 – the direct translation roughly equates to “heart with sun and moon”. The real meaning lies beyond the metaphorical image and hints to a desire so deep so strong that it stems from the desire of nature itself.
When we speak of desire, the mind can often grasp onto ownership – asking something from life – a demand in terms of “what I want is…”; the emotions can often feel the sensations of longing – yearning for something I have yet experience – a wish in terms of “only if I can feel that…” Most of these desires come from us, the little egos – thinking “only if I have that I would be happy.”
There is another kind of desire – something more basic and more instinctual. A desert flower desires the kiss of raindrops. The crops desire the gentle gaze of sunlight. A wife desires being in union with her husband. These are the kinds of desires that stem from life itself. Such life desires are in the form of energy that creates more life, more nature. Without these desires life cannot sustain itself.
The beauty of awakening is seeing the difference between the two. The choices we made as unenlightened beings are often based on the desires of the body, mind and emotions. These choices only lead to suffering and entanglements. Then we spent much of our energy trying to untie the knots we trapped ourselves into – often with little or no success. The gift of awakening allows us to see such entanglements are counter-productive to life, we work against ourselves, against each other and against the natural flow of life. We often stand in the way of what life truly desires within us. Upon the grace of awakening we are beginning to see there is no need to fight against what is natural. We can see there is no need to protect ourselves from the illusions of fear. All is well – even these instinctual desires we might have judged in the past are really just another form of pure love. As we open ourselves more to what is true within us, we can listen more deeply, sense our 道 (Tao) more distinctively and follow the path that is uniquely meant for us.
This is when life becomes magical. We no longer require a set of circumstances to be happy, we are naturally blissful. We no longer need to own anything to feel valuable because the entire universe is throbbing within us. A sense of overwhelming gratitude arises within us without us reminding ourselves to be thankful. Things just happen not because we have set it as a goal but because we are being true to ourselves and in harmony with all that is. Life becomes a breeze. The manifestation of such desires is unique within each and every one of us. As you might have heard, O Sensei – the founder of 合气道 (aikido) felt a sense of duty to bring-forth the art of peace into the world. He cannot NOT do it. Through his poetry he expressed the desires of the heaven so strong within him, guiding him, and later in life, the desire of the heaven became him. He became 合气道 – in complete harmony with the energy of his unique path melting into all that is…
It takes tremendous courage to recognize our untruth, our entanglements and our resistance. It takes a warrior to follow the path of aiki, letting go the desires of the ego and be in complete harmony with life itself. To follow such deep desires will undoubtedly lead you to your unique path of self-actualization.
“Just be yourself. Everything else will happen naturally.” – Jacques Payet Shihan, 7th dan, Yoshikan Aikido
This was one of the lessons from my week-long training with Payet Shihan. When I started training in aikido back in 2008, I couldn’t understand the miracle behind effortless power. There was something fake about aikido that my mind could not grasp. Small framed woman taking down a two hundred pound drunker in the Japanese Riot Police seemed far-fetched for me. I used to believe results can only be achieved through endless hard work and the man with stronger muscles will win the fight – until I experienced the touch of Jacques Payet.
He walks with an effortless strength that is paradoxical to the mind. He contains an unshakable core, soft demeanor, and tireless expansion of ki. He embodies aikido.
I walked with a stiffness in my neck and shoulders. I hold an uncertainty in my core, protective hardness in my demeanor, and uncontrollable expansion and contraction of ki. I embodied fear yearning for grace.
When Payet Shihan adjusted my basic aikido stance I felt a sense of natural freedom. As he asked for my upper body to relax and helped me to push my feet to take a stronger root into the earth, I felt an effortless balance in my body that is naturally strong. No matter how hard someone pushed me I did not need to resist. I was me and the push helped me to root stronger into the ground. No matter how hard someone pushed I did not loose my balance. I was me and the push helped me to define who I really am. The freedom of being naturally arises without consciously driving towards a specific way of being – it is natural, all encompassing, and all accepting. I was able to sense the teaching of ancient spiritual text of “let go, let god” in my body. And it was pure bliss.
As I spoke to Payet Shihan later during the week, he helped me uncover the cause to my recent personal difficulties as well. It seemed the cultural tendency of adjusting to someone else’s needs has been strongly engrained in my psyche. I would often let go of myself to make someone else more comfortable. I would stay in the background and force myself to be passive because I believe it is better for a woman to appear weaker. I have even gone as far as modeling after individuals I find embodying particular qualities so I can aim to cultivate these qualities in myself – even when it became unnatural for who I am. Often in aikido training, a student will imitate sensei to learn a movement too precisely in the mechanical form but in the end it was unnaturally for his own body. According to Payet Shihan, aikido training is the training to be natural. Natural for you is not always natural for me. It is about being perfectly balanced for the individual. Too much imitation can be dangerous. If we only focus on the blossom and forget to tend to the roots, a flower cannot share it’s true beauty. In my experience, only when I have a strong connection to God (being perfectly grounded in who I am), naturally I know exactly what to do and perviously seemingly impossible results blossomed miraculously. It is the classic process of “Being, Doing, Having”. Sometimes we can get so focused on the results of “Having” then we loose our connection to our core as we reach for an external goal. The key is being grounded, being balanced, and being natural.
As I embark on this journey into aikido, I am in deep appreciation of the inner beauty of nature. Everything about aikido contains an intrinsic grace that is effortless and non-pretentious. Everything about spiritual freedom is being natural.
Below is a video of Payet Shihan helping me falling into grace.
