Good evening, everyone. And good morning. I hope everyone is fine.
I’ll read to you Shokushu #17 , “Reiseishin.”
“We, as human beings, are given a mind that is directly connected to the universe. This is Reiseishin.
Water, when it settles, can clearly reflect the moon. When our mind becomes calm, Reiseishin expresses itself clearly and unmistakably. Once this mind arises, in that moment any selfish urges and desires disappear, and the universal mind of love and protection for all things shines forth.
Let us polish our Reseishin.”
So, these Zoom classes have gone on for about one year now. It’s been a year and we’ve covered a lot of subjects. Right now we’re using Tohei Sensei’s sayings, but it can be really anything. Because everything points to the same thing, doesn’t it?
A lot of people think that, because there are so many fingers pointing, there must be many, many moons. But, no, there is only one moon. All fingers point to one moon. There’s only one summit on the mountain, though there may be an infinite number of paths to rise to that summit.
Some of you, and you are the ones right here, have stayed with this class for this whole year, subject after subject after subject.
And that right there is the nature of our training. Right? That’s how we begin to understand not just all the subjects from this class, but every infinite subject that there is in the universe.
Every one of those subjects points to the same moon. Once we understand the nature of the noticing, the way of learning, then we begin to see how every subject leads to that same summit.
After all, there’s only one thing happening, whoever you are, however you’re made, whatever your culture is, wherever in the world you come from, it doesn’t matter. Fundamentally, there’s only one thing happening for every single human being in the universe. And every subject we cover points to that one thing.
Of course, there is a reason why there are so many fingers pointing, and that is because it’s nearly impossible to understand what that thing is experientially. We get glimpses, but to actually live in it full time can be difficult.
So tonight, as you know, our subject is the saying from Koichi Tohei Sensei:
“Etiquette is the impeccable state of an open mind.”
Sayaka, would you read that in Japanese please? (Sayaka reads)
Very beautiful. Thank you.
So, the basic rules are different for every culture. What works in one village doesn’t necessarily work in another. In Aikido dojos the rules of etiquette are fairly constant. But believe me, I’ve taught all over the world, and even in Ki Aikido dojos, they can be quite different. But different or not, they’re all aimed at learning to respect and connect with each other. Right?
Even O’Sensei used to say that courtesy is the essence of our practice. He always talked about harmony and peace and love in your hearts. We don’t always talk about our Aikido that way. That may be, you know, because “By God, we’re martial artists.” These days Aikido teachers may speak about it more metaphorically, maybe more dramatically or in a more dynamic way. But finally, it all comes down to basically loving one another, connecting on a very, very deep and personal level, intimately personal, more personal than any love relationship between people could possibly be. This is much more intense, what we’re talking about here.
Let me just read you something interesting. If you look up the word “etiquette” in the dictionary, this is one of the things that it says:
“Etiquette is the customs or rules governing behavior as regarded as correct or acceptable in social life.”
Now that’s true, but how far away is that from Tohei Sensei’s definition?! “Etiquette is the impeccable state of an open mind.”
That’s what we’ll talk about tonight.
Let’s do some K Breathing.
(10 minutes Ki Breathing)
Of course, when we first show up at a dojo, particularly if we’re from the west, and we have no idea of what martial arts or even Asian culture might be, we don’t know what to do. I remember, I didn’t know where or when to bow, or who to call “Sensei” and who not to call “Sensei.”
I didn’t know any of the rules that I was supposed to be following to respect even the dojo itself. Because of course, this connection I’m talking about is not just with people. No, it’s not just between people. It’s with places and things as well. Before you pick up a bokken, you must have a connection established already. How do you know how to do that? Well, first of all, you’re told the rule is, don’t just casually go pick up a bokken. Send your mind to the bokken first, then go over and pick it up. There must be no gap between your mind and the action.
That’s the rule. That’s the form. That’s kaisho. Everything in our practice has these three stages of practice, kaisho, gyosho, and sosho within it.
