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Home > Columns > Dennis Hooker > October, 2005 - Energy, Spirit, Consciousness

Energy, Spirit, Consciousness by Dennis Hooker

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Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from "Collage of Poppy's Life, A Book to My Grandchildren" written by Dennis Hooker to his grandchildren.

The generic term for this power in Japanese is "Ki", as in AiKiDo. I don't know what we call it in the west kids. Maybe "spiritual power" expressed in a physical form. Boy, I don't know; sounds like your old Poppy may be stretching it a bit there. I do know one thing though-- this "Ki" thing is the strength we forget about in our middle life. It is the strength of a baby as it holds your finger. Cody my boy, I remember picking you up off the floor as you held onto my finger with your chubby little two-year-old hand. Cory, I remember the strength of your little fingers when you were born at two and half pounds and the power of your hugs when you were five. I remember the strength in your great grandma's hand just before she died. It is that natural strength with which we are born. A strength many people rediscover before they die, after they have been worn down by life and are returning to the source. It's also a strength you need not forget as you grow and flow through life.

Children, I want to tell you that these activities carry with them a certain amount of spiritual awakening, or shift in consciousness. By allowing my mind to be free of the condition of my body, I found I could be happy. When the mind is constantly fretting over the condition of the body, there is time for neither to find healing or happiness. By breathing and moving with the natural harmony of the universe, I begin to remove the conflicts between my body and mind, between myself and my surroundings.

I used to often think of my body as I was taught to think of the world around me after I was no longer a child. I would think as we all have been conditioned to. That is, to believe that the physical world around us exists autonomously and is separate from our human consciousness and is something to be controlled. As if we could control nature itself! Likewise, I think we have been taught that our bodies are separate from our minds. If our body does not respond to our mind's command, then cause it pain. This is the No Pain No Gain philosophy we see in so many cultures. Torment the body to achieve spiritual fulfillment; torment the body to achieve total consciousness. I will tell you both right now, that to me that is a bunch of crap. The idea that the mind can not find happiness, satori or enlightenment unless the body is held in stress is ridiculous. There are people who, like me, live every day of their lives with their bodies under terrible stress. Yet their minds are held captive by their bodies, causing them to dwell upon their physical conditions. I know. I did this and it gave me no time for my mind to seek harmony at its own level.

The physical condition can be a body weak and twisted, as I was sometimes, or a body strong and perfect in form. It is the body that holds the mind to the human self and feeds the mind on feelings. They can be feelings of self-pity or feelings of grandeur, feelings of pleasure or feelings of pain. There can be feelings of hating the body and being trapped within it, or feelings of loving the body and finding refuge within it. When the mind is dominant over the body or the body is dominant over the mind, balance and harmony cannot be achieved. When the two begin to work together, the whole will be much greater than its parts. When the mind and body began to work in harmony and acceptance of one another, then the spirit will emerge and begin to develop the Being side of our nature. We begin to transcend the human animal feeding on feelings, and start to become the being that is a human experiencing love and happiness. In that old EUB church I think I first noticed the difference. I found some special Beings who had overcome their human animal sides. You don't have to be religious or a martial artist to find this. You just need to look for it.

The philosophical bent of Aikido is to live in harmony with nature, not control it. Taken in a more personal context, I had to learn to live in harmony with myself. I learned that by removing conflicts between my mind and body I could begin to discover true peace and start the healing process. One of my big discoveries personally was that my mind must discover and accept the limitation of my body, as my body accepted the limitations of my mind. Once conflict was recognized and removed, both my body and mind could work for the mutual benefit of the total me. Now you might say I was a bit slow on the uptake, but when this hit me it hit like an epiphany. Ok children, I know I'm getting out of my element by using words like that, but I think it's right and this feeling sure deserves a fifty-cent word.

By removing my conflicts I become happier. By becoming happier I become healthier. Now your grandma and many others will tell you I am not a walking, talking bundle of joy, so what I'm saying is it's all relative to what I was, not what I am. Boy, I'm really muddying up this water, ain't I. Anyway, once the conflict was resolved, I learned quickly I must not become complacent. Now was the time to put that hard-won alliance between my body and mind to work on resolving the shortcomings of my total self. Of course I know this is a life's work that will never get finished but I'm trying, my darlings, I'm trying. One of the best things Saotome Sensei taught me was that body and mind working in harmony was my most powerful tool. The problems that could not be eliminated could be compensated for. It seems to me that the mind and body have an amazing ability for compensation.

