Zen And Aikido
by Lawrence Novick, Ph.D.

Part II - The Now

Two important questions arise when looking at Zen and Aikido: How do we actually stay in the Now and experience the flow of the Now more fully and immediately, and How do we let go of the things that take us away from the Now and diminish our Ki; i.e. need, desire, attachment and anticipation?

First, it is important to understand that the Now is not a static entity, and "being in the Now" is not something that is "done once" and then one is always "there." The Now is a continually unfolding, forward moving process of both creation and being. It is both completely dynamic in it's forward movement, and static in it's absolute beingness in the moment. Therefore, one has to be in a dynamic process to feel it and "stay with it" (to stay with that which is being created dynamically) and to be conscious of it (the Beingness of it), rather than allowing our attention to attach itself to all the other things inside us and around us that we pay attention to instead.

This, then, is an important point: Our consciousness "resides" wherever we put it, in whatever we are attending to. There are many reasons (psychological, emotional, spiritual) why we get caught up in (pertaining to Aikido) the need to throw, the desire to "win", the attachment to playing out a particular scenario of response, and our own anticipation of what will happen and what we want to happen. I will discuss this more later, but for now suffice to say that these things have tremendous pull for us, and we consciously and unconsciously choose to place them at the forefront of our awareness and experience. They then define and limit our Aikido practice and performance, and perhaps even how we think, feel, and perceive and experience life generally.

However, we do have a choice, or at least, we can develop the ability to choose, as to where we place our consciousness and therefore what our life experience is, and what our Aikido practice is about. We do have the ability to expand beyond these self-imposed limitations, and be conscious of, and perform at, much higher levels of reality. This happens when we can "be in" the Now. And the answer as to how to stay in the Now is:

Make the choice to Attend to the proper thing.

In Aikido terms, this means choosing to attend to the continual process of being Aware of being Centerdly Extended. This is the dynamic tool with which we can develop the choice and power of consciousness to experience and be in the Now. Simply put, this means attending to your awareness of the feeling of flowing energy, emanating outward from your center.

As one pays more attention to this, many things happen. We become more and more aware of, and experience, our Center, the feeling of Ki extension, and Ki flow, and in doing so our ability to stay with the process grows. We are then able to maintain the integrity of our own inner experience, and trust the process more and more. We can then practice Aikido properly, executing each technique and experiencing each relationship through it's flow in the unfolding Now, letting go of the need and desire for a specific outcome that will feed some part of us that has some psychological or emotional need. Rather, through choice, we develop a conscious relationship with the moment that allows for Aiki, true harmony, to actually manifest.