Aikido Dharma Talk w/ Miles Kessler

The main focus on this blog is the exploration of what it means to “Walk A Higher Path Of Practice.” All “higher paths” are teachings, practices, or methodologies that progressively lead you, in one way or another, to the awakening of spirit absolute. Aikido, meditation, yoga, and the many other disciplines that come out of the spiritual traditions are all examples of higher path practices towards awakening. All such practices for awakening will progressively lead you forward through a process called “the 3 shifts in awakening.” 

When the term “awakening” is used in a higher path context, it always refers to moments when we break free from our limited perspectives and see directly into an “Absolute”, or “Universal” truth. In the practice of Aikido, for example, this refers to the underlying principles of the art, which are universal in nature, namely “center”, “connection”, “blending”, etc.

When you go deep enough into the art you will awaken to the essence of these principles. Part of that awakening is the realization the principles in you, and the principles in me are the same principles. “Center” in you, and “center” in me is the same “center.” “Connection” in you, and “connection” in me, is the same “connection.” When you awaken to this universal level, you also awaken to the universal truth that at our deepest level, you and I are truly One.

Below are “3 shifts in awakening” that progressively unfold for anyone on a higher path of practice. These 3 shifts are none other than 1) Waking Up, 2) Growing Up, and 3) Showing Up.

Shift #1: Waking Up

Your first shift in waking up to the absolute is usually just a glimpse. It is a momentary “waking up” where your normal self-referencing constructs get obliterated in a moment and you have a direct experience of reality, beyond the limited sense of self. Beyond the limited constructs of the ego. Even though this initial shift tends to be fleeting, it will radically shift your perspective, the memory of which you never forget.

This shift can be caused in many different ways, such as an extended period of focused concentration, or an intensely physical, emotional, or mental experience. It can happen when the limits of the self get pushed beyond their normal capacity. “Waking up” can even happen through the sudden and unexpected loss of someone near and dear to you.

But most commonly, “waking up” happens through contact with another person who already has opened access to trans-personal states. This can come in the form of a teacher (see my own experience with my teacher here), or a person who has already spent many years developing the ability to access absolute and transpersonal states.

Such people are able to stand before you with full access to an awakened state, be it Emptiness, Fullness, Non-self, Non-dual, No Mind, Big Mind, or Unconditional Love. They fully transmit this states and reflect it back to you as your very own potential.

Whatever the case this initial waking up experience is usually a temporary state that sooner or later fades away. But if you experience it with enough depth and clarity, then it will inspire you to take on a practice to systematically open access to the awakened perspective. Welcome to the next stage.

Shift #2: Growing Up

Now you are shifting into the practice phase. You have already had the experience of a perspective beyond the limited ego, and now you are committed to undertaking the systematic practice of stabilizing that access. “Growing up” in a practice context means that now that you have had some experience of a greater truth, now you are taking responsibility to chose this greater truth, over lesser, more relative truths.

The “growing up” stage development is a very challenging stage. This is because your commitment to practice means you put awareness in the center of your life, and you begin the challenging work of organizing your life around “waking up” (instead of expecting “waking up” to organize around your life).

In this context, your practice, your teacher, and your practice community are constant reflections to you of what is Path. This is important because sooner or later you will be met with your ego-limitations and in such a moment you will be confronted with the choice to be responsible for the Path or to contract down to the limitations of your ego.

In fact, repeatedly confronting and working with your ego boundaries is the very process of purification that gradually matures your perspective. Because the fact is that at the beginning of this stage you don’t have the awakened perspective at all. But with a committed long-term practice, you will gradually stabilize the shift in awakening so that it shifts from a “temporary state” and more towards a “permanent trait” of who you are. Which leads us to the 3rd shift in awakening.

Shift #3: Showing Up

In the 1st shift we opened access to the absolute (waking up), and in the 2nd shift, we commit to long-term and consistent practice, with a guide (growing up). The culmination of this progressive path of practice quite naturally leads us to the 3rd shift, which is none other than “Showing Up”.

In the growing up stage, you still need the practice, the teaching, and the teacher as a tool to access the absolute perspective or the universal principles. But as the stage matures you will begin to shift into the “showing up” stage.

In the “showing up” stage you no longer “need” the practice to access the absolute perspective or universal principles. These perspectives begin to naturally manifest through you as life situations require. If unconditional love is needed in life, then unconditional love manifests through you. If non-conceptual awareness is needed, then it arises through you. If unshakable presence is needed, then you manifest as that.

“Showing Up” means just that. You now spontaneously “Show Up” in life in the exact way that life need in that moment.  This is the level of mastery, this where the relative you, and the universal principles come together as a fully integrated ONE.

Mindfulness Is The Way

Even though these 3 shifts are distinct and different stages of maturity in your practice, they are connected by one, unbroken state that runs through all 3 shifts. This is none other than Mindfulness. It is the very method that progressively moves you forward on the path. Mindfulness is the very state that activates the 3 shifts in awakening.

All awakening begins, and all awakening ends with mindfulness. Without mindfulness, there is no waking up. Without mindfulness, there is no growing up. And without mindfulness, there is no showing up.

The Buddha said, “Mindfulness Is Helpful In all Things.” This means that whenever you are mindful and present in the moment, regardless of the circumstances, it only brings benefit to your experience. The 3 shifts in awakening only happen in the present moment. Not when your mind is in the past, and not when your mind is in the future. Only when your mind is present in the very NOW.

In this way, it is very clear that Mindfulness is the way.

For more on the”3 Shifts Of Awakening” check out the above Dharma talk with Miles Kessler. This Dharma talk was recorded at “See True Mindfulness” in Maastricht, Netherlands, on Oct. 6th, 2017.

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