Two Hundred and Fifteen
I began this year's spring seminar by holding up a quarter. I noted that the quarter has two faces, one we call heads the other we call tails. I the asked the students to consider where one face ends and the other begins. I asked them to imagine what happens at the interface of the change in identity where heads becomes tails and tails becomes heads.
This little intro segued into the theme of the seminar which dealt with the unification of mind and body. Unifying mind and body is a core goal of Aikido study and practice. From a unified mind/body Ki is generated and correct feeling is realized. So what happens at the mind/body interface? What facilitates the unification process? How is it that the hidden and manifest realms of self are able to come together so completely that the sum is greater than the individual parts?
Understanding the nature of the ideas posed by these three questions requires a third component of the unification process... spirit. It's only by examining the role played by the divine realm of self in the unification of mind and body that I can begin to glean the answers. Spirit is kind of the ugly step child of the unification triad. I think this is more due to the word "spirit" itself than the underlying role it plays in the process of unification. For some the word evokes religious overtones, others see it as leading to the adoption of "New Age" ideas as the foundation of the practice of Aikido. Still others see the word spirit connected to the notion of the supernatural. I subscribe to none of these views and see spirit as a necessary ingredient for the bringing together the disparate natures of mind and body.
Imagine a beaker that contains two liquids, one blue the other yellow. Now suppose the blue liquid has a lower relative density than the yellow liquid. If the beaker is left undisturbed the liquids will, over time, separate, the blue rising to the top, the yellow settling to the bottom. Let's say that there's another substance that I can introduce into the beaker that will change the nature of the blue and yellow liquids at the boundary of their separation in such a way as to cause them to unify and transform into a substance that possesses characteristics of all three but is wholly none of them. Increasing the amount the catalyst intensifies the interaction. The strength of the interaction can be inferred by measuring the overall thickness of the resulting green boundary layer.
Spirit, like the catalyst in the above thought experiment is the facilitator of the unification of mind and body. Spirit allows the transformation of mind and body into mind/body which possesses characteristics all three but is wholly none of them. When my spirit is strong mind/body is easy to manifest, Ki flows effortlessly and correct feeling is easily achieved. The emergence of mind/body is considerably more difficult when my spirit is weak. It is the nature of the process such that the strengthening of correct feeling also enhances my spirit which further strengthens the mind/body connection so that the resulting interaction of spirit and mind/body is seen to be symbiotic.
(Original blog post may be found here.)
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