“As long as you perceive that anyone is holding you back, you have not taken full responsibility for your own liberation. Liberation means that you stand free of making demands on others and life to make you happy. When you discover yourself to be nothing but Freedom, you stop setting up conditions and requirements that need to be satisfied in order for you to be happy. It is in the absolute surrender of all conditions and requirements that Liberation is discovered to be who and what you are. Then the love and wisdom that flows out of you has a liberating effect on others.” – Adyashanti (Zen master)
Responsibility = continuous commitment on the path
Liberation = ability to move about freely, powerfully
Stand free of making demands on others and life = keep yourself balanced, free of external support as in a strong kamae
Freedom = ease in movement, not muscling through techniques but using the grace of inner strength, soft sensitivity and the flow of ki to dance through techniques
Happy = extension of energy as an expression of love
Surrender = let go expectations if a technique will work or not
Discovered = realization of how the technique has miraculous worked with NO EFFORT
Who and what you are = the technique worked because it was a part of who you are, you are ki, your ki is the universal ki
Love and wisdom that flows out of you = the expansive energy unrestrictedly expressed in all movements
Had a liberating effect on others = this is when uke took a hard fall but it didn’t hurt at all, and he stood up with a huge grin on his face!
That was something fun to share. Now re-read the first paragraph and think aikido. Cheers!
How do you balance a graceful yoga pose on a mountain top OR become a world class speaker? Think MASTERY. According to George Leonard’s book Mastery – to be good at anything, you can’t take a magic pill, but you can definitely enjoy the ride into a process toward mastery. What is the secret behind achieving your highest potential? The modern world tries to convince us we can achieve instant successes, find quick-fixes to long-term illnesses, or become overnight riches without putting forth time and energy. This is why we find ourselves impatient when we embark on a path toward greatness because unconsciously we started to expect quick results.
The bad news – it is very improbably you will achieve anything great without putting enough energy into the process.
The good news – you don’t need a special ticket to achieve your greatest potential, all you need is complete willingness and devotion to the path.
According to George Leonard that there are different types of learners. Some of us are dabblers – we learn things quickly but once we meet obstacles we give up and attempt our effort with something else. Some of us are obsessive – our learning curve is also steep and we put ourselves into the learning through extra training, books and tools in order to get faster results but end up burnt out in the long run. Others are hackers – they also learn quickly and they don’t need extra information or instructions, they are perfectly happy to stay on the level they are, if there’s growth, then great; no growth no problem! Whereas the master learns quickly, she doesn’t stress when she plateaus, she walks forward with her practice knowing the rise and fall of her growth is immanent and she trusts learning happens at a deeper level and she will raise to a higher plateaus when she is ready.
What type are you? As for me… YUP! You guessed it right, I’m an obsessive dabbler. I’ve lived my live learning many different things but never quite became good at anything. I’ve been seriously obsessive to the point of finding multiple ways to push myself without ever taking a break. I was the super type-A who thought she could stand against the world with her unyielding will. Sounds familiar? Well, the devastating effect is my learning process put me into burnouts after burnouts. I was dead-tired and usually ended up quitting. Even though I know how to snowboard, surf, dance, sing, paint, swim, run, write, skydive, scuba, etc but I was never really good at anything. Doing one thing after another no longer gave me any fulfillment. I was chasing after testing the water without ever feeling a true sense of accomplishment.
The cure? Nowadays I take great pleasure working in the process toward mastery. Being on the path of aikido I realized that there’s so much joy getting into the depth of a Budo. I’ve also found great insights from the five keys to mastery in Leonard’s book. 1) Instruction – the preciousness in having a sensei or any other kind of instructions is we learn from other people’s mistakes and insights. Using an instruction book to begin any kind of practice can give us the foundation to further our learning in a structured manner. I remember the days I tried to learn swimming on my own. Let me tell you it was painful. Once I joined a team with a swim coach, I learned quickly and had more fun. It reduced the length of my plateaus. 2) Practice – duh! Of course in order to get good at something we need to repeat what we learned over and over again. We’ve heard the saying “practice makes it perfect.” Well, actually “perfect practice makes it perfect.” We have to put all of our mind, body and spirit into the practice and treating it like our life depends on it. Only when we focus our practice instead of practice mindlessly we can then improve. I’ve seen several kids in our aikido program that don’t seem to progress at all. That is because they are not present during their practice. The kids who always pay attention and do extra work after class, they enjoy the fruit of their labor quickly. 3) Surrender – what? Yup. Let it go. Let go and let God. When you are in a process, instead of becoming obsessed with “when will I get better” I have to let go and watch the process to unfold. The unconscious mind is always working even when you are not. During your relaxation times your unconscious mind actually integrated all the learning for you. So lay on the beach or take a nap. You will be surprised that tomorrow you might just graduated to the next level! 4) Intentionality – your directed thoughts, images and feelings will amplify your success. Athletes often visualize an event picturing themselves winning prior to the actual competition. In order for any growth to take effect, you have to really want it. Your directed intention will set your unconscious mind work towards your desired outcomes. 5) The edge – always be on the edge, push yourself pass your boundary of comfort, stretch a little. With each edge you will soon find comfort and reach a higher ground. Then push yourself pass another boundary again. The feeling of breaking through boundaries alone can be blissful enough to keep you going. With each boundaries you break through you will feel a new sense of achievement, confidence and drive toward greater mastery.
So friends let’s join hands and walk toward the summit to view a new horizon. We don’t have to quit in the face of difficulties, we don’t have to give up because things got tough, and we certainly don’t have to beat ourselves up toward restless obsessions. All we have to do is to be willing and live on the edge. All we have to do is be willing and practice to achieve our greatest potential – our own personal mastery.
(This is the speech I gave today. They liked it. yippie!)