Being True

Hello everyone, I hope everyone is very well. Onegaishimasu So today, I will read Shokushu #7, “Living Calmness”

“In a natural state, the weight of objects is always underside. The experience of calmness in our body occurs when every part of our body is naturally underside.
Calmness is the state of mind that reflects all things clearly, like the still surface of water. If there is a moon, a moon appears. If there is a flying bird, a flying bird appears.

Calmness is our original and natural state. If we can understand this, we can experience true living calmness.”

Tonight as you know, our subject is Koichi Tohei’s saying:

“You can never become true, if your awareness is a pretense.”

Very curious. I’m sure you’re curious about that one. Sayaka, could you read that in Japanese for us, please?

(Sayaka reads)
Thank you very much.

Okay, so this saying is made up of several parts. “You can never become true if your awareness is a pretense.” What does he mean by “become true”? Well, for starters being true is our original condition. Yes. Sometimes we say “true self,” or just “the true one.” But it’s not the same as “telling the truth” or “truth”. It has nothing to do with truth, per se, which is a relative thing. It is true that I am taller than Sayaka. Yes, that’s true. But that has nothing to do with the trueness my condition. “Becoming true” may sound kind of like it’s a state that is in the future for us, which indeed it probably is, for many. But this state already is existing, because it is our original condition. It’s what’s underneath all of this pretense. However our self will never become “true,” if what we present to the world is a pretense. Now, this is where it gets a little bit tricky.

First, why don’t we have some Ki Breathing and then we’ll come back to this, okay?

(15 minutes Ki Breathing)

“Awareness” is a kind of a funny word, isn’t it? If you look up the definition of awareness, it says that it is “the knowledge that something actually exists.” However, if we’re talking about awareness of the true self, how can this be known conceptually?

Aikido in general offers a lot of pronouncements, principles, sayings, stories, teachings, helping to point the way to us. This is very difficult, this pointing, because it can’t be done directly. The minute we start trying to define some of these terms, we find the terms themselves are inadequate to the purpose of pointing. So it becomes subconscious.

Tohei Sensei said, “My teaching of Aikido is different. Because in this Aikido, you have to actually be able to do it.” And that’s basically the same thing as this saying of Tohei Sensei’s. You know, this business of pretense is… it’s not just lying. In other words, true awareness as is, makes no claims, and offers no judgement at all. It can only exist in a mind of equanimity. The true self cannot exist in the same awareness or same presence as a false representation.

So you know, Suzuki Sensei, had his four principals; “So what, do nothing, be natural, don’t worry, be happy.” What he’s trying to express there is the state of equanimity, which is deeply calm and without any self-consciousness. Now let’s think about that. “Deep attention, profound awareness, without any subconsciousness.” That’s like when we are having a really good time, isn’t it? It’s like when you’re really into something. And it never occurs to you that you might need to analyze it, or explain it, or deal with it, to fake it, or try to manipulate it in any way. When we’re in a state of equanimity, everything is okay. So what? Things may change tomorrow and might be worse or better. So what? Things were tough yesterday. So what? I have a sore tooth right now. So what? We don’t concern ourselves with that which is not significant. In other words, we don’t concern ourselves with pretense.

Because you can never know. Some things are bad, some are good. But in both cases, we say, “We’ll wait and see what comes of it.” Let’s keep in mind that steadiness of spirit. Let’s just be present. Let’s not concern ourselves unnecessarily. To me, every time we concern ourselves unnecessarily, this is suffering, suffering caused by ourselves. And when we’re causing suffering, it’s because we’re pretentious. We’re filled with the pretense that we’re considering this to be very, very important. And it’s always considered important because it’s going to either bring me pleasure, or it’s going to bring me pain. This makes it important in both cases, right? That’s pretense.

Because a mind of equanimity, an open mind, a true mind is one in which the true being is not concerned with those two things. It’s okay. It’s not wrong, it’s not right. The mind of equanimity just does not bother to be obsessed with analyzing it.

