The Soul’s Journey Through Aikido

w/ Koichi Barrish & Miles Kessler

The martial art of Aikido is a spiritual practice. It is a spiritual practice because the technical application of Aikido is “nested” within a universal humanistic philosophy. And this philosophy is further nested within an Absolute spiritual perspective.

Koichi Barrish & Miles Kessler Aiki-Discussion

Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, referred to this as the manifest, the hidden, and the divine. The manifest is the realm of physicality and techniques. The hidden is the realm of principles and philosophy. The divine is the realm of spirit Absolute.

This is a developmental frame that reflects the spiritual potential of human beings. Practicing Aikido in this framework activates growth and development. It will constantly challenge your egoic limitations, and continuously lead you forward into your spiritual potential.

It was within the understanding of this “spiritual framework” that I had the great pleasure of meeting the Rev. Koichi Barrish, an American Aikido Sensei & Shinto priest. I invited Barrish Sensei to join a panel discussion for the “Aikido At The Leading Edge” tele-summit. This “Aiki-Discussion” proved to be a great warm up for the tele-summit.

This was our first face to face meeting and we dove right into a conversation about 2 topics we are both passionate about. Aikido & Spirituality. As our Aiki-Discussion unfolded, I was delighted to see how spiritual development in Shintoism parallels that of other spiritual traditions. Especially the progression is mapped out in my own lineages of Buddhism and Integral Spirituality.

One way to look at spiritual development is by looking at the “states of consciousness” that arise in any authentic spiritual practice. All the worlds wisdom traditions that undertake practices for entering these states, usually also have maps to chart the development through these states.


The Spectrum Of Consciousness


The above map is called “The Spectrum Of Consciousness” and it charts spiritual development by looking at the states of consciousness that we all have access to. Namely, the “gross” state of consciousness, the subtle state of consciousness, the “casual” state of consciousness, and finally into the “non-dual” state of consciousness.

As Barrish Sensei explained the “Soul’s Journey” in Shintoism is was immediately clear how it reflected the above map. According to Barrish Sensei there are 4 stages of the soul’s journey in Shinto:

  1. Ara Mitama > The gross manifestation, the rough soul (Physical Identification, The Ego, or self)
  2. Nigi Mitama >The subtle manifestation, the initial differentiation (including self & others)
  3. Saki Mitama > Further subtle manifestation ( opening to multiplicity and universal processes )
  4. Kushi Mitama > Unitive Consciousness (returning to the source, creating the One from the Multitude)

Barrish Sensei says that the purpose of Aikido is to develop through the whole progression of the soul. “This was what originally called you to the practice Aikido. It’s such a shame to settle for a killer nikkyo.”

The soul’s journey in Shintoism completely reflects spiritual development across all the world’s wisdom traditions. Including spiritual development in Aikido. As Barrish Sensei says, “the soul’s journey to the divine is the very process of Aikido itself.”

Here is the video of our Aiki-Discussion. I’m sure that you will enjoy it as much as we did!


QUESTION: What originally called you to practice the art of Aikido? Leave your comments below!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.