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senshincenter 04-16-2006 07:52 PM

Deepening Our Training
 
Wishing to talk about the more universal elements found in the "Am I missing something?" thread...

Mark Uttech 04-16-2006 08:50 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
I am of the opinion that the spirit of repitition is valuable. True practice is to do things over and over. Keeping the "beginner's mind" is also valuable. I don't think people can "make" their practice deep; they can make it continuous.They can have periods of time where they stumble about in darkness.Newness is always nearby though, it is also said that enlightenment is there already.

In gassho.

senshincenter 04-16-2006 09:01 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Good point Mark. I definitely think repetition, or rather an enduring capacity for repetition is key. So I guess by "deep," in this regard, I would be trying to refer to a capacity to make one's practice continuous. Perhaps we can merge our opinions on that note. That said, I agree that the "beginner's mind" (shoshin) is very relevant. But, and I think you would agree, perhaps we should make a distinction between shoshin and the mind of a beginner. The two are far from the same. In my experience, an enduring capacity for repetition is very much a cultivated state of being. In this sense, the reference to the beginner's mind (shoshin) is more one of being related to the subjective experience of introduction. Here I am referring to the virtue of being able to experience old things as if they are new (over and over again); the trait of experiencing the first time many times. So, there's the first set of questions we could ask and try to answer:

How does one learn to or become able to experience the "first time" many times?

What gets in our way of being able to experience the "first time" many times?

What makes our repetitions get old for us?

For me, the answers here would all relate to an incapacity to stay in the now.

thanks for writing,
d

Logan Heinrichs 04-17-2006 01:35 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
I think that our own personal practice is very important for the "first time, many times" experience. We have to be consiously trying to improve our technique by determining what works and what doesnt in our own set of ideosyncracies. By constantly examining our techniques we begin to see subtle variations and differences in our own and others techniques. I think that this is what makes the techniques seem new. I have heard many Shihan and Ive heard people quote O Sensei saying that every technique is different. If we are conciously trying to better our technique then we wont simply be "going through the motions" and these repitions won't "get old for us". If we only perform a certain technique because our sensei told us to then we areno longer training. The idea of training indicates that we are trying to better ourselves or our technique. This critical evaluation and re-evaluation of our movements is what gives a beginner the "beginners mind" Once people get comfortable with the guestures and footwork they sometimes get stuck there because they feel "Hey, I know this technique," rather than "Hey, what can I do to improve this technique"

Ive noticed that I have to continually experiment with different movements for each technique. Some variations work well at improving my technique while others dont, and I throw those away. Guidance from our sensei helps too as long as we use it benificially and not let it go through one ear and out the other.

My advice is to actually train during your training. Whether you are focused on movement, maai, timing, ect. O sensei said that only 25% of aikido is learned from your sensei. The rest is from your own practice.

Kevin Leavitt 04-17-2006 01:48 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Logan, you hit the nail on the head. I had the same thoughts when I read thes post above yours. I know of a very dedicated nidan (non-akikido) that has always embraced the concept of beginner's mind, but a little too much. He is very parochial in his approach to things, and never questions, and constantly does kata and trains repetitively over and over. Result is he has become very good at techniques.

However, he does not understand practical applications and is not very adaptive. He has not really internalized his Martial Art, 'made it his own".

There is beginner's mind. To me it is always about not having preconceived notions about expectations or what is layed before us. It is not about blindly accepting things or having such humility that you cannot have an opinion!

SeiserL 04-17-2006 07:46 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

David Valadez wrote:
So, there's the first set of questions we could ask and try to answer: How does one learn to or become able to experience the "first time" many times? What gets in our way of being able to experience the "first time" many times? What makes our repetitions get old for us?

IMHO, its all answered the same way with the same two words that mean the same thing; the mind and the ego. Its in how we think about it, the first time and everytime.

senshincenter 04-17-2006 08:33 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Perhaps I am thinking along the same lines as Lynn after reading Logan and Kevin.

To be able to look for something to improve upon each and every time you exercise a rep, such that it remains new each time, you have to know there is always something to improve upon. To always know that there something to improve upon, you have to know that you will never attain perfection or mastery. To know that you will never attain perfection or mastery, especially within a practice that has lasted decades, you will have to have a very strong foundation in humility (non-attachment to ego).

On the other hand, however, one also requires what has been called a kind of "spiritual audacity" - that trait that enables one to chase after perfection or mastery nonetheless.

