Heart Opening Moments

BLOG of a Spiritual Stripper

Progressive movement towards full enlightenment

light over darkness

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” – Marcel Proust (photo by me, Del Mar Beach, CA)

 

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

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July 2, 2015 Posted by | Enlightenment, Inner Growth | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

World Health Day – お元気ですか?

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. - Sadhguru

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. – 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.”

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Forever Love

If I die today, then let me die.
I have lived well, loved well;
None will be missed as I take All.

My soul swells with joy!
Throbbing love with the pulse of my heart,
The whole universe resides within me – dancing, singing, laughing, and watching.

Love flows in my veins,
If I die I shall let all of me melt away,
Dissolving into the thin air you breath.

Breath in me,
behold me as yourself,
I am your Eternal Lover,
In light, in dark, in heat, in cold, in wetness and dry-land –
I shall never leave.

As I am a part of you, not apart.
As I dissolve away,
I will be Nothing but All of You.

love that last beyond the ordinary existence is within you.

love that lasts beyond the ordinary existence is within you.

 

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Enlightenment, love, poetry, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Aikido’s Path Beyond Awakening

Battle of the Samurais by Mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Battle of the Samurais by Mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Last Sunday I had the privilege of being in Gankashu training with an aikido master Utada shihan. 学習 (gankashū) in Japanese means learning or actively studying a subject. In aikido, we emphasize 修学 (shūgaku) which is beyond the superficial intellectual understanding and as a way to commit to the depth of true knowledge. 修学 (shūgaku) is similar to 修行 (shūgyō) or 修道 (shūdō) which is often used in martial arts training to describe one’s lifetime devotion to the path.

The path prior to awakening is similar to the path prior to attaining a black belt. We often aim our direction in such a way in order to achieve, to conquer, and to make the ego successful. It is not to say there’s no value in such an aim. It is just that the path after awakening is substantially different even though the outward expression of the path might hold certain similarities.

A few months into my aikido training years ago, I asked both of my senseis how long it would take for me to obtain a black belt. Back then, that was my aim. I thought if I made it to a black belt then I have made it onto the ladder of success. I remember clearly the older sensei just laughed while the younger sensei smiled and sincerely answered me in such a way that was fit for my level of understanding at the time. I could sense that I was blind to a greater knowing. I saw it on their faces that for me to even ask such a question I must only have had superficial understanding but really was essentially ignorant.

Life worked out in such a way that my sustained awakening synchronized with my training for my shodan (first degree black belt). My training partner invested in aikido mats for a home dojo where he aimed to obtain his black belt no matter what. We trained during normal class times as well as in his home dojo and by ourselves. He held a purpose to obtain just as I lost my obsession to obtain. I didn’t know what was really happening within me at the time. All I knew for certain was that I had lost the drive to ace the test, yet I still trained and trained with every ounce of my heart not at all concerned with the outcome. The interesting sensation was that I felt more truly devoted to my path without holding any agenda at all.

Samurai sword bushido - artwork by mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Samurai sword bushido – artwork by mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Utada shihan told us a story of a samurai’s search for Enlightenment. This samurai set his course to be the best. He did end up conquering and defeating even the best samurais around him yet he did not find what he was looking for. He decided that a warrior’s path cannot lead to Enlightenment so he switched his path to become a farmer. Years later still not able to find what he was looking for, he then switched his path again to become solitary and lived in a cave no one would ever find. Legends told that he never found what he was looking for.

Stories of samurais or warriors in search of one’s true path are often told in great detail and variation in many cultures.  They are all the same story in essence – a hero’s journey. Initially the hero wants to obtain skills for a grand purpose. There is much hardship and resistance internally and externally. This is symbolized as the fight, often times a duel to the death. Death is also symbolic where an old way must completely end in order for the hero to truly discover oneself. We project out our own inferior qualities onto others in the world and in such stories these inferior qualities must be “killed” in a duel so only one True warrior can live on. Unfortunately for some stories like our story of the unfound samurai, even winning the duel cannot bring a deeper understanding of Truth, Self, and  Life. Fortunately for some others, we dig deeper than just the superficial appearance and find a whole new world of being. There does come a death, more dramatic than the physical death is the death of the old, the death of our tinted beliefs, and the death of the psyche. In the physical death, the energy of the old way of being will still carry on and the psychological death does not allow any old parts to carry on – EVERYTHING must go, must be cleaned out.

