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“A human being is a spatially and temporally limited piece of the whole,
what we call the Universe. He experiences himself and his feelings
as separate from the rest, an optical illusion of his consciousness.
The quest for liberation from this bondage is the only object of true religion.
Not nurturing the illusion, but only overcoming it
gives us the attainable measure of inner peace.”

Albert Einstein – from a letter to Dr. Robert S. Marcus

optical illusion heart

Gianni A. Sarcone, Courtney Smith, Marie-Jo Waeber Archimedes Laboratory™ Project, Italy

I believe the study of aikido is a study of our own conflicts. Both the outer conflicts which we have with our fellow human beings, and conflicts within ourselves. In most cases, I think that the emergence of conflicts between people only comes as a consequence of a conflict which is already at work within ourselves.

When we are infants we do not really know who our reflection in the mirror is. We see some stranger in the arms of our parents and we are maybe wondering what our parents are doing on the other side of the glass, at the same time as they are right there with us, holding us in front of the mirror. Who that other child is probably takes a while to establish.

For infant animals it probably never goes beyond the point of realising that they will never be able to meet that other pup or kitten on the other side of the glass, and they loose interest in the matter altogether. However, for humans the realisation that we are that one particular individual, separate from all the others are a quite important shift of awareness, which I am not quite certain if it is good or bad. Probably bad, if we look at the current state of the world we live in.

cat mirror

Photo by Choose You

Eckhart Tolle states in A New Earth that we are not consciously deciding to think. Thinking happens, just as we digest food. It happens, no matter if we want it or not. We very often identify with this thinking, the voice in our head, which, we do not really have any more control over than our heartbeats, perspiration and the internal processes going on in our internal organs.

Albert Einstein described our experience of ourselves and our feelings as separate from the whole as an optical illusion of consciousness. I find that a very interesting observation.

So if our own thoughts and feelings are not who we are, then what is? Most of us are completely identified with this voice in our head, our thinking. I have recently had discussions with some of my dear friends what the Ego is, and not all agree about it’s definition. For me the Ego is the voice in the head. And absolutely not who I really am. For me the Ego is just like the process of my liver or my kidneys. It has a certain function as a part of the whole, but it should not be mistaken for who we are, in my opinion.

Baby looking in the mirror

Photo by Stockbusters

The Ego is obsessed with identification and definition and separation of Us from the Whole. I, Me, Mine, Myself. It really enjoys fitting all kinds of things into little prepared boxes of definition. That is a dog, that is a cat, that is a car. That is Us and that is the Enemy.

According to Eckhard Tolle the awareness of the present moment is all it takes to silence the Ego. To just look at a cat and see all it’s features. It is just not CAT. It is soft; it is purring; it is breathing; it is social; it likes to cuddle; it is ALIVE; and it has a different presence from all other cats in the world. Our Ego will just put it into the category CAT, and that is all we will ever see, unless we can step back and look outside, without history, without future, there is only NOW, and it is amazing.

Another thing our Ego is trapping us into is thoughts about what we like and dislike, how it should be and how it should not be. Again dumbing all our observations down to simple boxes to put it in, instead of getting a higher and higher detailed picture of what we are observing. Just imagine standing outside in the rain, feeling the wind in our face, sensing the water droplets hitting our hair. The sound of the water dripping from the leaves. The size of the droplets starts to change, and also the temperature of the rain and the direction of the wind. “I don’t like rain! Hurry up and go inside before I get wet!” Of course this thinking has practical applications, but it is limiting us in an extreme way, if we are not aware of it.

irimi nage sara kokoro

Irimi nage with Sara in April 2019. Photo by Kokoro Aikido.

In our aikido practice, all of these things are extremely relevant, if we are interested in going beyond the form. Maybe we WANT to do a kata with our partner, but from our point of view our partner is BLOCKING us. From our partners perspective they feel that we are VIOLATING their state by FORCING an unnatural form on to them, and without any will of their own they are protecting themselves against this HOSTILE FORCE. Before we know it there is bad feelings on the tatami, and both partners are, if not physically hurt, at least emotionally wounded. Just because of unawareness about what is what in our mind.

In our keiko we have the possibility to feel the sensation of ourselves in our partners. As we keep changing partners, and keep changing which kata we practice, we experience continually new situations where we can get information about who we are. Our partners are us, and we are them. We are learning about ourselves through our partners. As soon as our Ego realise this, it wants of course to start putting down a set of data which defines what this “Ourselves” is, and start comparing it to the Others, once more limiting the amount of information available to us. Curiosity is something I find as a great recourse and medicine to this illness. The curiosity to explore on, to make more research, to find new landscapes.

So who is the I? We don’t know. Whatever we write down to define it, is definitely not it. That much I can say for sure, because that is an extremely limited description of the I, and mostly what we find is what we wish to find. The Ego has that trick. It manipulates where we look, so that we will find exactly what we are looking for. So here we are, all of us, trapped in our little illusions of consciousness, not realising that all of us are part of the Whole together. Trying to defend ourselves against some perceived darkness outside. I believe the only darkness there is exists inside of ourselves. There is no darkness in the world except the one we bring into it.

master of puppets

Artwork by Darkness, inspired by the cover picture from Master of Puppets

So what about the observer who is looking at the thoughts, feelings and reactions of our body and our mind? If we at all reach that level of consciousness. Is that the I, or is that also only an optical illusion of our consciousness? Well, at least, if it is only observing, completely clean from labelling, liking, disliking, reacting to or having opinions about, maybe it is one step closer to who we are? However, that is a very high level of consciousness. We usually find something we don’t like, and then we feel ashamed or guilty, or upset about it, or something. And there we are back inside our little box again.

These thoughts has been on my mind for a decade, and I feel no nearer to finding an answer to them. However, for me it feels like the keiko has a healing effect on me, and I guess also on my partners. I have an image of myself no words of anybody can change. What I feel inside is stronger and older than any other experience in life. So feeling my partner’s perspective is beyond anything I can describe. It is honest, it is real, it is unpolluted by me. And I have to respect it. I feel loved when I am on the tatami.

And here I am writing MY thoughts, in MY blog, wriggling my little puppet fingers on the keyboard while my Ego is pulling my strings. Defining my sickness, identifying, putting concepts into boxes. Still, I am curious, and that might in the end be a way out for us all. Now I will shut up and go to the tatami and practise.

Enjoy your keiko! Aikido makes people happy!