The Aikido of Consciousness: The Real "Not This, Not This"

By Saniel Bonder
© Saniel Bonder 1995, 2004. All rights reserved.

As I performed my investigation of Being in the fall of 1992, previous to my Awakening that December, I began to notice something truly wondrous. Consciousness was clarifying its own position vis-a-vis every other component of my existence, and it was not about to be thwarted or suppressed.

I remember telling some friends about it over those couple of months.  It was definitely blowing my mind. This time around, unlike any other time I had explored consciousness itself, it was un-losable. Unshakeable, really. Like a sun rising in my own Heart of hearts, it penetrated every hidden and shadowy place. And no drama or difficulty I passed through could induce it to recede, fundamentally, ever again.

A useful analogy occurred to me some months later, I think, when I began talking to others about my experience of that passage.  I was reminded of Bruce Lee's famous, and to my mind best, movie, Enter the Dragon.  There is a scene that captures the ultimate cinematic display of the martial artist. Lee is cornered in the evil drug lord's dungeon.  The guards are alerted, and waves of them come at him.  (Interesting that not one of them has a gun, but never mind that.) Lee goes into his stance, starts emitting his famous high-pitched fighting whine, and begins dispatching them one by one, two by two, and in groups.  My memory suggests that he disposes of at least a couple of dozen of these goons this way, maybe more.  It's an awesome demonstration.

I don't know much about martial arts.  I am aware that Bruce Lee was not technically demonstrating the particular art and style known as "aikido."  But it seems to me, based on my admittedly slight awareness of the principles of Aikido that Lee certainly was attuned to them, whatever his particular school of martial artistry was. 

In aikido, as I understand it, the martial artist uses the other person's direction and energy of attack to neutralize him, without opposing the attacker. What I saw Lee doing was using his foes' own vectors of energy to neutralize their capacity to harm him and in fact to allow the harm to boomerang back upon them. Kick!  Punch!  Spin!  Slide!  Spin and kick!  He just stood his ground, with easy intensity, and conformed himself to each attacker in just such a way that the man kept on moving by, but with a broken neck or spine or whatever other token of Lee's appreciation he caught in passing. 

As I reflected on the way consciousness clarifies its own nature, in my own experience, I saw that there's a kind of natural aikido to it.

The awakening Being or consciousness stands in something like Bruce Lee's dungeon, the spiritual torture chamber I described in an earlier essay.  It has no way to escape, nowhere to go.  But it is free of any real or fundamental fear, or even concern.  It simply and calmly encounters every energy coming in its apparent direction with easeful concentration.  Whereas in the past, the separate, self-conscious individual would be overwhelmed by many of the events arising to its consciousness, now that separateness is fundamentally already eliminated. 

So the consciousness freely observes and relates to each passing phenomenon, whether physical, emotional, mental, psychic, relational, environmental. In each case, and with increasing finesse, the witnessing conscious nature intuitively celebrates its own freedom from whatever is appearing even while it permits any number of natural patterns of psycho-physical response to whatever is appearing.

Just to make it plain I am describing a quality of participation in your work that engages and keeps moving right on through even intense oscillations into separateness, of the brutal variety I described earlier. In other words, you don't always feel like Bruce Lee perfectly demobilizing opponents.

You do take your share of punches, even a few, likely, that knock your lights out. But even then, when you get back up on your feet that is, when you recover your fundamental transcendent identity and Ground again you very swiftly, and with relative ease, regain the upper hand in the contest.

 Indeed, these episodes serve you best of all. Through them you get to see just how amazingly rooted you really are now in your conscious Ground.  You get to notice that even though you took a bruising dive for awhile, perhaps, you haven't really lost your footing. 

Indeed, the sublime simplicity of that conscious Ground appears even more starkly in contrast to the lack of it that you always felt in the past when thrown into similar tailspins. This is what I mean by increasing finesse. It's not really that you look great all the time. It's that you discover, to your amazement, that nothing really throws you any more.  Not even the things that used to not only throw you but then practically kick you to death. 

