Embodiment 
   
 

Recently in Ki Class we worked with the three dimensions of embodiment from integral philosopher Ken Wilber and Rob McNamara, author of The Strength to Awaken and The Elegant Self. Like a stool with three legs, if you neglect and weaken one leg, the stool loses stability. So part of the practice of embodiment at this level (aka, mind body unification) is to engage all three processes.

Embrace means to reach out and include. For some, this resonates with “extend ki.” This movement of embrace can include another’s perspective in a conversation, respecting the movement of your aikido partner striking for you, or the ki tester applying pressure.

Embrace is not slack or weak, not sappy or sentimental. It does not seek to appease. On the other hand, it is not tense or controlling, not grabby or manipulative.

We can practice embracing both what we like and what we dislike (polarity). It is an act of opening awareness to what is, not enacting our reactions and preferences. The more we practice this embrace, the more stable and vast our embodiment becomes.

Inhabit is a move to the inside of experience. Like embrace is an outer extension to include, inhabit is an inward looking extension. “To embody, you must be on the inside of you,” as Rob McNamara puts it. Looking within we can begin with the sensations that arise: contraction, heat, tightness, effervescence, looseness, flow, numbness, etc. We practice looking in the heart of whatever is noticed, and then looking within that... We can inhabit body sensations, the inside of emotions, and the inner dimension of cognitive insight. We also practice connecting into the center of our partners in aikido and ki development. Ki testing is a wonderful exercise that reveals false attempts at inhabiting and validates authentic inner connection.

We inhabit without messing with the experience, trying to fix it, improve it, or change it (tension), and without separation, passive ignoring, or discounting (slackness). When any of these reactions arise, and you see them, just let go and make a fresh start connecting inside.

The practice of inhabiting grows and evolves. As our capacity for staying-with our inner experience deepens, our embodiment grows richer and more steadfast.

Furthermore, embrace and inhabit dance together. We may practice them sequentially, but as we gain familiarity we come to know they are not two.

Move points to the always changing, always moving nature of experience. To live is to move. In a ki test, if you stop all movement, you are in dead-stillness and fail the ki test. Tohei Sensei taught, “Half, half, half… Never becomes zero.” Experiencing for ourselves this “never zero”, this “living calmness” is fundamental in embodiment. There is an always opening aliveness in this moving-with. Nothing to hold on to—always moving, nothing to avoid—always embracing, and nothing to try to get—always inhabited.

But before we finish with move, I want to suggest: Let Go. Moving freely is often constrained by our reactions to what is arising. We have opinions about the right way to do things. We often react with an agenda about how to best proceed, and we also have preferences regarding everything. These patterns and conditioned points of view gum-up our choices and actions (in spite of how obviously right they seem to be). We can practice noticing and letting go of our always-arising reactions. We don't fight them, although sometimes it seems like the best we can do when in the midst of a strong reaction is just keep our mouth shut and feel the turmoil-pressure inside.

As we practice noticing our reactions, subtle or strong, we learn the tone and felt separation of reaction, as contrasted with a clear and brisk response to a quickly changing situation. Responses are unconditioned and clean, leaving no lingering traces. Reactions tend to create further issues, unclarity, disharmony, and thoughts about what might have happened or how it could have been better. Letting go of tension in body and mind, letting go of right and wrong, and letting go of our opinions is always good practice and opens the way for us to experience for ourself deeper levels of embodiment and presence.

This is a practice. Choose to reach to embrace. Open inward and inhabit. Then let go of your reaction, relax into the moment, feel the sweet spot, the direction of the present, and move. Notice the results. Adjust. Continue. Like all practices we need to keep going, to reach past the known and familiar. We will fail sometimes, it is practice after all, and we learn and attune ourselves with each effort. Always grateful that we have the opportunity to practice and good hearted partners to practice with.

 



May your practice go well.

 

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© Steve Self, 2016, All rights reserved.