There are some more common definitions of awareness, or more common usage. For instance when someone is attempting to pretend that they’re feeling one way when they’re feeling another. This is attempting to mask an emotion. We’re practicing Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. So everybody in the room knows that I’m teaching about Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. So, if there’s something that is bothering me, I have some anger issue, etc., but I am attempting to present a mind of equanimity, then you will see that this is false. You may not see this in your teacher, but you might see it with your friends at a dinner party. It’s very common, that we don’t want people to know what we’re thinking of someone, or what we’re feeling about them. So this business of pretense is when we’re faking anything, when anytime we’re afraid, wearing the mask, anytime we’re hiding, anytime were ashamed of what it is that is actually going on within us. In that case, we’re not representing ourselves truly, and we cannot be our true self.

We’re only true when we’re not hiding anything. So this is a big deal and something to meditate on, something to really be aware of, to notice. Our daily life, we can find a moment when we might be hiding a feeling from others in the room, or in this case, in the Zoom.

Right now you’re all going to get together in your breakout rooms to discuss this subject. And as you’re having this discussion, I want you to not just to consider the things that I brought up here. But I want you to notice if everything that you say is spoken by the one who is true. Then you don’t make any attempt to hide anything whatsoever. Sometimes this is something hard for human beings. But I know you guys can do it. I’ll see you soon.

(15 minutes breakout discussions)

Okay, we’re all back. Hello, everybody. Let’s begin.

Student: I guess, what we came around to is to realize that we’re aware that we are actually pretentious a lot. I mean, you know, like I compared this to a situation where someone was wanting something, and we knew what it was that he wanted, but nobody had the guts to tell the truth about what was really going on, because it might hurt some feelings, and then it becomes this big lie and this carries on and on and on and nobody can really fix it. But like, you know, maybe sometime in the past, I wouldn’t have been aware of that. So I don’t know, if we are good by having some pretension or not. I mean, I guess, in a sense, mostly we just don’t want to call people on it.

Okay, so thank you. You are talking here about something that happens all the time. Yeah, it’s very common, particularly in business, where, you know, you may not have the power to speak out. Now, we have these special whistleblower rules, you know, in government and in big business, to protect people that want to speak out, to call a spade a spade, to speak truth to power. So, yes, of course, this is a way of exposing pretense.

But when we do this, we want to be really careful that we are not the ones being pretentious, you know, when we attempt to expose others, and maybe forget to look at ourselves. That’s what Suzuki Sensei’s four basic principles are pointing to. So what, do nothing, be natural, and don’t worry, be happy. If you follow those four principles, can you still call somebody out for being a fake? Maybe not. I’m not sure you can do that. Yeah. Like I was talking about before, when we begin to mature in this practice, then little by little we set aside petty concerns. And even though “petty” and “minimal,” these things may still bring somebody a whole lot of money and prestige. Do you see what I mean? It doesn’t mean that it has no consequences in the relative world. It might mean as much as war in the relative world. So we have to decide how far we go in order to get some attention for ourselves. What will we sell our self for? Maybe more important, what will we sell out our neighbor for? See?

Student: Yes, yeah, we’re talking about we know that this is an issue in society these days. You know, and for the most part, though, like from the teachings of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, I’m able to maybe not judge as much as I would have, and realize that maybe we don’t know what that other person went through to come to that point. And judging the other guy…I don’t know, because what about me?

So this process is obviously having its way with you. But of course, it’s a continuum, a process. I mean, it’s, it’s a lifelong practice. So for all of us, we’re in the same boat you’re in. We’re seeing better every day. Okay, thank you very much.

Student: It took a little while to get going, as there was some confusion as to what this means, what are we really talking about? And then we got into preferences. Is it okay to have preferences? For instance, we’re at a dinner party or something, and we feel a certain way about some situation, do we not express it? Or do we express it? What does it mean, being true? Right. And so this is kind of how we went. But basically, what we wound up with really, seems to come down to the fact that we’re looking for confirmation here. How can we be true to others? If we are hiding things from ourselves, if we do not accept certain things about ourselves, then what? And in other words, doesn’t being true really start with being true with ourselves, being aware of our own condition? That’s where we ended up syncing.

Yeah. Yeah, this is really good. You know. We have this expression, I don’t know whether I made it up or borrowed it from somebody long ago, and that doesn’t really matter:

“Don’t repress it. Don’t express it, just address it.”

And that’s always been really important to me. Ever since I became aware of it. So you asked the question about being at a dinner party, when something makes you uncomfortable. And you ask, should we call it out? Yeah, if you want to be a whiny baby. Yeah.

