Frozen patterns of previous turbulence, Mile High Cliffs, Wrangell Mountains, Alaska
I’m now clearly feeling love as a flow toward another person, or between two people. While it’s between individuals, the love itself is generic, a kind of energy (whatever that is), metaphorically like light or water. In the moment, I may have a lot of it, or little. Good relationships create more of it, which is then available to flow elsewhere. I feel myself in a force field of love that includes friends, family and acquaintances. Some connections are stronger than others. And flows can move more in one direction than another.
It’s like light, in that it illuminates the particularities of the beloved, the eyes, the fingernails, the smoothness or wrinkle in the skin, in a positive way, while in itself not any of these.
When I go to the gym or do warm-ups for Aikido recently, I go through a series of physical exercises involving feeling & visualizing energy (whatever that is) flowing into, through and from me along various lines. It’s not just mental; muscles, connective tissue and bones are aligning and moving. I think the genius of O’Sensei, the founder of Aikido, was to see such flows as love, translating combat imagery into love. He wrote explicitly about that. I think it can be seen as an interesting take on Jesus’s primary message. Practicing those flows, O’Sensei in his 80’s at 4’11” could respond to multiple simultaneous sword attackers with safety for himself and all of them. I’ve seen videos of that, and it’s similar to what I’ve felt personally with Saotome Sensei, who was his direct student, Mary Heiny Sensei, and other teachers.
Seems that anger and hate can be seen similarly as energy flow. O’Sensei started from aggressive energy in his Japanese combat training, and transformed it. This association of love and hate appears in Christianity in Jesus and the Devil, with the incarnation of Jesus a similarly transformative event. Christian mythology begins with the loving God. Satan rebels against that. Then there is competition between Jesus and Satan for ascendancy.
The Devil is the shadow and Jesus the light. – e.g., take a look at Ary Scheffer’s 1854 painting:
The metaphor of God as light appears in the burning bush and in God’s leading the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years with a pillar of light; the creation was initiated by God’s creation of light. “The LORD my God illumines my darkness,” Psalm 18:28; “The LORD is my light…,” Psalm 27:1. And Jesus carries that on: “…we walk in the light, as he is in the light…,” John 1:7.
In popular imagery today, “receiving the golden light of God:”
Notice the intense eroticism in this image. God’s love is erotic.
In his fine April 29 column, “Engaged or Detached?,” David Brooks says that the person who writes about politics and policy has a choice: She can be an engaged activist supporting a cause, who “provides arguments for the party faithful and builds community by reminding everyone of the errors and villainy of the opposing side.” Or she can be detached, more a teacher than an activist, “shaping people’s perceptions of underlying reality and hoping that she can provide a context in which other people can think.” Or somewhere on the continuum between these two. He concludes,
The detached writer understands that, at the top level, politics is a bipolar struggle for turf. But the real fun is down below, sparking conversations about underlying concepts, underlying reality and the underlying frame of debate.
Not fair! — Brooks is giving the detached writer all the fun. Engaged activists deserve it, too. In my experience, the strategic advocate frequently does this sparking and reframing, morphing and broadening her coalition, open to questioning assumptions. I saw Mo Udall, congressional leader of the historic Alaska lands act conservation effort in the 1970’s, do that with his Lincolnesque humor.* Similar to the writer, the engaged activist works within a continuum between mobilizing the faithful and exploring curiously for ways to blend with others and move in new ways.
Now “trials,” taken en bloc mean a disharmony between the self and the world with which it has to deal. Nothing is a trial when we are able to cope with it efficiently.
So, according to Underhill, a difficult situation is defined as disharmony between self and world. Difficulty is not inherent in the situation, but in the actor. Efficient action involves eliminating or disolving that disharmony. Those who live efficiently are not under stress.
Compare, from Wikipedia:
Efficiency is the extent to which time or effort is well used for the intended task or purpose, or the ratio of power consumed to useful power output…
Efficiency …is often used with the specific purpose of relaying the capability of a specific application of effort to produce a specific outcome effectively with a minimum amount or quantity of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort. …In general, efficiency is a measurable concept, quantitatively determined by the ratio of output to input.
… the term economic efficiency refers to the use of resources so as to maximize the production of goods and services.
A next step in this investigation is to similarly compare concepts of “power,” including from, e.g., Thich Naht Hanh’s The Art of Power with that in physics and in politics. The goal here would be to explore if it’s useful to see two parallel constructs of being and action in these terms. Call them the sacred and the profane? Or the mystical and the economic? I wonder whether Eliade gets into this. (It’s been forty years since I read The Sacred and the Profane.)
It’s not just that the two ways are different. What’s interesting is the ways they are similar. For example, in Aikido these terms are both structural-mechanical, in the anatomical and physiological sense, and emotional-spiritual, in the sense that Underwood and Thich Naht Hahn use them.
Are the similarities just analogies arising from abstractions in our heads, or do they reflect something basic in the real world? The engineer might call the mystic’s language imprecise and meaningless. A mystic might see the engineer’s concepts as a reification and oversimplification of a broader view that incoporates them, what Eliade would call mythological, “tied to cosmic structures and rhythms.”
What happens when both viewpoints are held simultaneously without conflict? The disharmony disappears, efficiently.
Continuing on the theme of similarities between opera singing and Aikido in a previous post, here’s prima donna Roberta Peters in her maturity. Great technique! Compare Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei.
Take a look at the similarities between William Gleason Sensei, here at Aikido Eastside, and Laurence Brownlee, singing in Armida at the Metropolitan Opera. Gleason Sensei teaches how specifics of posture and hand position create empowerment.
“I recognize you divine goodness” is the English subtitle for the line Brownlee is singing in Italian.
To what extent are the principles shown here universal? With what significance? Are they limited to the structure of the human body, or what is their wider meaning?
Here’s William Gleason teaching on the powerful effects of subtle changes in tension, attention and intention, from the Aikido seminar I attended earlier this month. He discusses these terms at 6:20 into the video.
See my earlier post for commentary on the seminar.
From the Introduction, page 4, by David Loy in his edited collection Healing Deconstruction: Postmodern Thought in Buddhism and Christianity:
According to Madhyamika, our taken-for-granted world is mentally-constructed by our delusive attribution of self-existence to objects, which makes us experience that world as a collection of discrete things interacting in space and time; and that leads to suffering insofar as we understand ourselves to be such self-existing things, who are nonetheless subject to the ravages of time and change–who are born only to fall ill, grow old, and die. Merely by subverting such ontological claims, and without offering any views of its own, the Buddhist deconstruction of such self-existence (especially our own) can allow “something else” to shine forth.
In my recent training experience, I have the sense that Aikido is physically deconstructing my perception of an independently-acting self.
Several close friends believe we have immortal souls. Not sharing that faith makes Marci’s impending death more lonely for me, a forever loss. Far from belief in a discrete immortal soul that does not die, the Madhyamika Buddhist view is that we don’t have that individuality, even in this life. But it seems to be a view into a bigger space.
There are now brief moments of doing it right in my otherwise relatively unskilled Aikido practice, when, with no push and no pull, I move someone much bigger than myself — it happens, not often! It is without effort, but by congruence. Something else shines forth?
From a conversation with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei at his Aikido dojo in Boulder in December:
To gain control by breaking balance:
All of this done relaxed, with no force or anger.