The moment of awakening is the realization of “oh, I now know what I am.” Just because this realization takes place it does not mean all of our cellular memories, hardwired beliefs and reactions will shift in a single moment. The clearing out process takes time. The new neuronal network takes time to disengage and rebuild. And the new DNA transcription and new protein expression also takes time to re-educate. And these times of the post-awakening can sometimes be very clear while all of a sudden we sink into the mud again of confusion. This is because our system is rebuilding, readjusting, and relearning. Anything that no longer fits the new system will be brought to the surface, examined, and evaluated. There are times of blissful oneness followed by unshakable darkness. The path after awakening is that of purification. It does not happen by us, but it happens to us. Grace takes care of the majority of the work, we just are just along for the ride – hence 道 is written as a the “one who emerges” riding a “carriage”. Like my 初段 (shodan) is written as the beginning of a path – the road after awakening is  where the journey truly begins. This path is 修道 (shūdō) – the path of complete devotion to the life after realization.

Utada shihan shared several points through aikido to help one orient the focus in a constructive manner. These points will help aikidokas and freshly realized beings alike.

I) 道場とわ (dojo to wa)
“how to conduct oneself in the dojo environment”
In aikido, one must start from the self, once our inner space is cleaned then extend that onto our gi and into a cleansed and open space we call the dojo. This is also true for our spiritual journey. First we must hold what is realized, then embody what is realized and be what is realized. We take the realization into the world.

II) 心技体の稽古 (shin gi tai no kei ko)
“the importance of the body and mind/heart training”
In aikido, the enemy is the constantly changing and wavering mind. The wavering mind unbalances the body. A unbalanced wavering body is already defeated. In aikido, we train to unify. In our spiritual path after realization, the mind can still try to take center stage and take along the body, emotions and energy with it. The training is to become “no mind”, where movements are simple expressions from spirit not thought.

III) 二つの目付き (futatsu no me tsuke)
“two ways of witnessing”
There are two ways to witness, one way is 見 and the second way is 観.  The first way is to view something with sight. It is only a superficially physical way to witness. The second way is to deeply see and intuit the completeness of something. It is often said 観 is a deeper way of truly seeing with one closing one’s two eyes but opening the third eye and turning it inward. It is the first word in the Heart Sutra – the beginning of truly seeing. Life after awakening demands us to no longer rely on 見 but we must look inward and view life by its completeness with our own depth through 観.

IV) 伝統と継承 (dento to keishou)
“tradition and succession [of the art]”
In any type of martial arts, we base our training in the grounded-ness of tradition. Aikido is an evolved form from the way of the sword, jujutsu, and other forms of martial arts. Because of tradition there is training. Yet it does not become capped but a life-form that keeps evolving to higher and higher levels.  O sensei said in an interview: “In my opinion, [aikido] can be said to be the true martial art. The reason for this is that it is a martial art based on universal truth. This universe is composed of many different parts, and yet the universe as a whole is united as a family and symbolizes the ultimate state of peace. Holding such a view of the universe, Aikido cannot be anything but a martial art of love. It cannot be a martial art of violence. For this reason Aikido can be said to be another manifestation of the Creator of the universe.”

And that too, is the path after realization.

December 21, 2013 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Death & Rebirth, Enlightenment, Fine Arts, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Enlightenment – Selfless, Nothingness

A lot of people have the idea that their life will become perfect after Realization. The general consensus seems to be asking “what can Enlightenment get me?” as well as believing “after Enlightenment I can finally be happy, rich, free and everything will be the way I want it.” There’s this unspoken knowing when one spiritual seeker speaks to another that this Enlightenment is a finish line we spend our whole entire life chasing after, and somehow if we just cross that finish line everything will magically be the way we want it to be.

Unfortunately for the ego, Enlightenment has nothing to do with getting what you want. (damn!) The ego always thinks of ways to satisfy the self, ways to make the self look better or appear more competent. To the ego, there’s no point in attaining anything if “I can’t get what I want.” Unfortunately Enlightenment is about being self-less, it is about being no-thing.