Look, that may be what many folks are doing, but that’s not what we’re doing. Right? That’s why I chose that “whiny baby” phrase, because I do want to trivialize that idea. Because it’s, in fact, of trivial concern. One of the things I said about maturity, that we know about maturity, is that things begin to fall into place. What really matters. And “what really matters” is really the only thing that works.

It’s looking and seeing, if there’s something that makes me uncomfortable at a dinner party, then that’s my discomfort. That’s not somebody else’s, or if it is, that is none of my business. It very well may be that someone else does have an issue, but my business is what’s happening within me. But instead, we immediately think, “Should I say something?” Yeah, you should say something…to yourself. Right? Of course I don’t want to sound like I support allowing corruption to continue on its way. Because of course I don’t. But it’s not like you can change corruption over there with the other person. If we only think of those guys over there, then we are badly, badly mistaken, if we haven’t looked at ourselves at all when we think something like that.

Oh, this business of pretense…we are all pretentious! Someone said, “When we’re not being our true self, we’re being a narcissist. That’s it. We’re either in our true self, or we’re practicing a kind of narcissism.” And that’s the pretense of always thinking you are the important one, you know better than the other guy with the other opinion, the other member of your family, the member of the other political party. The whole idea of that other way of doing Aikido, all the other ways, thinking that we know better is just fundamentally a pretense.

So thank you for asking. I’ve got to say, “Don’t repress it, don’t express it. Just address it,” one more time. Thank you.

Student: Hello, Sensei. We discussed that areas of focusing on whether it’s pretense or our truth. And that’s the basic question, Is it awareness, am “I” noticing this pretense, or is it our true self noticing? Is this in itself a pretense, a hiding our true self? Which of the ways to focus is truly detecting that pretense?

Hmm. Can I say something here? The idea here is to let go of pretension not to utilize it to discover states of mind. Do you understand what I mean? So, if we’re thinking, “I can really figure this out, whether it’s this or whether it’s that”. That’s a no. We automatically know when we’re into self-doing. And when you’re that, you’re full of self-pretense. That’s the way we are, we’re just always accommodating our own position. And we do that with knowledge. Knowledge can be used in lots of different ways, you know. We make ourselves feel good with it, we justify our pretense through massive amounts of rationalization. And to do this and believe it, we need lots of knowledge. We support our pretense through logic. We use logic in that very way. Of course, logic is very useful in our daily life, but when we use logic that self- serving way, it is not appropriate. Does that make sense?

Student: Exactly. That is more of a feeling, begin true. It’s much more of a deeper spiritual state within yourself. It is a kind of sense that is not so much defined.

That’s a good way of putting it. Excellent. Thank you.

Student: We had a lot of things to discuss once our great discussion got started. Some examples went into our Aikido practice. For example, Roy said sometimes he comes into a situation, since he is a black belt, where his training partner will ask him a question regarding how something should be done. And he is noticing “Well, I actually don’t know. I have blank at the moment.” But the partner expects some answers so he will just fake it. It was very good example that I also could relate to. Kayomi said, for her, when she likes something, or she doesn’t like something, that makes a big difference to her. So when she likes situations, she feels easy and happy, and she doesn’t have to pretend so much. But when there’s something that she doesn’t like, then there comes anger, and it becomes difficult to remain functioning in this social situation. And to remain functioning she has feels that she has to pretend and not show her anger, so she can still communicate with the other person. She said that sometimes she feels that, in the background, there is a “big knowing” that sees this. So the question really is, is this pretention a necessary function sometimes in order to keep the social situation from exploding? Or is it still unnecessary pretending?

Thank you. I think that here’s a potential question; It’s like, “Who do I think I am?” “Do I need to be made comfortable by the situation, or by others?” Yes, it is important to us to be comfortable. I’m not making light of that, but the real question is, what is the path to that personal comfort? It’s nobody else’s responsibility but our own.

This personal discomfort arises because there is some part of us that hasn’t been addressed yet. And that part of us is afraid to show its face, even to itself. And so, yes, we pretend that is not there, in order to make things better. But we are not really okay. We’re still uncomfortable. Right? And, and it’s not about the other people, even though we always make it about the other people. I mean, this is why we’re practicing – to get to know what’s going on within us, right?

