Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Yoga of Aikido and Zen

We begin with the rigid forms of uke and nage, perfecting what it is to be each, seeing how adopting the form defines the interaction within different circumstances.

In some cases practitioners are satisfied with this basic practice of forms, but sometimes the practice evolves to experience the fluidity between the forms. In time, perhaps the practice may evolve to include the formless itself.

But if we hold an idea of progress toward mastery that takes us beyond the basic forms, might we lose the opportunity to gain the insight that comes in perfecting form? Not necessarily, since "mastery," as it is commonly understood, is nothing but another form.

So to, by the way, is "pursuing mastery" a form.

So, what is it that we are really practicing? Consider this: When you sincerely and completely adopt a form, the entire universe responds. However long it takes, and whatever the cost--in time, in resources, in relationships, and in anything else--the universe shifts with you, responds to you, and adapts to interface with you through this form. It may sound absurd or at least implausible, but consider: You have already perfected the form you hold right now, and everything that you experience, you experience through it. This form is more encompassing than simply your body; it includes all of your thoughts, all of your experiences, all of your preferences, and so on. In this very real sense, you have created the universe you experience. Alternatively, given your form, you have found your optimal place within the universe.

Suddenly, something peaks your interest. You have an idea. You pursue it. You attempt master it. How does your life change in the process?

What is it that the Aikido practitioners learn alternating between the roles of uke and nage again and again, technique after technique? What is it that the Yoga practitioners learn as they hold and transition between individual poses? What is it that a meditation practitioner learns in shikentaza--"just sitting"--hour after hour?

And what is it, then, that a koan practitioner learns in adopting the forms of these peculiar questions?

Solidly holding one form, spending a lifetime transitioning from one form to the next, or something in between? One form--one life--is neither better nor worse than another; the universe accommodates them all--however long or briefly--so have at it. But what of this want to hold any particular form, to keep things as they are, to change how things are, to become this or that? Do we recognize when we are holding a form? Can we recognize when we are pursuing form? Can we stop this cycle without adopting the form of resistance?

If pursuing formlessness is itself a form, then what happens when you seek it?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Unknown to me, this entry was reblogged at Aikido Journal. (Thank you, Aikido Journal!) In response to another's comment, I made the following post---and I repost it here for completeness:

Sometimes when we focus upon the "forms" of ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, ..., iriminage, kaitennage, kotegaeshi, kokyunage, ..., we do not see the forms we voluntarily adopt and practice which make it possible: sempai and kohai; shihan, sensei, and student; and *especially* uke and nage.

Fortunately, aikido practice is clever this way: Through marvelous slight-of-hand, the person practicing to be stronger, to live longer, and to survive violent encounters by perfecting techniques, is voluntarily practicing something much deeper at which he might otherwise balk or simply reject.

So practice hard! You'll learn the very same lesson in time... It can be so much more fulfilling to your practice, however, if you're actually awake to what is happening sooner rather than later.