What is the Relationship between Aikido and Meditation?
What is the relationship between Aikido and Meditation? Is there a relationship between the two?
How do I see a parallel between meditation and Aikido? I see the relationship between meditation and Aikido similar to the relationship between being and doing or between stillness and action. So how does meditation and Aikido relate to one another? From appearances, they can seem as dissimilar as you could imagine. We could say that meditation is a practice of sitting in silence and stillness, bringing the attention to the present moment in a way to discover more deeply our human experience. While Aikido is the practice of certain techniques, skills and strategies designed to resolve conflict in ways that are less destructive and more creative. It is the practice of how to act and respond harmoniously under crisis, pressure or aggression.
So from a certain perspective, we could say that the two qualities of stillness and action are two extreme ends of a continuum. Sometimes in martial arts these the two domains of stillness and action are referred to as being two sides of the same coin. That true action emerges from the stillness of our being and that the stillness of our being is somehow mirrored in true action. Whatever that means, how do we access this experience for ourselves? What is the key? How do we open ourselves to this experience? How do we access the experience of stillness in action and action in stillness? The marriage of these two domains. How do we access this experience for ourselves, the marriage of stillness within action.
So perhaps we could phrase it in this way, what is the key to being able to make the peace of meditation the source for our action in conflict? And how do we make our action in conflict ultimately support our understanding of the nature of our being. That the way we respond to conflict ultimately supports our understanding of the nature of our being. In order to explore this question of the fundamental relationship between meditation and Aikido, between being and doing, perhaps we can take a moment to explore the common ground that these two approaches share. We could say that both the practice of meditation and the practice of Aikido stimulate not only the development of our abilities, but also the evolution of the of who we are as an individual and even the evolution of communities.
So to go deeper, in meditation the simple act of being still while remaining awake to our experience, catalyzes a discovery of insight concerning our relationship to both our outer and inner worlds. We are faced with the mechanics of our thoughts. Putting out endless storylines, attempting to distract us from simply being with the moment.
Meditation both uncovers and stimulates the activity of our projective mind. And in doing so, we are confronted with the condition nature of our identity. We face our own conditioning, which usually for most people is quite confronting. To face that conditioning and remain available to it, we may discover that our conditioning has less impact on our decision making and that our conditioning is something that we have received, but it is not who we essentially are.
We could say that the whole movement of meditation is bringing the attention out of the personal identity. To a perspective where see the personal identity, but we no longer project the personal identity as being the source of our being. And that the source of being is prior to our personal identity and the personal identity, the personality emerges from that source of being, it doesn’t contain that source of being.
In a way we may discover that the personality isn’t really something personal. We may see that it is our conditioning which creates our personality. And that our conditioning is fundamentally something not personal to us. We didn’t choose our conditioning; we didn’t decide on the conditioning we received. This discovery can lead to a cascading explosion of understanding that brings us to uncovering and directly experiencing the nature of our being, tasting the taster, so to speak. This is the awakening. We are free from localizing ourselves in our personality, a feeling of no oneness, no limited identity that we can localize ourself in.
For this to occur, requires a commitment to the act of being still in the midst of the chaos within the mind. This recognition does not happen without the experience. I’m saying you don’t realize this unless you realize this. Basically, you don’t realize this, unless you have the experience of realizing.
So that is one way of seeing meditation. Then there is Aikido. So let’s take a look at the practice of Aikido. So within the practice of Aikido, we are faced with the pressure of attack where there may be a grab, push or strike. We attempt to feel it rather than block it, align with it rather than fight it, create with it, rather than destroy it, all the while acting in a way that enables us to honor ourselves and not be victimized by the attack. So that’s the definition of Aikido here. That’s Aikido in a true form.
So in order to do that we need to go beyond our habitual reactivity of fight, flight, or freeze and discover the capacity to be curious in the face of conflict. In that curiosity, we find the opportunity to connect. And with that connection, the possibility of being creative starts to emerge. Being creative, not only for ourselves, but for the sake of the relationship we share with the other. It can becomes obvious that the relationship is the space that I share with the other, the space I live in with the world. In a way, I live in relationship, continually. And from here I see that in conflict if I damage the other, the relationship I share with the other is damaged. And thereby I damage myself. Aikido can offer the direct experience of a collective systemic experience. This is the experience where I see that the nature of the contact that I have with the other directly impacts the world I live in. In this way, Aikido can be a doorway to the physical experience of a systemic understanding and the compassion arising from that. I can see that I am not separate from the world I live in. Aikido can change the me, by opening myself to a systemic experience, both with my relationship to my world but also with my relationship to my own system. Through Aikido, we can become aware of domains of physical (somatic) and emotional intelligence. We can also liberate those intelligences, going beyond the habitual reactivity of the fight, flight or freeze instinctual mechanisms.
So to go beyond our habitual reactivity of fight, flight or freeze is to discover a capacity to be curious in the face of conflict. In that curiosity, we find a stillness before action, we see the opportunity to connect with the other. And with that connection, the possibility of being creative starts to emerge.
From one perspective, to be creative means to be who we are. It’s hard to describe as it’s about finding solutions that aren’t within a win/lose context. Finding a solution outside of what is known as a zero sum gain competitive process. Where in order for one to “win” or succeed, the other needs to “lose” or fail. We can discover the possibility of thriving, that being successful in action is not tied to the failure of another. It is possible to find a way that the relationship and everyone in it can thrive. So Aikido can offer the direct experience of the understanding that in midst of conflict the nature of the contact that we have with the other directly impacts the space we live in. It is a doorway to the realization of a systemic existence and the physical experience of compassion.
Potentially, Aikido can change the individual at the level of the physical and the emotional by liberating the physical intelligence and the emotional intelligence from the habitual reactivity, a fight, flight, or freeze. We can start to embody curiosity, connection, creativity and compassion. We discover that our being is found not only at the level of the individual but also at the level of the relationship. This experience can open to a realization of unity. So we start to realize that who we are is connected to and reflected in relationship. That our being is actually is linked with the relationship we have with the other. What we have within the relationship is a doorway to the realization of unity. It’s a stepping stone. It can start to draw us into a direct experience that we are beyond the borders of who we think we are.
This is directly reflected by the insight of the founder of Aikido, O’Sensei, stating in a moment of revelation, “I and the universe are one.”
So it seems that in many ways both meditation and Aikido can facilitate an awakening to a new insight of self as well as stimulate the growth and the evolution of the individual and the community that the individual lives in.
The peace of meditation, where I realise my being beyond conditioning can be supported by the experience of curiosity and creativity in conflict when my habitual reactivity of fight, flight and freeze is transcended. And the action of being creative while facing conflict is supported by the realization of being beyond a localized identity and the experience of being in relationship with the world I live in.