Larry Camejo wrote:
Thalib: Can you give more details as to what these exercises are and what they specifically aim to achieve?
They say there are many roads to Rome. These exercises vary. Some incorporate other practices such as Yoga in their training. But, what these practices will show you is that man could not reach enlightenment just by sitting down and meditating alone.
The process as which is true in any phases of life:
Man can't just jump into the next step without facing the previous one. The existence of man is not only one but all of these, therefore all of them must be trained.
I will be general with this, as there are different forms of exercises depending on the practices that you have taken. But the best one for me is outside in, from the physical to the mental to the spiritual.
If we are talking about muscle memory, reflexes, instinct, for me this still falls into the physical part, it's a psycho-motoric function. When we touch a pot that is hot, we quickly draw backour hands because we know it's hot. The body affects the mind
, as I usually call this first part.
We could train our body to react a certain way during certain situations. Generally this part is called reflex or instinct. You do not need to consciously think about it, but your body still move. This is not the mental part yet in this particular hierarchy.
Fudoushisei, unbendable arm, unliftable body, and the sorts are still part of the physical, these are the practices that you could do. You will understand it probably from the perception of physio-geometry or physics or biology, not necesarily spiritual or mental.
You will realize that the human body is actually quite resilient even without giving it extra incentive (i.e.: forced/tensed muscle). This is when you get the immovable posture. This is not mystical, it is physical and biological.
The point of the above exercise is that you should realize that the body is strong in its relaxed (not limp) state. The point of this exercise is not to show that you cannot be moved. You will still be able to be moved when there is enough force exerted on you, but how you move when it's time to move makes it a difference. You don't intentionally move, you accept the energy that is given to you and move proportionately to that energy, nothing less and nothing more.
Nature, no matter how violently it looks to human, moves proportionately to the energy that exist. Water flows down proportionately with its surrounding and gravity. High and low balances each other out. Differences in temperature and pressure could create storms, hurricanes, and twisters. Nature always balances itself out, and this balancing act could be scary at times.
In Aikido, we could first learn this through accepting body or ukemi. Ukemi, as semantic, is taken as breakfall, but if we take it eruditely, it is taken as the accepting body. The practice that I'm referring to here is not ukemi as one would perceive as break-fall or rolling or the sort, but more as a practice to receive energy/force and act accordingly.
What does it mean when one would say "act accordingly"? Be accomodating to the nage and fall even when nothing is actually is happening? Or maybe we resist so much and let nage try to take you down? Or maybe just stand there and be a sack of potato and let the nage do whatever the nage wants?
The above is not recommended as you won't learn much. The only thing you would probably learn is that how to make beautiful flips or how much one has to struggle to put you down or how much pain you would feel until you finally tap. This is not a good start to learn the principle of acceptance which is reflected by the practice of ukemi.
This is where the mental part comes in handy, if we do not think of ukemi not as how to fall, but how to feel, we will undertand the principle of acceptance easier. This paradigm, way of thinking, is not easy as I too still struggling with this.
This is all good, but what does this have to do with mushin no shin, the mind of no mind?
It is only a small part of the practices that you could do to reach a glimpse of understanding of mushin no shin. We all have to start somewhere. We can't just jump into the mental without first passing the physical. Even meditation/zazen is physically demanding. The difference in Aikido technical practice is the meditation is more physically dynamic.
By saying mushin is not exactly complete, the term that is better used is mushin no shin, the mind of no mind, making it a paradox. The understanding of this will be very personal and perhaps in the beginning will differ from person to person. As I said, we all have to start somewhere. For me, in Aikido, it starts with ukemi, the accepting body.
As a closing, I would say don't think too much about mushin no shin or try too hard to understand/practice it, because by doing that, you are already straying away.
Takuan Soho quoted a poet in his letters to Yagyu, compiled in a book called 'The Unfettered Mind', that sounds a bit like this: wrote:
To think about not thinking, it is already thinking
One should not think about not thinking at all