We want to be sure. We want to feel like
I know what I’m doing; I control every gesture, every word, the tone of my voice.
I’m hitting the right notes.
We want to think that we’re doing everything right. Only children are allowed to say “I don’t know how to brush my teeth” or “I don’t know how to wash my face”.
Most of what we do in our everyday life consists of automatic motions which do not normally enter our awareness. Imagine how overwhelmed you’d be if you were aware of every little process you’re running.
Consider a computer analogy: When the processor is overwhelmed, you press Control-Alt-Delete to display the task manager to see what processes you have to stop running.
It’s the same with the mind: Whose voice, whose subprogram or process are you running?
Is it the Internet browser? Is it the music player? Is it a movie? Is it a memory?
Are you going to run a new program and start talking with yourself?
You finally get to hear yourself (again), when you’re truly alone…
It’s amazing how strong is this need to use a smart phone even in the toilet nowadays. It’s an amazing new way of tuning in with other people. Or it feels that way.
On the other hand, why are you trying to reach these [let’s say] 200 people that might see/hear what you write/say? Of course you can decide the size of your audience. It depends on how well you’ve edited your “Friends”.
The next question in this social-network dialogue is “Whose voice am I going to listen to?”
If you listen to yourself, you can almost hear the questions (you imagine) others are asking you:
Who am I? What am I doing? What’s important in my life? What is the purpose?
What will I do if (and this is something that you have to take into consideration in Japan and increasingly across the warming planet) a disaster is going to wipe me out tomorrow?
How would I have lived? Also, how would I deal with that disaster?
How do you ride out a major geological event, which affects the physical structure of the universe around you?
It was while trying to answer these questions that I discovered aikido (合氣道 ki-merging path):
You simply go into the ki (氣) and the way (道).
I explain aikido in English, but this is aimed at a wider audience also. I am talking to an English-speaking audience that wants to make the effort to understand a philosophy which provides a method for living one’s life.
|Morihei Ueshiba||盛平植芝||Founder of Aikido|
|Tohei Koichi||藤平光一||Founder of Mind-Body-Into-One (shinshin-toitsu) Aikido|
Mostly I will be talking about shinshin-toitsu (心身統一 Mind-Body Into-One) aikido (Ki-Merging Path).
Aikido itself is only about 100 years old, yet the Ki-Merging Path has been developed from ancient martial arts (budo or bujutsu 武道 or 武術), wherein we have bu for “warrior” (bu-shi 武士; samurai is another reading of the second character). Hence, “the Way of the Warrior” (bushido 武士道) and “the Art of the Warrior” (bujutsu 武術).
Now, if you’re a warrior, who are you going to battle when you happen to live in the 21st-century and you have a smart phone?
The government? Yes, the government; if you live in a country like Egypt or Romania [where inequality and corruption are rampant].
What about Japan? Nobody thinks about fighting the government in Japan:
The government is there to provide basic services. Don’t worry about them.
Except when they’re building nuclear power plants using old generation reactors next to your house. We need to accept our small place in Nature. Where are we? We’re in Japan, where people check both weather and earthquake information daily.
Back to bujutsu (武術 the art of the warrior) and aikido (合氣道 ki-merging path). Both draw heavily from Buddhism (Zen-Buddhism especially).
Zen-Buddhist monks were those spending a long time traveling, learning everything with a passion that we in the West have reserved for whipping the body into submission (in imitation of Christ-on-the-cross).
What is Zen-Buddhism (禅宗 Meditation-Religion)? It’s a belief in this system of energy all around us which can be perceived by your consciousness, but whose details tend to escape us.
People will argue about tradition and the importance of maintaining that tradition (disclaimer: I was baptized as a Christian Orthodox). We frown upon new religions (“sects” or “cults”) and we look down on apostasy and converts.
That being said, “withstanding the test of time” can be interpreted in two ways:
- “longer means better” but also
- “we could build on that which is older”.
Take away the parts that didn’t work, by accepting that it is not God-given. Whatever it is that Zen-Buddhist masters or Jesus did, it can be improved; hence, kaizen (Change-into-Good 改善).
That’s why Japan can improve. One thing to improve is our acceptance that
man is within Nature, man is with the Way, man is with the Sky and the Earth (天地 tenchi), which meet in this One-Point we have Under our Navel (臍下の一点).
We are part of the world and we are never alone; we are talking with the spirit of the universe all the time, and we just don’t notice it because we think we are the only centre of the universe.
We forget as we’re running so many automatic processes (with our friends, with the TV we watch, with the car we drive, and the teeth we brush):
We forget that there is a right way for all these motions, when your whole mind and body are one (shinshin-toitsu 心身統一).
It’s only then, when mind and body are brought together, that we can move around comfortably.
The way of the warrior is too aggressive; this is why it was changed into aikido. If you learn aikido, you learn ukemi (Receiving-Body 受け身):
You learn that you are not going to attack a person, except to be thrown by that person.
The attacker always loses, this is one of the first lessons in aikido.
The attacker always loses in terms of power because the attacker forces the ki.
Accordingly, when we ask the question
How then do we defend ourselves against evil?
we answer with a question
In aikido we say “from now let us eliminate that which is bad (the opposite of good), eliminate it for good” and then maybe we’re going to have something worth keeping, maybe we’ll have improved a little bit (kaizen) the world.