Open Mind

Hello, everyone, I hope everyone is fine. Onegaishimasu. I’m happy to see you all. I’m going to begin by reading Shokushu #10, “The Principle of Non-Dissension.”

“There is no conflict in the absolute universe. Conflict arises only in the relative world. If we are to lead others, we must unify mind and body and practice the principles of the universe. Do not say that this is a world of survival of the fittest, where the stronger prey upon the weaker. The true way to peace is exactly the same as the principle of non-dissension.”

Tonight is our eighth saying from Tohei Sensei: “You can accept anything if you open your mind.”

Isn’t it interesting that people think of Aikido as a self-defense martial art, and yet if we are defensive in even the smallest way, it doesn’t work. Think about it. You know, when someone comes to attack us, it doesn’t matter what their intention is. They’re making an action toward us, maybe to grab us or to kick us or to hit us or something like this. And in Aikido, we have to join with them. Right? And we have to open ourselves to them in order to be able to join with them. And through this opening, this unification, we become one with them. And then the action is resolved without any harm coming to them or to us. That’s like Aikido in a nutshell, right?

So that’s what Tohei Sensei means by, “we have to be able to open our mind in order to accept anything.” And if we can open our mind, we can accept everything, no matter what. Again, it doesn’t mean that we pretend to ourselves that the person that’s taking this action against us, whether it’s verbal, or emotional, or physical, doesn’t have any negative intention. They may be obsessed with some sort of negativity, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, they probably do have something like that, if in fact we’re going to have to do Aikido with them. That’s not the issue, and if we see that then we don’t need to be negatively affected.

And let’s remember that kind of attack very rarely happens on a physical level. But the principle, whether it be emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, happens every day, doesn’t it? Someone says something and we see they have some intent here. And if we’re practicing Aikido, then when we notice this, that’s when we open ourselves.

Tohei Sensei always talked about everything anyone throws at us goes into the “magic pot” of our One Point. Suzuki Sensei always talked about “tsuki ganai shisei”, which means “a posture of no opening.” And isn’t it interesting here again, that in order to have a posture of no opening, we have to be completely open, ourselves. If we have even a little bit of defensiveness we hide behind, or a little bit of defending ourselves against this person, that defensiveness of ours is a button that our opponent can push to make us lose our stability, to make us weak. This is why I read about the spirit of non-dissension today, and why it’s so important to us.

Do we understand this? You know, often people say to me, “Does this mean that I have to just lay down and take it?” No, no. Don’t forget Tohei Sensei taught us the three ways that human beings respond to a challenge in their lives. In every situation, whenever we’re challenged, Option A, Option B, or Option C occurs. As we have covered so often, Option A is defending yourself, or fighting back, sticking up for yourself. But unfortunately that doesn’t come from strength, but from fear. Trying to show strength is showing weakness. When we actually have strength, we never need to show it.

Option B is really just collapsing, allowing whatever to happen, and praying that someone will take care of the problem for us. Of course, that won’t work either.

Option C is non- dissension. This is standing up directly in the face of difficulty, standing up in the face of someone that is negative, standing up in the face of adversity and becoming one with it. Becoming so vulnerable that we can embrace and include the other person. We call this “osairu.” Osairu means “to embrace” or “to include.” Literally it means “to cover” but in Aikido we use it to mean embracing or including.

No matter how nasty that which is dark is, we transform it by turning the light of awareness on it. This is the awareness that every single thing that takes place in this world I can use for my benefit. I am the center of the universe as are you. So that means that everything that happens in our world happens to benefit us. No matter how vile it may seem at the time, no matter how tragic, no matter how negative, everything naturally fits us perfectly.

So learning to listen means learning to be open, to open our mind, and then we can accept everything. Maybe you remember, I taught you the four principles of practice. Number one is “show up,” we have to be present, not just physically showing up, but then waking up. Number two is “opening.” We open our mind. And number three, we “follow.” We follow whatever is happening. And in the end, finally, the resolution. Number four is to “accept.” We accept whatever the resolution is, we accept whatever the result. Of course, that may very well be not what we were wishing for or looking for. Because we’re always wishing for and looking for something that our small mind thinks will benefit us. Quite often, what we need is something outside of that category. So the result of this practice may not always appear to be as beneficial as it may be, if we can accept it. We want to invite whatever it is into our life, this whole business of being vulnerable, open, and accepting, this is Aikido. And this is the strong person. This is the fearless person. This is what takes courage.

This is difficult, because even though we all may know this principle of non-dissension, this is definitely not commonly known or practiced in this world. That’s not what’s happening out there, is it? Everybody feels they must protect themselves, as if this life is survival of the fittest.

And we each of us have that in us, folks. So we have to really notice when it’s arising, when it’s coming up.