We’re all here together. So let’s move forward. Let’s progress. Let’s get up early and sit and start working on it. start bringing yourself to it, and into it. You know, we have to get into it. It takes courage and it’s not easy. That’s why nobody does it. That’s why every dinner party is like that. Which is always including several uncomfortable people.

If I’m uncomfortable as a teacher for any reason, my teaching is going to be partial at best. And self-conscious? Worse. And, you know, sometimes we tend to try to over prepare to teach a seminar or a class so that we will be comfortable. But that’s not what makes us comfortable. That’s why when I come to a seminar, I look out at the students and then I decide what to teach. And I suppose that this method sometimes might mean that I don’t come out with the perfect theme immediately, not until it gets worked out what we’re doing. That’s just where I operate.

I do think everybody can discover the path to Mind Body Unification, or the path to being true, the “way to union with the Ki of the universe.” Becoming true when your awareness is not a pretense, well, of course that can be a lifelong project. And we’re all somewhere on that path here in this room together. So I’m very grateful to you all. Okay, thank.

Student: We have a very, very good discussion. Some stories from everyone’s life, but we have one question. I think a very interesting question. The question is, there is a phrase, “Fake it till you make it.” Yeah. I noticed, in my own experience, for example, if I want to become something, if I want to be calm, then I have to pretend that I am calm first. What do you think about this?

Okay, Um, “Fake it till you make it.” I’ve heard this before. I think maybe I’ve even done this before. Yeah. Well, you know, we can say that there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you’ve got. If that’s what you need to do, then you do it. But in Aikido we have kaisho, gyosho, sosho. So when you’re faking it like that, you’re really just trying to imitate a form, like you say for instance, when you try to be calm. Well, but what is calmness? What do you do? Can you show me that?

Student: I try to get rid of emotions on my face.

So this is not really possible, you know. You think that others cannot see right away? Right? So first of all, that is not really effective. But if you’re going to do it, do it. I mean, whatever allows you to feel like you got through that situation.

You’ve been training for a while now, though I know you would say that you’re still more of a beginner than an expert. I think you’ve told me this, but you’ve been training for a while. So that means that you are in it, and you’re here right now. You come always to this class. So that means you’re getting it constantly. Okay. From what you say, you see pretense in yourself when it arises. Whereas before you didn’t see it. You didn’t know it or if you did you ignored that. So you’re in the process like everybody else.

It’s nice to have you.

He said “When I practice, when I think being calm, I actually can become so.” So let me just address that for a moment, because I think it’s important. Calmness is the result of paying attention, right? Remember that? I said before, many times, when we pay attention, we become calm. So when you are paying attention to becoming calm, it will help to actually become calm, simply because you’re paying attention. So if you can learn to rest in that attention, you will feel calm, no matter what the situation.

Does anyone ever notice that a part of the whole idea of wanting to become calm, is this idea of feeling the guilt or shame of “I shouldn’t be feeling angry,” or “I shouldn’t be jealous,” or “I shouldn’t be envious,” or whatever? People often get mad at themselves for feeling an emotion. When this happens this is the super ego acting as an attack force trying to prevent us from awakening to what is. Because if we awaken, then the ego’s power over us is gone, and so then there’s no problem with whatever is happening. You don’t feel shame. You don’t feel guilty, you don’t feel wrong, for what naturally arises. There is nothing that you need to fix, because you have no pretense about being more advanced than you are, or different than you are. You and I are about exactly who we are. And there is nothing we can do about it, except to rest in it and be grateful for it. And when we do that, we’re very close to being in our true self. This is something to consider.

Thank you.

Tracy: Sensei, I googled the kanji of this statement of Koichi Tohei Sensei’s, “You can never become true, if your awareness is a pretense,” and found that the Japanese contained the word “shugyo” in there. So that made me wonder how you used “shugyo” in your translation? The literal translation of the Japanese is something like “What you practice cannot be real if you’re doing small work”.

Yes, that is very interesting. For the Japanese, the word for “small work” is really a euphemism for “something pretentious.” With pretentious thinking, you’re acting like a big shot when you’re not. This is very bad news in the Japanese culture. It’s another way to say we need to be true to who we are. When we are practicing, we are being true to who we actually are. Not our personality, not the way we look, or the way we sound, or the way we have been conditioned to succeed, but our original state of being. The true one.

Thank you very much. Domo arigato gozaimasu.

(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 19. March 2021)