Working off of Lynn's post mentioning "mind," I think it is wise to also have the right kind of focus. For example, you have to practice each rep for the sake of each rep. Your practice won't be too continuous if you practice each rep for the sake of something else - like rank or title or privledge, etc. In other words, to practice continuously, you have to focus in on that which has no end (and perhaps no beginning). You have to focus your attention on the universals of the art - not getting caught on the temporal or material trappings of the institutions that are necessary for that art to be transmitted through culture.

SeiserL 04-17-2006 12:13 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

David Valadez wrote:
Working off of Lynn's post mentioning "mind," I think it is wise to also have the right kind of focus.

And what tool is it that we focus? What tool do we use to get a larger/smaller, clearer focus? What tool is distracted and focused on something other than training?

Again, IMHO, we find the must undisciplined tool we have; our learned ego identity, the mind.

The mind is a very useful tool in that hands of a real craftsman or artist. It can also be an extremely dangerous tool when in the hands of fear and pain.

senshincenter 04-17-2006 12:31 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Too true - and yet, somehow the mind sharpens, can be sharpened. Thus, let us ask then: How does that happen? By use or by non-use? Does it happen outside of fear and pain or through a reconciliation of fear and pain? I'd say "by use," but by a particular kind of use - right use, and I'd say that fear and pain must be a part of training - that they are far from being antithetical to training. I'd say the easiest way to hone the mind by right use, and to make fear and pain a part of training (such that such exploration remains safe and productive), is to pair our minds with an already wizened mind. This would be where humility would again have to come in since here we are talking about the mentor-disciple relationship - a key tenet of traditional Budo training - and one would have to learn to defer the impulses brought on by things like fear and pain in order to risk a new way of being - a way of being that will in all likelihood make no sense initially since it is not speaking to the part of ourselves that we have most often listened to up until then.

SeiserL 04-17-2006 02:13 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
IMHO, like Aikido, to deepen our training in anything (especially the fear and pain based mind or ego) we need to connect to (the higher levels of thinking are always more inclusive, not exclusive), enter into, blend with, and redirect subtly (not with force).

Mark Uttech 04-17-2006 05:17 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
What makes repitition never old and ever fresh is when we wake up to the fact that we can't do the same technique twice. I was at a seminar years ago, when Saotome Shihan was demonstrating entering into a yokomenuchi attack. He looked at us and said: "you have to think: 'maybe I am going to die'..."

SeiserL 04-17-2006 05:24 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

Mark Uttech wrote:
What makes repitition never old and ever fresh is when we wake up to the fact that we can't do the same technique twice.

You never enter the same stream twice.

Derek Gaudet 04-17-2006 07:02 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
I'd just like to touch on one of the issues in the other thread. We were discussing moving beyond "desire", but from saying it along those lines it got distorted into "you have no choice, you must practice regardless your feelings". I personally don't think that was the main message that was being conveyed. If it were the message then one could interpret it as, "the minute you walk through that door more then once, you have committed yourself to this training", because indeed the desire to get you through the door is gone, and unimportant, you are already through the door. However that initial desire that got you through the door the first time may have transformed into the other direction. Perhaps after the first month a student will decide it's not the path they wish to walk, therefore what they initially considered commitment, turns out to be temporary, or "untrue" commitment. Or maybe it takes even longer to realize this, perhaps months or years down the road, someone just says "what am I doing?"

I believe what Dave initially posted was true, that to truly understand Aikido one must move beyond training only when one "desires". I believe my Aikido will benefit greatly from that post as well. This is true commitment, and important to the mature development of Aikido. If one simply says "I don't want to train because I don't feel like it today", it is insanity to think they will develop along the same lines of someone who trains regardless their "feeling of the day". I'm not saying that anyone who does not practice every chance they get will have poor Aikido, but the later will be far better of in their pursuits of Aikido.

My understanding was that desire is unimportant because it is somewhat selfish. The desire we were discussing implies you do something for the self and the self alone. If you are in search of your own inflated ego, then this is not a good form of desire to train. However Aikido is about more then the self. Of course you can also have the desire to work with others and make them better at their Aikido. So I guess there are two desires, "Selfish desire" and "Benevolent Desire". Perhaps Benevolent Desire is not that bad in Aikido.

