Using Will Power

Good evening everyone and a bright good morning to those of you East into the Atlantic Ocean. This evening, I’d like to read you Shokushu #19, Willpower.

“The focused willpower penetrates even stone. This naturally arising in the state of mind silences even the storm and thunder.
Where does this State of Mind come from? The person who accomplishes important tasks understands this power from experience.

When we calm the waves of our mind from molecules to atoms to electrons, we experience our great willpower which is universal willpower.”

This particular Shokushu is referring directly to tonight’s saying by Tohei Sensei’s, and vice versa:

“If you use your willpower in accord with the universal principles, this will become your reality.”

Sayaka, would you please read that in Japanese? (Sayaka reads)
Thank you very much.

When Tohei Sensei says “universal principle,” singular, he usually means “mind leads body.” However, when he says “universal principles,” plural, he is referring to the three principles of the universe: “#1.The universe is an infinite sphere with an infinite radius, #2, the universe is infinite gathering of infinitely small particles, and #3, everything is always changing.”

So some people may think that with the singular and plural there, he is pointing to different things. But even with the 20 plus sets of “Five Principles” that he gave us, all of these refer to or point to the same thing, which is of course, mind body unification. Or in other words, following the way of the universe.

Okay, let’s so some Ki Breathing (10 minutes of Ki Breathing)

In the beginning of our training, we are quite immature. Because of this, we are made to practice form with sincerity in the dojo. We’re given etiquette to follow. We’re told what to do in every moment, we’re given multiple structures to learn. We concentrate our efforts on those structures, some of them being physical and some of them being mental, and all of them being forms that we have to strictly adhere to.

We may become very good at doing that while we’re in the dojo, or while in front of the teacher. But then when we leave the dojo, we imagine we are through with that, and we can relax and have a party.

This is the kaisho stage that I’m pointing to here, when we are just following the form very, very carefully, very self-consciously. You know, at this stage, there’s no real surrender to the form to such an extent that it might change the way we see the world.

But then in gyosho, the second stage, there’s still form there that we’re following carefully, but there’s also Ki movement. In other words, there’s some inspiration in spirit that’s beginning to move into the form of our practice, so the form is being meaningfully in-formed on a very subtle level. This is the middle level of maturity.

Not until we reach sosho, the advanced level of the practice of maturity, are we able to just leave the form alone. We don’t really throw it away, because where would it go? It’s always available to us. It’s always being used, but just not self-consciously. It’s now automatically a part of us. So we can spend all of our attention on the way that we view the world, perhaps changing the way we deal with change.

And this is precisely what Tohei Sensei is talking about. It is at this point when we begin to discover the real world. This is when we begin to cease judging any moment, or any action, or any activity to be wrong.

Now we are following the universe, the universe is acting, the universe is at large, the universe is running along nicely. It’s what’s happening. And every single moment is to awaken us to enlightenment about ourselves in this life, to help us understand, on a deeper level, exactly how we fit into this program and exactly how we have been conditioned to think that we should, but don’t fit in the way we like. So now a change in that conditioning will alter the way that we interact with the world.

And this now becomes our practice. This is now an advanced practice, and that’s what we call shugyo practice. We call it shugyo practice because it really requires bringing all of our attention to the moment. And no matter what keiko practice we’re engaged in, learning about some art or studying about some principle, it continues because knowledge is infinite. But during all of this keiko practice, we are either in shugyo or not. In other words, we can focus completely on expressing the form at the same time we are resting in complete attention. Our attention is completely present, without distraction, without any need for correction or clarification.

This is how someone lives when they’re following the way of universal, when they’re following these universal principles.

During your discussions tonight, consider how are those three principles of the universe activated in your lives? And how does the constant state of change affect you? And how does your willpower allow you to capture this and live with?

Okay, so please go to your breakout sessions, and I’ll see you soon. (15 minutes breakout sessions)
Are we all returned? Let’s begin.

Student: Good evening Sensei: We were talking about body and health, and how through training Ki Aikido you become kind of more sensitive. And you start to notice the things you eat and drink that are good for you or not good for you. We become sensitive to feedback from our body, what is good to put into you and what not. So you kind of become more sensitive, and think, I shouldn’t eat this. It doesn’t feel good. So even on the body level, we feel you can train yourself, well maybe not actually train, but it’s kind of coming through our training, and this sensitivity also applies to the body.