(15 minutes discussion groups)

Student: Everybody in our group told stories about daily life, basically where they could have been challenged but managed to deal with situations, and sometimes not. But I have a question. You mentioned in Aikido we train to deal with negative energy. Yeah, I know you didn’t frame it like this. But it’s this idea that when we do Ki Aikido in the proper way, in the dojo, we see that the opponent is not trying to harm us, and we are both Keeping One Point. The opponent wants to help me to learn the art. And then he gives me some line of attack. And I have learned to move with this line with Ki movement. So there’s no negativity that I have to deal with, unless I perceive it as such. So for me, the actual Aikido training is outside of the dojo, where the same energy patterns happen, but with actual negativity. So I use my training outside of the dojo to deal with higher energy versus negativities. People want to hurt me or something like this. So I learn the patterns in the dojo, and then I have to be ready to use those outside.

Thank you. This is a something that’s very important. When we’re practicing in the dojo, of course, the person that is attacking us doesn’t actually want to hurt us. And so he’s not negative in the sense that he wants to cause us harm. Yes. It’s a little bit like, in the dojo, we use a wooden knife, we don’t use a steel blade that is razor sharp, because we’re practicing and don’t want to hurt each other. And we always say, “See that wooden knife as if it’s steel, so that when you see the steel knife you can see it as if it’s wood.” This is similar to what you’re describing. When we see a person who is attacking us in the dojo, we know he doesn’t mean to hurt us. But in order to learn, we must look at him as if he’s serious. In fact, so much so that as Shinichi Sensei is really insisting more and more lately, when you attack you better attack with full force. Because otherwise, we begin to think life is like the energy in the dojo, not really so severe. So, it has to be a full attack.

I do want to add one thing regarding when we are in daily life. Generally speaking, nobody’s trying to physically harm us. It might happen once in a while, but for most of us, it’s pretty rare. But as I was saying earlier, what does happen to us quite often, in some way, is to be verbally or emotionally attacked. People do this. And yes, they may have some negative energy involved that you will notice. But because we’re used to practicing with a full-on energy attack in the dojo, we know how to deal with the energy outside the dojo, and we don’t have to worry about it being negative.

Of course, this is where Meditation comes in, and Ki Breathing. When we do a lot of meditation, we learn to give our full attention to the moment. And when we’re fully in attention, we become very calm. A number of you have told me stories about things that happened in your lives. When you were with someone, even several people at once, who had a negative intention to harm you. Particularly several women have told me about this and how, by becoming just very steady and very calm and facing these people directly, they were able to neutralize the entire situation. You know, no one who wants to take advantage of someone else in some way is going to pick the one who is standing up and looking at them right in the eye, fearlessly. In fact, they conducted a study in a prison a number of years ago. They took films of women walking, and they asked the inmates, “Which one would you attack?” And the inmates all picked people that were walking with their heads down with a kind of sloppy posture, but not the ones that were striding along, looking straight forward. So even the “experts” know, they understand.

You know, I would say that people in daily life are much easier to deal with than people in the dojo, who really know how to attack. Okay, thank you very much.

Student: Our question is, when you say “accepting,” you don’t mean “taking it on”? Like, taking on someone’s negative energy when we’re in a defensive mode to where it affects us negatively.

When I talk about accepting something, that’s the fourth of the four principles of practice.
What that means to me is that whatever kind of situation I’m in, I want to remember that whatever it is, it’s there to benefit me. It’s there in my favor. It’s never there not in my favor. It’s never there not to benefit me. That’s not how this works. Thinking that way would be very ignorant, since it would lead to creating conflict. I would be judging something to be one way or the other. But can we afford such a luxury, such self-indulgence as to be judging, and thinking we’re knowledgeable enough, awakened enough? No, that is just feeding fear and doubt.

I have to treat every situation with the same seriousness, the same respect. And if I’m going to practice what I preach then I have to be vulnerable, open, willing. I have to be a participant, not an avoider, not a judge. We are not hiding, not running away, not protecting, but ready for anything and willing to be here for everybody.

We have to practice all our lives for this. And even when we are perhaps very experienced, still no one is perfect. This is a very, very difficult thing to be asking of ourselves, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t practice it every day. You know, we have 24 hours each day. Maybe we only spent two or three hours doing Aikido, inside or outside the dojo. So we must remember to pay attention all the time with the same kind of openness. Okay, thank you.

Student: Hello, Hi, everybody. The general consensus of the group was that as we’re living and practicing, you know, we realized that this takes time and effort, this is not something that, oh, all of a sudden, we’re just open. This requires daily practice. And this is what we are all working towards. It was a wonderful discussion.

Student: At some stage the topic in our discussion was how to deal with daily life type of situation when it comes to emotion and psychological situations. One possibility is the professional setups, when you have people exercising power, and then the question is how to deal with that unfairness? There is this professional context where we have to accept and open up to situations that are driven by things that are not necessarily acceptable from a fairness point of view. And then the question was, yes, the Aikido practice can be of hel,. staying calm, being open, embracing the situation is very important, but life can still remain challenging on occasion. So should we not have a discussion around this topic, the professional context?