I'm understanding that for true "mature training", one has to move beyond desire, but I think the definition of desire may also have to be altered a bit. Perhaps to a more benevolent form. To continue something we must have some form of desire to do so, but it should not be our main motivation. Perhaps desire to understand the chosen art is important to the continuation of the practice? it would seem to me that if desire was completely none existent, then it would just be mechanical. Of course it also would show dedication, but dedicating to something we do not desire to dedicate to seems confusing. It seems like we are hollowly following a path. Perhaps desire goes through several phases? We begin with the desire to enter into an area of interest, and then once we do so that desire transforms into committed "attendance" (for lack of a better word) to that activity. Once we have established that, then we go through a desire to learn, once we begin learning that desire is meant, and hence we become committed to learning. Learning on the mat, or in ever day situations. Hence we slowly progress beyond the desire stages of each. The next would probably be desire to understand what has been taught. The interesting thing about this, is it is difficult if not impossible to understand all Aikido, hence there is only shifts in this stage, but there is a commitment to staving to understand Aikido. When we decide that we have reached a level of understanding, we satisfy that stage temporarily, but then we have to have a form of "want" to progress any further, because if one doesn't want to progress then one won't.

Perhaps I have simply confused the meaning of desire. I to no extent believe desire is a good enough motivation to study. It is as Dave said an "outer" force of study. I just believe that desire may be a push to the "inner" force of study and therefore somewhat important to the continuation of study. This is simply my attempt to not only understand Dave's post, but to attempt to expand an idea. I could however be wrong.

Kevin Leavitt 04-18-2006 01:16 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Good stuff!

I guess we can get really deep and start debating the concepts of altruism, and if it exist or if people act in their own self interest, even if that self interest is world peace and completely appears to be selfless.

I kind of think chasing the dream of deeper meaning in our training is kind of like chasing a rainbow, the harder you try, the farther away it gets.

When I went through Ranger training I thought that it would be a type of shugyo that would somehow enlighten me. It didn't. That was 10 years ago. I learned a great deal about myself and my potential, but no major ephiphanies! 10 Years later, things unfold daily and I now know that there were lots of things I learned, but did not understand! So it is a journey that continues to unfold.

Faith is another issue. We have faith that somehow we will acheive something greater from our training. Sometimes the biggest lessons we learn are that what we have done was a mistake!

We cannot possess aikido or the skills that we learn from it as our own. We evolve, hopefully in a positive manner through our training.

People study aikido for different reasons. They stay for different reasons. The leave for different reasons. In the end, all we have are the experiences we gain from our practice.

What is great is when we have shared experiences with others and we can connect on some level other than the superficial. Sometimes a lightbulb goes off and we can see a glimmer of hope of what things can be like if we work together!

I think this is what makes people come back to the art...hope.

my thoughts on this for the day.

crbateman 04-18-2006 04:59 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

Kevin Leavitt wrote:
I kind of think chasing the dream of deeper meaning in our training is kind of like chasing a rainbow, the harder you try, the farther away it gets.

Good point. I think one must LET Aikido happen, as opposed to MAKING it happen. By that, I mean that the growth must come of itself, at its own pace. It's good to dedicate oneself to training and to learning, and to have a goal of becoming better (and a better person) every day, but not to be discouraged if progress is slow. It is natural to reach plateaus, but the goal need not be more than to reach the other side. One cannot force oneself through the training, but simply keep "eyes on the prize" and enjoy the ride. The way is a little different for everyone.

I, too, like to experiment. Not because I have decided to ignore the way others have worked so hard to forge, but because I want the full experience. One can see the things around him, while still maintaining the focus necessary to walk the path. The beauty is in the wholeness.

Just one old duffer's opinion...

Pauliina Lievonen 04-18-2006 06:08 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

Derek Gaudet wrote:
Or maybe it takes even longer to realize this, perhaps months or years down the road, someone just says "what am I doing?"

Maybe only then is when real commitment starts , or doesn't?

I know for me I started aikido because my sister was doing it and I thought it looked cool. Basically I drifted into it like I've drifted into many things in my life. But somewhere along the way it has changed from something that I just happen to do into something that I do. Now how to do more of it...