There are three categories of activity I'm gonna discussed for you in the following pages. The first is deep breathing techniques categorized as Tanden No Kokyu. The second is Tate Kokyu Undo, moving meditation incorporating deep breathing from a standing position. The third is Chinkon Kishin. This is meditation for bringing the body, mind and spirit into balance. I will tell you here and now I scared the hell out of some of my Christian friends with these activities. If ignorance is bliss, then these folks were bundles of joy.

It seems these forms were developed by the Japanese warrior to calm the spirit and cleanse the body. Because activities such as Tanden No Kokyu, Tate Kokyu Undo and Chinkon Kishin were developed by an Eastern culture, many people view them as esoteric forms from some mysterious religion. Over the years, these exercises, and others, have become part of my everyday life. I have come to understand that the spiritual experience one has while doing these exercises is as individual as the people realizing them. I can also personally attest to the positive benefit these activities have on my mental and physical health. I think practitioners do not have to hold any particular religious beliefs to benefit from these exercises.

I think these exercises are physically correct in form and content. Several years ago I had to undergo treatment with a respiratory therapist in preparation for surgery. There was some concern of my surviving the surgery because of Myasthenia Gravis. However, the therapist was pleased with the results of my having done these exercises for a number of years. When asked how these exercises worked, I was at a loss to explain the physiological processes. This inquiry prompted me to explore the medical/anatomical functions involved. Working with the therapist, I began to learn about the breathing process. As I explored the mechanics of breathing, I began to understand why these forms worked and why they have survived through the centuries.

My curiosity led me to try to understand the biomechanics of all this mumbo jumbo. Also I'm the kind of guy who likes to know why and how things work. Oh yeah, I survived the chest surgery, but I did have one real surreal experience. Some folks look at me strangely when I tell the tale and some cry; some don't believe it, but I do remember it. I was lying in intensive care and had been there for a while with tubes running in and out of me. A respirator was doing my breathing for me and I could not wake up, but I was aware of things and I was so tired, tired of the fight and tired of life. I remember thinking this is the time to quit, and it felt good. Then I began to feel this fire on my face. They had this stuff in the military called napalm. It's like liquid fire and that is how my face felt; man it hurt. It also made me mad and all I wanted to do was open my eyes and stop the fire; then I could quit. Well, I fought my way up and opened my eyes and what did I see but your Mommy Cori. She was about ten I guess, and she was leaning over me crying and that napalm was her tears. Well hell, I could not quit now! I could not close my eyes again and just quit. I will tell you the truth, though, it sure felt good to finally say that's all, the 15th round is over and I just ain't getting up again. But that didn't last and I'm glad it didn't because I would have never known you two and the pure joy you have brought to my life.

I sure do get carried away, don't I? Let me get back now to the subject at hand. Some of my friends and students who knew what I was doing ask me if some of this stuff could help. I didn't know if it could or not, but I allowed them to join me in my daily activities. They became a little more comfortable with these activities once the biomechanics of the breathing techniques were explained. Since many of my friends and students are from various religions, they subsequently had no problem with these activities once the religious overtones were removed. After becoming comfortable with the physical form, some folks introduce their own spiritual significance, thereby making the activities both physical and spiritual and very personal. I think that's good. As I previously stated, I personally think both the physical and spiritual must be present to achieve true balance.

Grab a hold of something now kids because this part becomes really strange. Vocalization of sounds became a part of some of these activities. It seems certain movements require specific sounds to become complete, like each form of dance requires a particular form of music to make it complete. When a group of people sing together, there is a harmony of sound shared by everyone. Some may have a stronger and more trained voice than others and add greatly to the overall quality of the sound and feeling. Those voices weak and tentative and those out of harmony are added to the overall sound enjoyed by everyone.

In Japan there is an age-old belief that sounds invoke action on the physical and spiritual plane. This use of sounds is called "kotodama" and the sounds are used to elicit a response from the body, mind and spirit. There are sounds that soothe, disturb, calm, agitate, and even kill. Sounds produce a physical vibration that is felt in the body and they invoke an image in the mind. Sound waves are powerful but many people take them for granted and do not understand their value in the healing process.