Yeah. Okay. Thank you. This is obviously very complex. And when I talk about this the way I do, it might seem like we are overly simplifying things, or making a very complex thing very simple. The principle itself, principle of non-dissension, is very simple. But in action, for instance as you suggest in a business context, in a meeting where people may be less than genuine and exercising some sort of power and control, it can be complicated. You know, the actual techniques that we might use for this kind of thing, maybe we don’t always teach those techniques in the dojo, like we show how to move in your kokyunage, how to become one with to neutralize, to unify with that kind of energy.

However, in human relations, where we don’t have physical movement, we use questions. Instead of making statements, we ask questions, we try to get to know the person’s state of mind. We want to get to know their intention very well. And while we’re noticing that, we do that without judging, because we want to remain truly vulnerable, questioning, not deciding.

So that is a technique that, if you’re a truly successful business person, you already know and practice. The more mature we become, the more we can maintain mind body unification and a sense of calmness, which, please remember, only comes about by listening, by paying attention. Right? So when we have that kind of state of mind, and we’re practicing it all the time, then we can pretty much find an opportunity to neutralize, to resolve and join with opposition in any situation.

Student: I’ll summarize a bit and then I’ll say something that has come up in your answers to the to these previous questions. For instance, someone talked about how we’re raised to know what is good and what is bad, you know, these kind of basic values. So, can we accept something that we know is bad or wrong? So that came up in this discussion. And then another point was that, maybe before we trained Aikido, we had kind of pattern of competitiveness in life. And then with Aikido, we start to break out of that pattern. But then we become very attuned to seeing that pattern in everyone else outside of us. Also, you mentioned something before that strikes me now. It had to do with the fact that we don’t have to accept something negative. Right? I mean, in other words, we accept, but it doesn’t mean we are accepting something negative.

Oh, absolutely.

Student: Yeah. And so I was wondering if you could just say something more in that regard.

Okay, so, shopping in the grocery store: I don’t know if you have had to look for a ripe avocado lately. If so, you might notice that everybody has gone in and tested them to see if they’re ripe or not. Okay.? So you have to be quite attentive to this, and maybe even experienced is what I’m suggesting, in order to choose the correct avocado, one that is not already mashed. And you have to be able to do this without touching. Otherwise you are only adding to the problem.

So, in this case, those mushy ones are negative. Those are the avocados that you don’t want to receive, okay? So you leave those behind.

Of course, there are sometimes when you’re not able to avoid a confrontation, you’re not able to avoid dealing with some situation. And in that situation, if you’re fearful of receiving something negative, that’s a misunderstanding and it’s not going to work. You know, if I made a mistake and took home one of those mushy avocados, I’d just have to make guacamole that night. That’s all. You see?

So in this sense, rejecting is the opposite of excepting. And by “accept,” I’m saying that we have to deal with whatever we’re given. And if we get caught up in how wrong it is, that’s a fear- based way of living. And that will lead to avoidance that will either lead to Option A, fighting, or Option B, you will collapse in the face of it. But you will not be doing Aikido. So finding out the key to what allows us to be willing to be a part of whatever confronts us. within us, this is what we call noticing. The process of our practice is noticing what motivates us to do what we do. And you notice that by seeing it come up again and again and again. And at some point, we say to ourselves, “Oh, that’s what I’m doing!”

Thank you.

Student: We didn’t really have a question. We just talked about training, whether it be a conflict between someone that you are working with, or someone in your family who takes a position that you can’t agree with, or just being in the grocery line and having a moment when somebody gets in front of you. And we just realized, you know, we really think that it’s great to think about just showing up, opening up, following, and accepting the result. I don’t really know what else to say, you know, we just talked about how we realize that we need to train more and learn to be accepting and be present.

Thank you very much. Yes, the more you train, the more years you spend hanging out with teachers and other Aikidoka who are serious about training and serious about their own development, the more you hear things like the four principles of practice, the easier it will become.

When I’m with a group of you like this, my responsibility is to give some kind of a presentation and present this way of non-dissension in some way. I try to just get to the kernel of what it is that we need to work on. Nobody’s saying that they’re perfect at this. We’re all practicing together, something that is incredibly difficult. And we’re faced with it in our lives all day, every day. But let me just say how fortunate we all are to be able to get together like this and discuss this most difficult subject. This Aikido has very well saved my life, and I think probably yours too. And if it hasn’t yet, I promise you it will, if you allow it to. I don’t mean “saved my life” in the way that somebody would have killed me, but instead I fancifully threw them on the ground. I don’t mean that at all. I mean it saved my life because it changed the way I see the world. That’s what changes our life. That’s what saves us from our self. So let’s just be grateful for that.

Alright, so thank you very much. I love you all. I’m glad to see you and I hope to see you Sunday morning. Bye bye.

(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 27. November 2020)