by Steve Sharp
After the bell rings and the vibration dissipates into the either we can enter a few moments of silence to illuminate our present condition in mind body and breath and raise the spirit for our practice of Aikido.
The Body - Key points of reference
- Ground and root the base by settling the legs and balancing the pelvis on the sit bones.
- Spine vertical.Decompress the spine through the opposing forces of a rooted base and the suspension of the head.
- Suspend the head by dropping the chin slightly which then lifts the back of the skull and lengthens the neck.
- Release and soften the chest which lifts and widens the upper back.
- Diaphragm releases from the action of the above which releases the lower ribs and allows the breath to sink to the Tanden area re abdominal breathing as opposed to chest breathing.
- Shoulders drop and elbows hang which creates and maintains space under the armpits for more efficient breathing.
- Left hand atop the right hand with thumbs lightly touching which forms a circle of which the integrity of the shape is maintained throughout the meditation period.
- Tongue rests lightly on top palate and the pelvic floor musculature is gently contracted which creates a closed energy circuit.
The above Body keys may take some time to read and intellectualise but practically takes a few seconds to physically put in place.The silence will help to take out any extraneous noise and allow the illumination aspect of the practice to clarify the points listed above.
Sitting in silence in one focused position allows us through our nervous system to develop our sensitivity and awareness of our changing body state and through illumination correct and maintain integrity of structure and clarity of mind.
Integrity of structure clarity of mind and the sensitivity of our nervous system are all integral to our practice of Aikido.
Once the body is settled from the key points listed above we can then focus on the breath which is the important link between the Mind and Body.
The breath is interesting because it is within our conscious control and we can use this as a powerful tool to effect body and mind.
I think we will all be familiar with the saying Monkey Mind.
- When the Mind is agitated the breath and body is agitated via the nervous system.
- When the Body is agitated the breath and mind are agitated via the nervous system.
- When the Breath is agitated the body and mind are agitated via the nervous system.
When we start to sit in meditation we normally start with the most gross aspect of the body as this is easier to feel initially in developing our awareness and sensitivity but if you consider the connection of body breath and mind listed above you can see that even though we start with the body once the body settles then the breath and mind will be effected. This being the case the breath is an important aspect of meditation practice.
The anatomy and physiology of the breathing process is complex but for our purposes the knowledge will be felt and illuminated through our practice of meditation and the internal knowledge gained will be beneficial to our practice of Aikido.
The Monkey Mind relates to a disturbed and distracted mind and agitated body.
A tense mind and tense body will tend to make energy rise and stagnate making the upper body stiff and the lower body week with no root whereas a relaxed mind and body will give us a mobile upper body and stable root an ideal state for our practice of Aikido.This is an important benefit of seated meditation and the breath is an important part of creating the above condition.
The Breath - Key points of reference.
- Two key areas to feel the breaths movement in the body. The movement of the lower abdomen and the movement of air around the top lip.
- The four stages of the breath. In breath / pause / Out breath / pause.
- The breath. As it is in the present moment. whether short or long. deep or shallow.
- Counting the breath to focus the mind.
All the above can be investigated but for our purposes the most important aspect to focus on within our short Mokuso period is point 1.
Once you have settled the body with the key points of reference listed previously the breath will automatically settle in the lower abdomen through the release of the diaphragm.This allows your mind to then focus on your breath in direct relationship with that movement of the lower abdomen.
During your practice of Mokuso within Silence externally and internally you will enter the Illuminated aspect of the practice where you will feel through heightened sensitivity and awareness the interconnection and interrelatedness of body mind and breath.
This is a closed circular loop where within that circle whether we start with the Body we ultimately effect at the same time the breath and mind.If we start with the breath we effect also the body and mind and if we start with the Mind we also effect the body and breath.
This relates to the expression in the previous article on Meditation.
All in One…One in All.
It’s important not to underestimate the significance and power of just a few minutes of seated meditation prior to our practice of Aikido.
The Monkey Mind and it’s effect on the breath and body is not suited to the practice of a Martial Art where integrity of structure clarity of mind and illuminated spirit is of paramount importance.
There is Movement in Stillness and Stillness in Movement and the subtleties of which can be infinitely investigated.
Movement in Stillness can be investigated through Mokuso and Stillness in Movement can be investigated through our practice of Aikido.