So that was one topic. And then another one was, even in fairy tales for children, there are examples of when someone has a strong will and wants something no matter what everybody else thinks. And when he tries to go this way, at the end of the fairy tale we see that it doesn’t work out for him. So this kind of wisdom is also sometimes in fairy tales.

But I think the most important topic was, when we feel the principles of the universe and we are able to go with this Ki movement, then what we do seems to work out. But when we use our willpower in a different way, like when someone moves this way, but I want to go this other way, then we see an outcome that is not the way we thought, because there is now tension and maybe even fighting. So I see that the results are not what they should be when we do not follow the movement that is presented to us from our partner. So the question is, how do we live always in accord with what the universe is presenting to us, so that we can always go this way?

Okay, thank you very much. So, when we begin to notice our state of mind, we are freed up a bit, and we’ve begun to build a little capacity of attention. This is when we begin to notice other stuff, Right? This can be our car, how we carry something, how we do your work, etc. And sure, the groceries that you buy may also begin to change. That’s not a big deal, because that is not a big part of it. That is a very, very, very small sub-category that people end up getting lost in and can lose the whole meaning of following the way the universe, because they get lost in the form of special diets and special practices. This is understandable, because it is generally only the form that we see, work on, move around in, put into our bodies, etc. so we think this is the one really significant thing in our lives. As you say, we may automatically begin to notice such things changing, but that is not what our noticing is focused on. So excuse me, but to be fair, it’s also true that people get lost in the form on other levels. So I’m not just pointing at the physical form.

We get lost in ideational form as well. Which brings us to fairy tales…stories. It’s ancient wisdom, and it’s all in there. For instance, if you look at the Bible, and the four parts of the New Testament written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These were written over a period of many, many years, long after the man Jesus died. And so the first one is very practical sounding, nothing fancy. And then as time goes on and the later parts are written, the tale is becoming more and more miraculous, because over 100-year period, it had to happen like that. And if we look at all that wonderful literature that’s in there, and just see it as wisdom, then we don’t have to make it into anything else. We don’t have to do anything with it. So that is the same way we’re to use all form in our lives. No matter how brilliant and fanciful the artist, we must see through it, to the meaning beneath it. What is it pointing to?

However, something about what you’re saying is bothering me a little bit. In the end the question is “how to live?” Well, by not turning this into something that it isn’t. That’s what I was saying about the Bible, don’t make the principles of the universe into a direct demand, something fixed that they are not, just because we may need that, or we feel we require that to be a certain way in order to swallow it whole.

You know, as my life goes on, the more I see that we are talking about the little things, each moment. There aren’t any big things. The universe works very intimately with us. Moment by moment, there’s no mystery, there’s no “Big Ki!” to follow. There’s just this, and then this, and then this. Just listen. Just follow Mother Teresa. All we have to do is listen, and we’ll get what we need to know. Again, we always get enough to keep us busy on the edge of our practice, if we are just listening.

I’ll tell you a quick story. I got really into being a vegetarian in my three-year meditation retreat. I mean, I really got into it. And as a result, I thought that I could tell, really tell, when I ate something that was just not sattvic, you know? I mean when something was not pure enough to eat when doing true spiritual practice. And I wrote my teacher a note about it. And immediately he wrote back and said, “Today, go out and buy a pound of bacon, eat the whole damn thing and shut up about what you think is good for you and what not. Because you’re missing the whole point. You have no clue as to what is going on here.” I was horribly shocked because I had felt I was finally awake, if only in the food department. The truth is that all of that was very much about my vanity – I was getting skinny, and I liked that ascetic look.

Yes, all this new stuff starts to happen to us. Things seem to be going away, and we long for something to cling to. So, we have to be very careful, because our mind is busy grabbing and attaching to things, and instead the whole point is that we want to kind of let go and relax our clinging to all aspects of form. Okay, thank you. Next group, please.

Student: Our group kind of noticed that there’s a standard definition of willpower. I will share that we’ve always kind of thought of willpower as the ability to be self-disciplined. But in Aikido it has always seemed like there was a lot more to it than that. But then I never quite understood what that was. And then we noticed that there’s, um, well, there’s a standard definition, and it’s kind of like, my willpower versus your willpower. And Prakash Sensei said that the ego is “willful.” But it seems like Tohei Sensei is taking the word willpower and extending it to universal willpower.

Well, I guess I’ll just share that in my case, I do see that the point here is that when someone is being very willful about things, then there is discord. But when he surrenders his willfulness to the universe, and is in accord with the universal principles, he experiences like a different kind of willpower, and his efforts become effortless. So I thought that was interesting.