And, in fact, probably everything in our own work has that too. If you really look at it, no matter what it is, it progresses in this same way.
And it’s always interesting to look at what we’re doing, how we’re driving our car, how we pull weeds in the garden, how we cut the onions. Whatever we spend our time doing, we want to be aware of these three stages of practice. It’s all the same.
Kaisho is just honoring, in some cases even worshipping, the form, following very, very carefully, so that we can learn to perform, or follow the rules, until the form becomes kind of second nature, so we don’t have to think about it. This is when we begin to move beyond that self-consciousness, self-watching.
In whatever activity we’re doing, in this case, following the rules of etiquette, then we can say we’re entering into gyosho when there’s suddenly an experience that’s carrying some meaning for us. In other words, when we are beginning to have a little joy, a little bit of fun with what we’re doing. But we do keep getting directed, because we still haven’t let our dependence on the form go completely. But we’re beginning to enjoy that.
And then finally, of course, not only do the rules become second nature, but we don’t need the rules at all, we can throw them away. Of course they won’t go anywhere, do they? But we still can release our dependence on them. You can take that Maui training manual of mine and burn it. But only after you master the essentials, please. Then you won’t need the book, you won’t need the rules anymore.
It becomes an organic part of you, now you’re living one with everything. So you’re automatically respecting, you’re automatically listening to each and every person.
You’re automatically connected. And as I said, this is not just with people, but with objects. When you pick something up, you experience it being part of you.
And this is kind of like our “Four rules of practice” I give you all the time.
- 1) Show up
- 2) Open your heart and your mind to whatever is happening, impeccably. “Impeccably” ofcourse means faultlessly, or perfectly, or completely connecting with your whole mindand body.
- 3) Follow along. So that requires listening, looking, watching. Noticing very, very carefully,with a great deal of attention. Suzuki Sensei used to tell us, “You have to listen like one big ear!” When you listen to me talk, I’m really just saying the same thing to you over and over. It’s very easy to think, “Oh, I know that already. I heard that 100 times.” Right. But no, you have to listen more carefully, look more deeply, notice more completely.
- 4) Accepting whatever it is that the universe brings to us in every moment. “Accepting” it means respecting it. Connecting with means our etiquette is impeccable in relationship to whatever it is that is brought to us. You know, whatever it is that’s going on in your life. That’s it. You don’t really have to go to the dojo. Actually, please keep coming in the dojo, but don’t limit practice to that.
You’re getting the picture here. It’s not something foreign to us. It’s our very nature that etiquette is pointing to. Everybody wants to love and be loved. Everybody wants to be connected with everyone and everything in every way. This is our deepest dream. This is our greatest wish. The great hope in our life is to understand and experience the true impact of this.
So now, John, is your monitor again tonight. Thank you, John. (15 minutes discussion groups)
Okay, let’s begin.
Student: We all kind of shared what we thought about this subject. Someone said, when we’re visiting another country, for example, or participating in another culture, it’s important to adapt to the etiquette of that culture instead of imposing the way we learned things. And that takes lots of paying attention and lots of connection to figure out what other people are doing around you and follow suit.
Roy mentioned that he noticed that with children in the dojo, you can tell if they’re paying attention by how they place their slippers. And if they’re not paying attention to the etiquette with slippers, then it kind of reflects that they’re not paying attention, period.
I still feel like I follow the rules but in a very keiko way. It’s like I follow the rules for the sake of following them. But you were talking about how at some point there must be a transition from following rules for the sake of following them, to living that etiquette from like a deeper sense, a deeper place.
So, yeah, I guess my question is, is there some point where it goes from the kaisho of following the rules to just living it from a place of deeper training or gratitude?
Well, what do you think? Yes? What would that be? What would that experience be like? Because I think I know you well enough to know that you’ve actually had that experience. And do you know you have that experience? Maybe you’re not altogether conscious of it.
