Every now and then, as I train and practice, I write up an experience.
I have found that the perspective of Aiki illuminates many aspects of life, relations and living in a bodymind.
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Practice / Attention / Presence

We are always practicing something. How we do what we do, how we are being when in action, is how we are most likely to be in the future. If we constantly act from an habitual condition of separation, being in our heads enmeshed in thoughts, then that is most likely how we will be in the future. Conversely, if we practice unifying mind and body (1), respecting what is, and acting with it, then we will be more likely to be this way in the future.

“Attention or awareness is the secret of life
and the heart of practice.”
— Joko Beck Sensei

For many there is no space between thoughts and acting; and, it can be difficult to imagine doing something without following thoughts. Yet when mind and body are unified and our awareness is open and connected, then our actions are integrated with the present.(2) No thoughts required!

Acting without thoughts is not rash or irresponsible. I’m not talking about being impulsive or thoughtless. These are both problematic because they arise from a self separate from and resisting what’s happening. But we can let go of resistance and separation, relax into bodymind, breathe, connect with whatever is, exactly as it is, and act with it all, serving an emerging harmony.

This of course includes the times we are worn-out, empty, dull or numb; or in a blaze of anger, a storm of outrage or smoldering resentment. We can choose practice instead of investing in reaction and begin by breathing gently and being aware of whatever is moving within us.

“The more we rely on intellectualization to learn,
the more estranged we become.”
— Mochizuki Sensei

So, it matters how we practice and how we are when in action. It is best not to save unification for the “big” stuff. We think we’re here to deal with the big stuff like problems with our partner, our jobs or community, our health or creativity. We don’t want to bother with the “little” things, like how we put the silverware away, how we return the shopping cart, how we put a quarter in the parking meter. Yet these acts are the stuff of our life, moment to moment. It’s not a question of importance, it’s a question of paying attention, connecting, being aware.

Why? Because every moment in life is the jewel. It’s all there is. There is nothing other than this present moment; we cannot act in the past, nor in the future; there is only this. So when we don’t pay attention to each little this, we miss the whole thing. It doesn’t matter what the contents of the moment are; each moment is it. That’s all there ever will be. If we could totally pay attention, we would never be annoyed or upset. If we’re upset, it’s self-evident that we’re not paying attention, we’re in our thoughts and judgements. If we miss not just one moment, but one moment after another, we’re in trouble. We are missing our life and encouraging separation.

"The search for explanations is actually
just a way of trying to stay separate and asleep."
— Ken McLeod.

Once we’ve let go of conceptual figuring, or trying to get the answer, only then can we actually train. As long as we are dwelling in thoughts, we are never going to know aiki (3). Yes we have descriptions of aiki. We have concepts and ideas about aiki. But none of those ARE aiki. Not even close. Ideas and descriptions can orient us, point to possibilities, but to go there we must let go of thoughts and train in connected present moment experience, opening attention so we are with all our experience.

“We’re always stepping into the unknown.
And to trust that and be present with the moment
without going into the stories is a lifesaver.”
—Carol Wilson

Unifying mind and body is a gate to aiki. We step though that gate when we risk experiencing the wholeness of the moment without separating into thoughts. Aiki is no longer a distant ideal; it's not complex, tricky or unobtainable. It is just the way we move when unified and connected; we could call this presence.

“War, economic injustice, racism, and environmental destruction
stem from the illusion of separateness.”— Jack Kornfield

So, this is the practice: notice when separate, reactive or moody; relax, breathe and let go into bodymind. Let go of thoughts. Then from this unified condition, open to and move-with what is happening. The more often we choose bodymind presence the easier and smoother it gets. And it deepens. Bodymind is not a fixed thing, it is an infinitely expanding way of being with life. And for me, this is a path filled with wholehearted joy.


(1) To experience mind and body unified, aka bodymind:
      1. Mind rests in the one-point in the lower abdomen
      2. We are completely relaxed.
      3. Our weight is naturally underside.
      4. Ki extends infinitely in all directions.

(2) “When we experience and realize the original Oneness of mind and body, and when we trust and leave all things entirely up to the Universe, then we can experience and put to positive use our full potential that is naturally present at all times.”
— Tohei Sensei

(3) Aiki points to being one with the ki of the present moment, moving-with what is as it changes, respecting the situation without separating. Aiki is the root of aikido.

May your practice go well.



Cultivating Practice


Beyond Being-Separate

Encountering Hardness

Moving Together

Prajna - The Wisdom of Unification


From One Point

Moving With Life

They're Not Listening

The Resonance of Unification

From Wisdom to Separation

There's No One to Be





© Steve Self, 2015-2022, All rights reserved.