I love that quote from Saotome about you think you might die. I think that's what happens when we change our habits. Change of any kind is a risk to the organism, after all, we survived just fine until now and so the safest option would be to not change a thing.

kvaak
Pauliina

John Brockington 04-18-2006 09:11 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
I hope this isn't simply restating the matter, but I think it actually can be more important to train when things aren't going well, when the training itself is boring or frustrating or ineffective for the individual. It's easy and fun to train when the kudos are plentiful and everything seems to work, the techniques come easy and the ukemi flows. But, to me, in some ways this is only a confirmation of what is already known or ingrained. In a way, it is sort of self-congratulatory. But when the training doesn't go well, and I feel down on myself or doubtful of my ability, when I continue to train this down period usually is followed by a period of distinct improvement (I think). Probably, my assumptions are being challenged and later revised or removed, rather than just repeated. Stopping training at that point would be a huge mistake.
I think that shugyo is when the effort to succeed is greater than the likelihood of success.

John

SeiserL 04-18-2006 09:29 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

Clark Bateman wrote:
I think one must LET Aikido happen, as opposed to MAKING it happen.

I hate it when other people state my best stuff before I do. Yes, IMHO, going deeper is a "let" not a "make". This attitude alone will deepen your training and your relationships with people in general.

In one way, its a simple change of mental frame of reference. On another level, its a "letting go" of ego, mind, goals, desires, etc.

IMHO, Aikido is only a set of tools that allow us to further refine not just our technique but who we are. Like a polishing cloth, with use the gen gets more and more refined until it dissolves or disappears. But, you have to "let" yourself keep polishing and "let" yourself refine and disappear.

Its an attitude, and then "letting go" of that. There is no goals or desire, there is just the training. And then "let go" of that.

What happens to a thought that doesn't come out our mouth or a feeling we don't act on? Without attachment, they go away. The purpose of the initial connection is to eventually "let go."

The "deeper" is already there.

"Let it be." (Beatles)

Bart Mason 04-19-2006 10:56 AM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
I am a new student to Aikido, so I will not even try and get deep with you "big boys" but I would like to share a quote with you all in regards to the mind which i picked up yesterday. Chuang Tzu said, "The mind of the Sage is like a mirror which reflects the entire universe." I think this implies that the mind is NOT to be slave to the object, but the Master. We will not be shaken by every movement or stimuli that crosses our field of vision. thanks for letting me play!!

Michael O'Brien 04-19-2006 06:58 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

Lynn Seiser wrote:
I hate it when other people state my best stuff before I do. Yes, IMHO, going deeper is a "let" not a "make". This attitude alone will deepen your training and your relationships with people in general.

In one way, its a simple change of mental frame of reference. On another level, its a "letting go" of ego, mind, goals, desires, etc.

IMHO, Aikido is only a set of tools that allow us to further refine not just our technique but who we are. Like a polishing cloth, with use the gen gets more and more refined until it dissolves or disappears. But, you have to "let" yourself keep polishing and "let" yourself refine and disappear.

Its an attitude, and then "letting go" of that. There is no goals or desire, there is just the training. And then "let go" of that.

What happens to a thought that doesn't come out our mouth or a feeling we don't act on? Without attachment, they go away. The purpose of the initial connection is to eventually "let go."

The "deeper" is already there.

"Let it be." (Beatles)

Lynn,

I've read your posts a couple of times now and while I feel I understand and agree with parts (the general flow) of it there is part I don't think I'm understanding. Perhaps I've just been at work to long and my brain is overloaded?

Quote:

Lynn Seiser wrote:
In one way, its a simple change of mental frame of reference. On another level, its a "letting go" of ego, mind, goals, desires, etc.

Are you talking about only training here or life in general? If we "let go" of our goal, desires, etc in life at that point don't we merely exist? Goals, desires, etc in life are what give us purpose and direction are they not?

Maybe I'm just not looking at it correctly tonight? I would love to hear your take on this further, and others as well. I know I have a lot to let go of for my training to evolve to the level that I desire.

SeiserL 04-19-2006 07:26 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

Michael O'Brien wrote:
Lynn, I've read your posts a couple of times now and while I feel I understand and agree with parts (the general flow) of it there is part I don't think I'm understanding. Perhaps I've just been at work to long and my brain is overloaded?

Are you talking about only training here or life in general? If we "let go" of our goal, desires, etc in life at that point don't we merely exist? Goals, desires, etc in life are what give us purpose and direction are they not?

Maybe I'm just not looking at it correctly tonight? I would love to hear your take on this further, and others as well. I know I have a lot to let go of for my training to evolve to the level that I desire.

IMHO, there are so many conceptual levels of training and life. They are just ways of thinking about it and certainly not the real thing. To me, training and life in general are not that different.