Okay, so here’s the thing. We get used to training a certain way, and actually move on from that way, and begin to incorporate a much deeper and more inclusive relationship with the teacher and the other students, before we ever realize that is taking place. And so a big part of moving from kaisho to gyosho, say, is realizing that you’re already doing it, that you notice you are already becoming free of the form. There are no hard edges to this kind of thing, no boundaries. Whether it’s in a technique, or whether it’s to do with etiquette, or it’s to do with something else that you’re caring about and practicing, it’s a process.
Clinging to the form is because we don’t trust ourselves to just go for it. And that transition can sometimes be very rocky. And it takes some time.
But I am always noticing that it’s actually in the process of happening to students, but they’re still not always aware of it. Quite often, there are aspects of it, for instance that they don’t realize that they’re actually, already expressing to me. Like you just did.
Okay, then shosho is another matter altogether. It does take much more time. And maybe for many people, sosho won’t happen in this lifetime. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. I mean, it’s not a judgement. Because it takes so much courage to let all of that go and trust that whatever happens will be okay, is appropriate, and timely.
Okay, I think that’s enough.
Student: Thank you, sensei. Thank you very much.
Student: Ours was a very good discussion as usual. We were kind of tempted to talk only about what does this statement really mean? What is Tohei Sensei trying to say here? You know, what does etiquette mean? And what does an open mind mean? So we only spent a little time on that.
Jack initially thought of an open mind as an orderly mind because etiquette has an order to it. Especially the kaisho stage does, as it has a list of rules for order, right?
And he did mention that, in Hawaii, there is a lot of just natural etiquette. He said that it’s a cultural thing, that people have it because they were bred with it, they don’t have to think about it.
Sally shared an experience when a group of people came into a hot tub in New Zealand that she was sitting in and basically took over the whole thing, pushed her aside and just jumped in. She said It was shocking to her. Not that she was she was critical of it. In a sense, it was just the impact it had on her space. And I thought that was really interesting, because that’s so much
the case when we experience an encounter where there is no connection. Maybe people are just thinking about themselves?
And then there was an observation someone who thought that etiquette, basically, is just keiko, that etiquette is just a list of rules to follow. And he was very interested and intrigued and curious about the actual definition that’s contained in this statement by Tohei Sensei.
So I guess my question would be, could you maybe talk more about the definition of etiquette. I know, you told us it’s connection, but maybe you might expand that even a little bit more?
First, I would like to mention, let’s not forget that what we consider in our culture to be completely unconnected and inappropriate might not mean that in another culture. For instance, have you ever been on an airplane with a group of Chinese nationals? They have a very different way of interacting in close spaces than we do here. I’ve often heard Westerners take great exception to this. But this is because of our ignorance of their culture. For instance, the British are very into queuing in a line, waiting your turn. That is good etiquette to them. But in China, that’s not appropriate. That would be thought crazy to do that in their culture. They just go for it in a group, all at once.
So just imagine, take Sally’s hot tub experience, for instance. Maybe it was exactly what you said. But it also might have been a bunch of free spirits, with a different sort of idea about things like that. I think there are still a lot of hippies in New Zealand, so you never know.
I just want to mention this because we want to keep an open mind when it comes to etiquette. Since it’s so rule oriented, so form oriented, we can become very judgmental about it.
Now, let me read you a couple of things here. There are three different translations. Now these are not definitions. These are translations. So it is very interesting.
- 1) Etiquette means to be in a state where there is no gap between body and mind.
- 2) Etiquette is to be in a state of physical and mental health.
You can see the similarity between those two.
Now here’s the third one. And this one I got from someone at headquarters, when I was working on this translation:
3) Etiquette is to be in a state of mind and body unification.
So that’s a very sensible translation. “Etiquette means to be in the state of mind body unification.”