A few years ago when I was introduced to Isha Yoga, I was spellbound by the beauty of my yoga teacher. She walks with grace effortlessly, she is touched easily, and the gentleness of her inner strength glows powerfully. She is beautiful not because of what she wears or how she looks on the outside, instead, there is this being-ness that softly embraces all that is. People knew she is different, only a few possessed the awareness why. On the day I met her for lunch, we were walking across the parking lot and I noticed the way her silk dupatta flowed in the wind. Catching my gaze, she smiled and said, “life is just as such, when you finally know what you are, you are free.” I looked at her with puzzled eyes and searched for the meaning of what she just said, “so do you know what you are?” She laughed and the vibration danced while the falling leaves swirled in the wind, “I am nothing, I now know that I am just a big no-thing!”

That incident stuck with me for a long time and my mind couldn’t grasp the importance of what she said. Only in the last year as Enlightenment came as a thief in the night and stole my identities, was I finally beginning to know the importance of such simple Truth. For me, awakening was just the beginning. My first awakening happened 7 years ago by accident and since then a series of smaller awakenings happened here and there. The last major awakening happened last June and July for more than two weeks as every night I went to sleep knowing that I will die. Usually the next morning I woke up and I did not recognize myself. Initially the thief only stole my identities at night, yet within days I could just sit on the balcony to watch the hummingbirds as I felt my internal software being deleted bit by bit. It was all happening way too fast and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I watched myself dying. I watched every bit of it. I couldn’t make it to my appointments and I didn’t answer emails or phone calls. I didn’t know who I was or what was happening. I didn’t even know how to communicate with myself nor anyone else.

During the last big awakening, the mind was the first thing to wake up. It realized that my whole entire life was a lie. Everything I thought I was and everything I held onto with dear life was all just an illusion. It is not to say that life itself was not real, but the illusion is that my perception of life was completely faulty. Everything I thought to be true was in fact just a twisted perception. And how amazing I’ve lived 33 years of my life that way! Then the following months as I turned 34, I could feel my heart opening up like a lotus flower. Bit by bit I could feel this overwhelming presence of love – love for life, love for truth, love for all that is. I could be deeply touched to tears in any situation – from the beauty of nature to the healing power of an argument. Now as I am going even deeper I’m beginning to feel Truth glide down into my core, into my heart. This energetic movement of Truth is pushing out anything that is still untrue within me. It feels like when Buddha awakened and all the demons appeared to challenge him. This is bound to happen. This is when light purposefully seeks out all the darkness that still remains within. And it gets very ugly when it hits the core. All of our core beliefs and misunderstandings of life will pop up in the external world or even appear in dreams. To face such an event is no small feat. All I can do is be present, be intimate with this moment, intimate with truth as well as untruth, intimate with light as well as darkness. I give witness with my mind, heart, and spirit to all as I sense deeply the gravity of karma pulling light pushing. I don’t always understand exactly what is happening at the time but as I allow myself to be completely intimate with this moment I can feel my inner self clearing up. The clearing holds me in a space that I will be likely to understand Truth, less likely to distort light.

Enlightenment is a process, not an end in itself. The process continues as we can embody more and more light within us. As we let go our ego’s wants and desires we naturally align with the true desires of nature – the desires of God. I’ve been holding a smile on my face, not because I’ve gotten everything I want, instead, I want No-thing. I am No-thing. Yet unknowingly by being No-thing I inherited Every-thing under the sun. I too understand now the “big No-thing” my yoga teacher spoke of. All is well. All is well without the ego trying to justify, fix, or grasp. All is well. It is we who need to wake up and see the Truth. After Realization life does not become perfect in the way ego has imagined, instead we open our eyes to see what has been true all along – life is beautiful, from the beginning.

"Enlightenment is a spiritual enfoldment process - take your time to savor the journey." - from the last page of Microscopic Expressions of Spirituality

“Enlightenment is a spiritual enfoldment process – take your time to savor the journey.” – from the last page of Microscopic Expressions of Spirituality

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Enlightenment, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization, Tears, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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