As I explained in the training manual, willpower is keeping your hands out of the water and allowing it to settle on its own. It’s not trying to make the water settle with your hands, which does not work, and has only to do with willfulness. This kind of willfulness-willpower is what ravages our world. This is not true willpower, it’s your will against mine. This is just an ego trip and leads only to a battle.

Student: So when Tohei Sensei talks about willpower, he is talking about the will to surrender to that true willpower, the will to allow the universe to have its way with us, and to pay attention to that. Thank you, sensei.

And may I ask a question? This was something I was wondering about from the Shokushu that you read tonight, where he basically said that with willpower, we can accomplish important tasks. What does Tohei Sensei mean by important tasks?

Look, we’re talking about how to use our mind, right? This is self-revealing. The right principles may tell us how to do it, but ultimately, we have to see it for ourselves. And yet, we require endless principles, endless and endless support. And that’s not wrong. The reason for that is because that is what brings us all together. If it weren’t for that need, this would all just be a story of self- enlightenment. This world would not need to even exist as such. What would we need anybody else for? But we’re only a little piece of the universe. We’re only a little bit of the whole. So accomplishing a great task can never be done by an individual. Great tasks can never be done by anyone alone, by themselves. Okay. Thank you.

Student: Good evening Sensei and everybody. You know what Alaria said was very, very much a part I think of what at least I was trying to think about, and your answer was very helpful. I don’t know if I can express this, but Tohei Sensei said that if we use our willpower in accord with the universal principles, this will become our reality. And we struggle a little bit with the question of what this means in that sentence.

One idea our group brought out was that if just by practicing, by continuing to be steadfast in practice, the changes occur in you, changes develop, and so your reality. You said that your reality will become your practice. But I think our group was trying to say that your practice will become your reality.

Okay, look, it’s both. This is referring to the way we use our mind. And Tohei Sensei is referring to us seeing the universe as our guide in that. In other words, we are not judging anything to be correct or incorrect. We do not claim anything is out of sorts with the will of the universe. In other words, following the will of the universe will be the true use of our willpower, this surrender of personal will. Surrender to what? To nothing! Because it doesn’t go anywhere when you surrender it. Instead, it just changes its own nature. The true use of our willpower is seeing the world for what it is. That’s not rendering ourselves up to some being, or some God, or some even some principle. That’s not what I mean by surrender. We are offering our attention to this moment, without reservation.

Student: Hello, everybody. I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed what everybody has shared so far. It was very interesting how we were able to share in our own unique way how this principal process works in our lives, you know, in our different experiences. Right down to its purest form, which is with no words, with no concepts, you know, just a beautiful freedom. And I believe we were all able to relate to it. So we really didn’t come up with a question. But I think it was just very enjoyable to hear what everybody had to say so far tonight, in their own unique way, sharing their own experience.

Yes, I agree. Very beautiful. And also what you say about no words. We really don’t require, as I said before, all these principles. They are self-revealing. All of this is so we can be together and share our experiences with each other. So we have a very interactive experience in these discussions. Each time, I always think that this is my favorite session. I do think this is so precious, so rich. Thanks to everybody for that.

Student: Hi, everybody. Hello, Sensei. One thing that Jack said, that struck him about the willpower Shokushu was that he was shocked to hear that the naturally arising state of mind silences even the storm and thunder, when he was thinking before that willpower meant trying to control things. And so he said that that really resonated with him. And Linda said that she felt that willpower was kind of used to overcome negativity or focus on goals. And be able to see solutions to what others see, you know, using it in that way. And Joelle related the willpower to creativity. She said that when she’s creating, that’s when it feels the most full and powerful and it just kind of comes naturally for her then. But she did have a question. She said sometimes she’ll see a person that she thinks has big willpower, but then she’s very uncomfortable with what’s happening. And so her question was, why is that?

Well, I’d have to hear something more specific to answer specifically. I think, of course, this is what we’ve already talked about. There’s willpower that Tohei Sensei is referring to, which allows great things to happen. Universal things happen together with others. Yes. And then there’s individual willfulness, which allows individuals to do apparently big things and take credit for it. So it’s up to each one of us to parse that out in each case.

As individuals, when it’s arising in us, we must feel whether it’s willful, or surrender, whether it’s taking or giving, whether it’s requiring or supporting. We can and must feel this within ourselves. Not to judge the other person, but for ourselves. And the more we follow the way of universe, the more that the alarm goes off within us when we begin thinking about what something means for “me.” Instead, we consider how could I make this work better for others, more creative, more beautiful, more meaningful? A true artist already knows how to serve. Because you can’t make art without giving. I mean, the form has to be there, of course. But Tohei Sensei is also teaching us the art of moving in relationship to other people, and how to unify with them. That’s what the real value is. Thank you very much. Okay.