But in my view, as well as Shinichi Sensei’s view, that’s not saying enough. We both preferred it mention something about an open mind.
I think that’s because we’re so used to hearing “mind body unification” that we automatically think we know what that means. The common problem with any kind of training is that we hear it over and over and over again until we think we know what it means.
So maybe saying that in a different way really helps, kind of puts a new twist on it. Or it maybe even suggests a deeper meaning, different kind of view of it.
When we are in the dojo, and we are standing facing each other and you are holding my wrists, my objective is to move forward. But if I try to move you in order to move forward, this creates a gap between us. There’s a gap between my state of mind and my physical body, and that gap is a space between you and me. When I think I am separate from you, then I think that I have to do something to affect you, to close that gap. That would be a totally incorrect way to think about this exercise.
Once I see that we are obviously connected, you are holding on to me with mind and body, then whenever and wherever I move you will also follow. I don’t have to move you. I just move, and we move together. And I do that by listening very carefully to your intension and joining with it. We are connected, and have the experience of no gap, no space between us.
Okay, thank you.
Student: So one was talking about the natural kindness that some people have. Some have this connection and caring about others and don’t step on everybody’s toes, kind of naturally. And these may be examples of people who have this open mind and follow etiquette, but who have never trained in Ki Aikido.
So then for us, it is our rules of etiquette that lead to this. For most of us, we need these kinds of rules to bring us to this kind of connection and open mind.
And then there was Kayomi, who said that when she read the Japanese kanji for this saying, she noticed the phrase “no gap.” And so she said, “Okay, that means ‘no opening’.” But then the translation says, to have an “open mind.” So that seemed like a contradiction to her.
I think everybody has a basic understanding of this. But maybe you can expand a little bit more on this thing of opening, versus having an open mind. And the no-gap thing.
This same student actually brought this same question up in the past. She said she felt very, very nervous about the idea of being open if someone is attacking her, emotionally or verbally even, she feels there’s a poison going into her and she feels defensive. So this is basically the same question. Why do we teach that we must be open in order to have no opening?!
And this question is very common with people throughout the world. This misunderstanding is that, by being open, you are automatically vulnerable to attack.
Whereas the teaching is that the way to be invulnerable to attack is to be completely open. That’s why impeccable state of open mind is truly mind body unification with no gap.
It may be easier to understand if you think about someone that you are close to, someone that knows just how to push your buttons that makes you resist or react. And those buttons, if you have them, are openings. And you identify them as a defensive mechanism that you must put up to protect yourself. When actually all you are doing is offering a button for the other person to push!
When we feel unsafe, then we feel the need to erect a defense to protect our self. “I don’t want to talk about that.” “Don’t bring that up.” “I don’t want to go there.” “Why do you keep bringing that up again and again?”
In short, when I want to protect myself, I am making you my enemy. When I open myself to you, I am making you my friend. Which do we want?
Of course, this may not make any sense at all to the human ego, that is only concerned with its own pleasure, and protecting itself against any kind of pain. Okay, yes, that is normal, but that’s not freedom. That’s bondage. And we’re looking for true freedom. Freedom means opening yourself completely, being willing to risk being completely vulnerable and open, and standing up for it and being courageous and present with it.
So yes, it takes guts to do this. But it’s the only way to live.
To me, I don’t see any other way. I mean, I’m not perfect, by any means. I do notice areas in my life where I have protective mechanisms that might pop up. And I also know from experience that it’s big trouble when it happens.
I have to say that it’s been a joy to have had this year together with my wife so much. Because we’ve both had time to fully explore this and really see how important it is to just let ourselves be open to each other, without making assumptions. Now, of course, that takes two to tango. And it can be hard to do. But that’s what you work on. That’s the blessing of a situation like this where we are together and close all the time.
Okay, that’s enough about that. This is the principle of non-dissension. And we will cover it a million times.
Student: The question is…well you mentioned in your beginning talk. You said something to the effect that this is more personal than even our love relationships. Can you talk more about that?
