Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Technique of Meditation

I have seen the “action-oriented” folks shun meditation--shikantaza, or “just sitting”--even among those who like to think of Aikido as “meditation in motion.” That is too bad. It is sad to see a martial artist who discounts one the most important techniques available...

We spend so much time in Aikidio, like in other arts, practicing and perfecting forms--the named techniques. These techniques are not fundamentally natural responses to our circumstances until they are fully integrated, ultimately ceasing to be techniques at all--at least in the “I’m doing ikkyo / I’m practicing ikkyo / I’m trying to make ikkyo work”-sense. Until then, practice is a great effort of doing.

How is simply being still any different? Have you tried it?

Over years of practicing the basic ikkyo--well after we are effective with it--do we not continue to gain more and more subtle insight into the technique? Increased sensitivity and finesse? Do we think that meditation would be different?

Beginners often mistake meditation for “doing nothing” whereas the practice of the martial art to them is “doing something.” It takes understanding a bit beyond this explanation to realize fully that the two are both still “doing” and that the noticing itself is a reflection of the effort itself. In this context, when we say something is “effortless,” we do not necessarily mean without force or without encountering resistance; it does not mean you will not sweat or feel pain. Instead, once comfortably integrated, you are not swayed by those things--you can do what needs to be done effortlessly--without internal resistance or distraction.  When the effort is gone, so is the doing.

There is were mastery lies.

In a sense, we are all slaves to our circumstances. When our bodies need oxygen, we inhale; when saturated with carbon dioxide, we exhale. When we’re punched in the nose, it hurts. When we’re tripped, we fall. What we can do though, even if only in limited ways, is to reconfigure our conditioned, habitual responses to our circumstances in a way of our own choosing. The martial practice itself is such an effort, conditioning different physical responses to different stimuli, expanding our capacity to operate under stress and duress. However, have you considered the added technique of not responding at all? Have you considered how much effort it takes to not respond if you’ve not fully integrated it as an option?

Meditation practice is multifaceted and integral to our practice at Sword Mountain. Our Aikido classes already incorporate meditation as part of the martial training. For the non-martially inclined and for those who see the value in the extra practice, we will soon be offering a combination of morning and evening meditation sessions to open and close our days. If interested in joining us, please contact us with your needs and watch this site for schedule updates.
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