Do you get what I'm saying?

I realized, moreover, that there is a great difference between the way I was doing this and what I would now characterize as the hypermasculine approach of Oriental schools of Consciousness, such as Advaita Vedanta.

The Advaitins have a phrase, "Neti, neti," meaning, "Not this, not this."  In the stepped-down, willful, first-birth style of Advaitic meditation, aspirants will literally repeat phrases to themselves along these lines, as things appear to their conscious awareness: "I am the deathless Spirit. I am Consciousness itself. I am not the mind.  I am not desire.  I am not the body.  An emotion has arisen ah, I am Consciousness. I am not this emotion."  Et cetera. 

This Oriental style of attempting to distinguish consciousness from its objects was derived from the spontaneous realizations of adepts who had moved into their expression of the stage of Awakening I was now enjoying. I saw, however, that what they attempted to do was both much more difficult and, at last, unreal, or untrue. 

They were trying to enforce their awareness of the transcendent conscious nature by denying the ontological reality of all the rest of what they are the individual soul and all the components of the body and mind. 

To this very day, if you quiz a good Advaitic practitioner on this subject, he or she will either resolutely tell you, with mouth, lips, speech and all, "I am not the body!," or he or she will sheepishly admit that this realization is not yet intact.  When I hear this kind of talk, I always want to squeeze some sensitive body part very hard and say, "Excuse me. What did you just say you weren't?"

That is to say, to deny the psycho-material frequencies of our total Being in order to concentrate in Consciousness itself does not complete our Awakening.  It performs yet another kind of violence, placing the body, the world, life, change, feelings, all psycho-physical phenomena, in fundamental doubt.

The true form of "neti, neti," I saw, is not "I am not the body" but "I am not limited to the body."  It is not "I am not this emotional reaction appearing right now," but it is, "I am not exclusively identified with this emotional reaction appearing right now."  A modest difference to hear, but an immense one in practice.

When your practice is capable of this aikido of consciousness, you will discover that no matter what events in life or mind appear to attack you, you will more and more calmly dispatch them with this brilliant aikido of true "not this, not this."  Because you won't be devoting energy and attention to escaping from natural qualities of identification with your own body-mind, your energy and attention will stay strong and alert. Consistently, energy and attention will be ready to be put to use in service to your Awakening.

There's a very good reason why so few in any generation of Advaitins ever became realizers. The reason is, you had to be a spiritual prodigy to do so. You had to be a kind of idiot savant of Consciousness, capable of identifying absolutely with Being as pure awareness and of dissociating absolutely from every other dimension of Who we are. 

The true "neti, neti" that I'm suggesting above allows you to simply reorient yourself vis-a-vis the body-mind without jettisoning it at any point. You don't waste energy trying to enforce an unnecessary and unreal separation from any appearing element of the body-mind, any more than Bruce Lee wasted energy trying, say, to dematerialize his foes rather than simply defeating them.       

The more of this work you do, the more powerful and free you realize the conscious Nature really is.  Feel free to exult in your freedom! There will be times when the feeling you have about some aspect of yourself that you are investigating is something like, "No way! I'm absolutely NOT governed and limited by this boring old emotional reaction any more!

Fine, body-mind: go ahead. React all you like!  But I am free here."  It gets to the point where you are performing this Self-liberating work instant by instant, like Lee with his waves of attackers in the dungeon.  And it dawns on you not only that you aren't being vanquished or subdued any more by your "stuff" you can't be!   

As I recall, that's when I started becoming a fiercely happy son of a bitch. If you haven't already, so will you.  Or a fiercely happy bitch, or babe it won't make any real difference what others think of you or say. Start dealing with your own worst stuff like old Bruce down in the basement, and you become one free, confident, and ferocious warrior for joy.

By Saniel Bonder.

© Saniel Bonder 1995, 2004. All rights reserved.