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EFFORT
Listen to nothing,
shut the senses off.
The nothingness
is something

An Osteopathic Odyssey – James Jealous D.O.

In osteopathy there are two very interesting concepts which I have been very intrigued by lately. They are very closely related to the activity of our ego, making one much more difficult to achieve than the other.

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In our body we have two kinds of nerve fibres: efferent and afferent. The afferent ones are carrying information from our sensory organs to our brain, while the efferent ones are carrying information from our brain to our organs, muscles and so on. It is a bit more complex than described here of course, but the general idea is that afferent are carrying information which are arriving to us, and efferent are carrying information which are exiting us.

Similarly we can divide our activity and mental state into those same kinds of activity. Efferent being projecting something from us on to something else (in osteopathy that would be the patient), and afferent being taking in information from something (the patient).

In aikido we have a multitude of forms which we practice; kata which have been handed down through the generations of teachers; these define our keiko and teaches us principles and natural laws about ourselves and our partners. From the beginning we need to learn these forms. We have to repeat them thousands of times until they are so familiar to us that we float through them without thinking of the movement we have to make. At this level we can shift our focus to listening to the shifting of our balance, sensing the interaction with our partner, and observe our mental state during the movement.

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So if we decide that we will do a shiho nage our mind is set for shiho nage. We might do it without thinking and we might pay attention to what is going on at the same time, but we are still doing efferent activity below our range of awareness, because we decided that we will do shiho nage at the beginning. The shiho nage came from our mind and we wish to express our shiho nage to the world outside. However, what is shiho nage?

Imagine that we are a child who never saw a bear before. We see the bear for the very first time in our life. It is BIG and BROWN and it has big claws and big teeth. The child will observe so much more than what a grown up will observe when they see the bear, because they already know what a bear is, and they spend much more of their capacity to put it into the right category. And in some cases we might put it in the wrong category and be sure that we know what it is, and be totally lost. Maybe we never did see a bear before, and think it is a very big dog. It could be, if we saw dogs before, but are not yet aware of the existence of bears?

I believe a big part of our sensory experience is dulled by our natural laziness of relating to history and prior experience trying to fit everything into a format we have seen before. However, maybe this time is different? How can we know, if we are too busy having an opinion about all of it?

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Our ego wants us to know, already. It fabricates sensory experience to fit into what we already know, because it greatly fears humiliation, and wants us to be the clever. It wants US to be right, and it uses the senses to prove others wrong. This disturbance is quite soothing for us, because nothing is ever surprising or wrong and we are always doing the right thing. Thus our ego is always pushing us, both the conscious part of us, and the subconscious part to do more efferent activity, and less afferent. It fears the unknown.

However, the unknown is where we have to go to explore the road ahead. This is where we will find new landscapes and gain new information about the areas beyond what we already know.

Still, we have to do our kata, right? Well that is the koan right there. How can we make the kata in an afferent way? We would like to listen to the interaction with our partner in such a way that the kata appears, not from us, and maybe not even from our partner, but from something else?

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There are movements happening within our bodies, going on all the time, as long as we live. Most of the time we are too busy with what we are doing to listen to these movements. We are too busy “talking” to “hear” what is there. Sometimes, only sometimes, if both uke and tori are trying to do nothing. Just nothing. A movement might appear? Is it only our imagination playing a trick with us? Can we do it again? Will it happen with a different partner? Can we do it when we want, or do we have to wait forever?

I find these things incredibly interesting. I would like to have more afferent activity in my aikido.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!