Yes, on one level goals and desires give us purpose and direction. On another level, it is the mental focus on goals and desires that block us from seeing and experiencing everything else.

Yes, on one level goals and desires define who we are and what we do. On another level, our identity is not in our "doing" or "making", but in our "being" and letting".

As you noted, the first part of our training is letting go of the past training and learning something new. My first couple years in Aikido was awful. Finally, the goal and desire is to let go of even that and "let" the techniques/identity/life happen. Sometimes, once you plot a course, you have to get out of the way and enjoy the journey getting there and quite possibly beyond. Its the journey that matters. There really is no goal or destination. There is no "there".

There is any underlying assumption that is already there, we just forget and get caught up in the learned mental ego identity. Its like a sculpture looking at a stone, sees whats already there, and takes away (lets go) of the unnecessary.

Words are so inadequate for this stuff. I only claim to have a belief in it and the occasional glimpse. I know I don't have it, but keep training to let a little bit go as often as I can.

Does that help to muddy the water some?

senshincenter 04-19-2006 08:18 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Undoubtedly, there must remain a type of "naturalness" to one's overall training - especially at the end or once one's practice has matured. The idea of forcing and/or attempting to manipulate oneself and/or one's practice is indeed one possible way of making one's Aikido artificial and thus most likely "shallow." However, when I speak of "deep," and why I do not see it being 100% synonymous with "continuous," I am referring to the deeper aspects of our selves. In that sense, I want to discuss the ideas and/or practices by which one makes one's practice a spiritual practice. From this perspective, I would suggest that the advice of "let it be" could only be taken as a caveat of sorts - like, "If you don't want ruin your Aikido as a spiritual practice, you better not force it." I would not suggest that "let it be" is 100% going to guarantee that one's practice deepens (i.e. becomes a technology for spiritual cultivation). "Let it be" may not always function as a positively as one might think.

It may be the case that spiritual traditions the world over have developed techniques, pedagogies, practices, and theories, precisely because "let it be" can only be a part of the deepening. It may be the case that spiritual traditions the world over have developed techniques, pedagogies, practices, and theories, precisely because the "let it be" of a non-spiritual practice is not a spiritual practice but only more of the same non-spiritual practice. In any case, when it comes to Aikido, while we can see that there was indeed a naturalness to the depth of Osensei's practice, we can also see that he very much indeed engaged in all kinds of techniques, pedagogies, practices, and theories that were designed precisely to actively deepen his Aikido.

One of the key one's for Osensei, and one of the one's he lectured on to a group of students that asked him directly about the makeup of his Aikido, was to see God in every aspect of the art. This technique for deepening one's Aikido is interesting because in that same lecture you see Osensei take the common mystical position that proximity to God equals distance from a material existence. Since most of us come to Aikido via a material existence, I wonder if seeking a naturalness to our training at too early a stage might have us simply making our Aikido part of our own material existence. Here, using the common mystical understanding of things, I am wondering if the improper placement of such a technique might have us stuck in our own materiality, away from our spirit, operating not at depth.

In that regard, I like very much what Derek had to say, and I'm completely engaged by the question Pauliina asked after reading Derek. From this point of view, of gaining distance from our own material existence, of bringing depth to our practice, it would indeed seem the case that real training cannot begin until we reach some sort of internal crisis, one that has us seriously asking of ourselves: What am I doing?

I would suggest then that there are times when it is better to try to ask this question continuously -- until we move beyond the frustration of being unable to answer it, until we move beyond even asking it -- relying on "let it be" not until after this.

Michael O'Brien 04-19-2006 08:34 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

Lynn Seiser wrote:
Words are so inadequate for this stuff. I only claim to have a belief in it and the occasional glimpse. I know I don't have it, but keep training to let a little bit go as often as I can.

Does that help to muddy the water some?

Thank you for your reply; That actually helped me see the philosophy behind what you are saying much better. I complete understand the analogy of "it's a journey not a destination" and agree wholeheartedly.

Words are inadequate sitting face to face, and keyboard to keyboard makes it even more difficult so thanks again.

SeiserL 04-19-2006 09:18 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
Quote:

David Valadez wrote:
What am I doing?

In a Zen koan frame of reference: Who is the "I" that is asking, training, or doing? IMHO, to deepen the training, lose the "I".

Michael O'Brien 04-19-2006 09:31 PM

Re: Deepening Our Training
 
So like Nike:

"Just do it"?


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