The scientific use of sound is only recently being discovered and used in Western medicine. A dentist may use headphones to produce sound for your relaxation as he drills your teeth without the use of pain medicine. A doctor may use sound waves to look into a mother's abdomen to check the progress and development of her baby. Or, as in my case the sound waves may be used to locate kidney disorders that would not show up on an x-ray. In the past I have encountered people who, because of their particular religious convictions, flatly refused to use the sound accompanying certain movements. They believed chants and certain other vocalizations were designed to conger up goblins and summon demons, or in some way violate their beliefs. When we look at sounds from an objective standpoint, we begin to see their use as rational and important to our physical and spiritual well being.

From our first shout at birth announcing our arrival into this world, to a mother's gentle lullaby to calm the mind and body of her child, we are involved with sound. Only as we become older and more suppressed by our environment do we repress the need to produce certain sounds. Many people find it very uncomfortable to shout for joy or scream in rage, even in the privacy of their own homes, or in a controlled environment where such activity is encouraged. They are repressed by their sense of social values and so this beneficial tool used to restore harmony and create well being is not used. Emotion that was meant to be released is kept within the body and so it dies. This adds to the internal stress and degeneration of the physical and spiritual self. Not all emotion should be released at the time it is evoked but at your discretion, that emotion should be brought out and dealt with. Your grandma (Nana) will testify I am not the best example in the world of holding out for the right time, but I try still. I understand it and I rationalize it and know it's the right thing to do, but sometimes I just can't hold it back.

The use of sounds in the restoration of harmony and in creation is not new; neither is it strictly Japanese in nature. In science there is the Big Bang Theory. This is an attempt to explain the creation of the universe as it exists. We also find the use of sound in the Old Testament when at the sound of trumpets, marching feet and shouts, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. In the New Testament we find reference to creation being linked to sound in the Gospel of St. John " In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Nowadays sound is being used for everything from relieving pain to cleaning drapes. Nana and I had a fellow come to the house in a van with big tanks in the back. He took the drapes out of the house and put them in the van and cleaned them with ultra sound. I know, I know, it sounds like science fiction to me too, but it worked. No, really it worked. They were as clean as the day we put them up. So it should not be surprising that the use of sounds will assist us in our quest to find health and happiness. If sounds can clean drapes, it ought to be able to help me out some. Don't you think? After all I think I got a little more going for me than a strip of cloth.

The use of vocalized sound to reduce mental and physical stress is not new to western culture. We whistle while we work, and we may hum a tune when nervous or frightened. The physical act of laughing has been known to cure people of terminal illness. When a group of people laugh together, social stress is lessened and there is greater harmony in the group. A mother may take a frightened child to her breast and gently hum to soothe the fear away. The reverberation of the sound made deep within the throat travels through the body of the mother into the body of the child, making a physical connection beyond that of merely touching head to breast. The use of sound in meditation is much the same as that of a mother soothing her child. The sound may be designed to stimulate or soothe; it may be used to adjust the mind to a particular state of consciousness more consistent with the specific exercise you're involved with.

As I so often do I have wandered off the subject at hand, so let me get back to breathing. Saotome Sensei told me that I will discover my own time limit for these breathing activities. He said that in practice it is best to set a goal I could reasonably achieve. Many people use numbers in a series of threes, sevens or tens. I was to perform the selected breathing exercise a given number of times, then between each series I should rest with Jin No Kokyu (human breathing technique) sit quietly and breathe normally, letting the air flow in and out of the lower abdomen naturally. Take ten normal breaths and resume the series. While in the Jin No Kokyu phase I should not hold onto any particular thought but let them pass over my mind without stopping. I could count from one through ten but did not try to think or not think, just sit and breathe. If I lost count I should not try to remember where I left off but just go back to one and start again. The mind is like the bright shinning sun and thoughts should only be like clouds floating across the sky. Now kids, ain't that a pretty thought in and of its self. It's just a lovely picture that conjures up peace and tranquility. It was also the first thought that stopped my Zen-like repose. I got a feeling that he did that on purpose. He tossed that little jewel at me, knowing my mind would catch it and not let go easily. At least it was not a thought related to a pain or weakness or some other personal physical problem to dwell upon. You don't think maybe that's what he had in mind, do you? I get the feeling he's a right slick old dude sometimes.

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