Beyond Being-Separate 
Oct 2021

By being-separate I mean the usual everyday perspective of being a separate subject (me) living in a world of objects (you and everything else). This condition of being-separate is so pervasive we don’t generally see it, nor register its effects. Over time I’ve noticed that every move I make from this condition of being-separate creates disharmony. So far, I have found no exceptions.

Even when the immediate issue seems resolved, if my actions and speaking were done from being-separate, (avoiding, controlling, fixing, winning, proving a point...), then the disharmony within me, within others, and in the environment increases. The amount of struggle, disconnection, and confusion escalate. Like a handful of gravel tossed into a still lake, the ripples collide, expand and the clarity that was present is gone.

It is customary to see disharmony as omnipresent, we don’t create it, it just is part of life. This view frees us from responsibility, but at the same time cuts us off from natural power. For sure there is a lot of struggle in life that appears much larger than us and our actions. But, once we begin practicing to reduce contributing to the disharmony and struggle, we may soon be astonished by how profound an effect we can have. This is aiki in action. (Aiki - moving in harmony with the changing energies within and around us. Aikido - The way to union with ki.)

I see this when ki breathing in the morning. When I move to control my meditative experience (go deeper, relax and expand, stop thinking, etc..) this is usually being-separate acting again. I think I should have a different experience than I am having, so I act to fix it. Consequently, disharmony within me grows. I then react to the results of my attempted control. Then react to the reacting. I get fidgety. I wonder what time it is, how much longer I'm sitting. Then I notice the thinking and try to control that into silence. Disharmony triples.

It is the same in life: maybe the plumber goes home, unconsciously carrying my minor comment about the cost of his work, and snaps slightly at his wife or just does not feel like playing with his kids that night. Then they all carry this unease into their next moments… The house looks less vibrant, the future less inviting. Vitality wanes a bit and maybe someone gets a cold. The ripples of disconnection and dissatisfaction extend…

At every moment we have the possibility of shifting from separation into connection. With mind resting in the lower belly, we open to what is happening: the situation, our reactions, our body sensations, our mood, our thoughts... We open to it all without adding anything. The moment we unify as bodymind and connect, willing to be with all that is happening, to be IN the experience rather than looking AT the experience, then harmony blooms. We can engage in this way, practice this way, and allow everything around us to be subtly illuminated by our unity and connection. We’re not hiding or being separate in our actions and practice. Out of this unified action, harmony ripples outward.

Like the previous example, the plumber leaves my home pleased with his work and interaction with me. He goes home feeling more relaxed and positive. His greeting his wife and kids spreads this pleasant harmony. The home looks more luminous, dinner tastes better, the future looks brighter.

Like with a good ki test, or a well done aikido throw, everyone involved feels better, happier, more open and connected. This is what O Sensei pointed to when he said Aikido was the way to reconcile the world. Of course, we can lose this state as our mind jumps to explain or hold on to it. But for at least a moment, everything was bright, clear and connected. This unification of mind and body is available to everyone, in every situation: in the numb, drab and boring times, in distracted busyness, and in moments of dramatic intensity...we can choose bodymind and connect. We can let go of habitual separation, cultivate bodymind and open to whatever is happening. Then we can act from this state of unity, with natural clarity and respect.

For this to be real, takes daily practice. Intellectual understanding on its own is not powerful enough. It's through steadfast practice (ki breathing, meditation, orienting, Qigong, Taiji, ki development, etc.) we can gain the capacity to move in life with connection. We learn to recognize being-separation in ourselves and let it go. We learn to step down from being isolated in our heads and choose bodymind again and again.

“Mind and body are actually one.
Do not moan over being powerless,
thinking that all your strength
is just what you see and use in everyday life.
When we use our mind and body in this unified way
and leave everything up to the Universe,
we can experience the true power of the human being. ”
-- Tohei Sensei


May your practice go well.



© Steve Self, 2021, All rights reserved.