Student: Good evening, everyone. Frankly, to start with, we were confused by what you said. There was a lot packed in there. And so we were just sort of wandering around for the first few minutes. One of the was that at least two of us in the group haven’t experienced shosho in the dojo or in meditation necessarily. And so comparing the three stages that you described was hard.

What came to mind here, as I thought about it for myself, was that when a bad experience for someone happens in front of me, I do rise to the occasion. There’s just a knowing that it’s necessary and somebody needs help. There’s just something happens and I’m all there and all in for whatever needs to get done, whether it’s sitting with someone or whatever it is, there’s just no question.

I can’t really formulate a question here, but I can tell you that when I am on the mat with someone it is like this giant invitation saying “Try this now!” But I don’t always go for it, and I think it’s because, unlike the situation I was just talking about it, I feel that I’m grasping at something.

Roy said something similar to this, which is that he is familiar with this same feeling on the mat. But the way he gets most familiar, is when he’s being tested, and particularly let’s say by you personally. Okay, so you are showing him how he can do that easily and you’re right there with him. You know, he ends up when he’s in that state, feeling that he doesn’t have any doubt.

I understand this. You said that you started out really confused in the beginning of the class. Maybe part of that is because there are two parts to this class. I present a case in the beginning. And you have to kind of catch on to what I am saying. How does that work, you know? But then later, when you have the discussion, and then you listen to everybody ask questions, and the responses, then you can adjust, since all of that clarifies the whole picture. Of course, that’s why we have all that.

When you’re on the mat, and you are approached by another student, and you see this as an invitation but there is no spontaneity, that is because you are thinking about yourself, so there’s no way you are going to be spontaneous. But, if I come up to you, then all bets are off. And then you are going to have a little experience. This circumstance calls on you powerfully to forget that your self-consciousness, and you forget yourself for a moment. Look at me, right now. You see? When we have this, then all of us are right here now. So you can do that for yourself any time by learning to listen to others, instead of to yourself.

I always ask people to come early to the dojo, because I want them to come sit on the mat. Instead, as you know, people often just talk, and some people stretch, and people do all kinds of stuff. They’re not using the time as well as they might. I want you to come sit and listen. So in other words, you come in from the outside, and you may have had a crazy day. Just sit down and change your state of mind. Turnabout in the deepest state of consciousness. Awaken to where you are, what are you doing, and what the opportunity really is. Okay.

Student: Sensei, could I ask you something?

Yes, please.

Student: When you said the universe makes everything happen. That kind of tripped me up because, you know, like in the United States, we’ve been having a lot of disharmony and chaos and violence. And this was by a bunch of willful individuals creating even an insurrection. And yet, you know, is that the universe making that happen?

Of course, are you kidding? Well, what else would it be? Did you think it was “the devil?” We say “the devil did it” only when we don’t understand why it happens. What could it be if not the universe? The universe is all there is. And so the question is, why do I need to see this? Don’t settle for some political answer, or social answer or psychological answer. Why do I need to see this? Maybe not everyone can see this or ask this question. But you and I at least, can we have the freedom to see it for what it is. We have the insight, we have the training, we have the option C, connection. We hold the responsibility to know what that chaotic violence is. That’s option A, fighting. We know that. And I even saw people that day, standing on the side and doing option B, holding back and letting everybody else take care of it. But I didn’t see any option C at all. No. So that’s our job. To see it with that connection. Not to see it and react roughly to it with option A, or even dismiss it as in option B. No we connect with those people. Option C means to connect. It’s a tremendous invitation.

Student: Yes, option C was being used by the man who guided some of the protesters away from the congressmen that they were looking for. He was really doing Aikido, that officer.

Yes, he was. Yeah, so let’s just remember, following the way of the universe means something may be relatively “wrong,” but ultimately nothing is wrong because we evidently need this demonstration of our own willfulness, our own lack of attention as a group of people, as a country. It may mean different things to different people, but no matter what it is, it’s to be paid attention to with respect, and honor. That’s what the people in the mob had not been doing. But that doesn’t mean we have to be like that. We sink or rise to the level of whatever we judge something to be.

Thank you very much. I’m going to go now. Domo arigato gozaimasu.

(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 26. February 2021)