Well, what I meant by that is, in love relationships there are projections involved. That’s why we like some people, and we don’t like other people. That first time we meet we are attracted to some people, and others who we are not necessarily attracted to.
And that can change when we get to know them, yes? People that you think are really cool, can end up to be jerks, and people that you think are not cool, can actually become quite a friend.
In a love relationship, well, in all normal relationships, there are expectations on both sides. And when you meet those expectations, you get to keep that relationship. When you’ve failed to meet them, you may lose that relationship.
However, this teacher/student or even student to student relationship, on the mat for instance, this is more intimate than a normal relationship. Because succeed or fail you cannot walk away. I’m still sitting here looking at you. You are still sitting here. Look again, and notice that we aren’t bound by those same rules. We are free. That’s why the value of the teacher to student relationship is that we are free to explore much more deeply.
Now, that’s not to say that there are no expectations. And sometimes, when we cling to our projections, this can mean a divorce between a student and a teacher, or even between students. It does happen. But the opportunity is always there, the calling is always present to set aside personal expectations or requirements.
Of course, maturity, practice, steadiness, trust. These things are important. And when we follow this way, we have the opportunity to go more deeply together. Every day.
Student: Yes, thank you.
Student: Alexi said that he has noticed that he has become better over the years, learning to be more polite with people in his life. And John mentioned what you said about how etiquette is different with different cultures. And in his own family, you know, one gesture would mean one thing, whereas in another culture and language, the same gesture would mean something different.
What came up with for me was, I was wondering what is the relationship or difference between etiquette and self-discipline. I don’t think I’ve ever had any problem with discipline in my life. But I did have problem with etiquette. Etiquette always felt like something imposed. And you know, I was resenting a little bit to follow etiquette, not necessarily at the dojo, because at the dojo, I felt I was there for that. I mean, it was clear in the dojo why we do that.
But anyway, over the years, I have noticed that the gap between etiquette and discipline has gotten smaller, you know, it has become more the same in a way.
Gloria was actually saying that for her etiquette was a form of discipline.
Alright, first of all, the phenomenon of discipline is that it’s something that we have to do to get ourselves to perform at a certain level, until we learn to love it. Once we love it, we no longer need discipline.
You don’t have a problem. You’re very disciplined in your art-work, because you love what you do. So it’s not discipline. It’s just love. Okay?
Same thing for me, in Aikido. I don’t need any discipline. I don’t have to say to myself, “You better get up and do your meditation.” No, no, no, I don’t need that anymore.
Okay, so it’s the same rules for everyone. But that discipline only lasts as long as we haven’t learned about connection with people. When we really learn to value loving people and being connected with them, then we don’t need any etiquette.
Eventually, that just becomes a silly old idea. But this etiquette, this self-discipline, this is very important for new students. Even with many of our more advanced students and teachers, it’s very important, even if you are teaching children. You know, they need discipline, of course. When they come to the dojo also, they need to learn discipline, they need to learn etiquette as a form.
Priya was asking me about love relationships. Well, if it’s really true love relationship, okay, then it’s the same as training. You can go into very deep areas. But if you have boundaries, then that is a limitation, a demand. You can’t really go anywhere that way.
Well, let’s just look at that for a minute here. I do have boundaries that I must follow. But they are not defensive boundaries. They are respect boundaries, respect for you. For instance, in our private meetings, I don’t go to certain, you know, certain things until invited. But I’ve learned that, and maybe nobody taught me that overtly. But it doesn’t really apply until you love being with people. When you love being with people then you most always know what’s appropriate.
Several of us have mentioned that we’ve got to learn to respect other people’s culture. That’s for sure, we do. But for somebody that’s really connected, then it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. You’ll always be appropriate. Whoever you are with.
Thank you very much. This was fun tonight. Domo arigato gozaimasu. Bye bye.
(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 12. March 2021)