Monthly Archives: September 2015

Life is . . .

In Buddhism the first noble truth is that life is ‘dukkah’ which they commonly translate as suffering. IMHO that misses the intent. Dukkah describes the squeak of the wheel of the cart. I preferred to translate it as pressure, that life is one pressure after another.

When we are under pressure an autonomic response causes a tensing of the muscles. We may feel it as a pain in the neck, tight shoulders or in the other extremities of the body, but it emanates from the spine or, in finer dimensions of sensing, the central core of the being.

This tension in the muscles around the spine forces the cerebral spinal fluid up into the cranium putting pressure on the physical brain, impeding the synaptic process, thought and creativity. In common parlance you might hear people under pressure say, “Just give me a minute I need some space.”

It is an effect of the pressure in the brain from the fluid being forced into the cranial cavity.

As you relax the muscles closer and closer to the spine, if you’re sensitive to it, you can feel, or begin to imagine that you can, the cerebrospinal fluid draining from the cranium back into the spine. It not only lubricates and protects the vertebrae and ‘floats’ the disks increasing flexibility, comfort and vitality, it literally gives the brain room to think. And it’s easy.

Take a deep breath. Briefly, intentionally, tighten the muscles around the spine. Doing this helps locate the attention. Then use the ‘exhale’ to help relax the muscles closer and closer the spine. If you pay attention see if you don’t notice a draining of the pressure on the brain on the mind and on the being

The exercise is simple. Anyone can do it. But relaxation is like breathing, once in the morning is not enough!


Don’t you handle some days or situations better than others? Don’t you seem to have better and worse days? Have you ever wondered if you could affect the ratio and degree of good days versus bad days?

Centering or being centered is a term we use for when we are in our best functioning place, as being off-center implies a time when we don’t function at our best.

The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei, was an undefeated peerless martial artist. He knew more than most about good functioning places. In fact his art was so superior he is purported to have said, “My students think I don’t lose my center, but that is not true. I just recognize it sooner and get back quicker.”

I’d like to very briefly introduce a map and tools, so to speak, for recognizing where we are in relationship to center, how to recognize it sooner, and how to get back quicker.

I learned these principles from my instructor Robert Nadeau, who in turn learned them as a personal student of O Sensei. We have taught these principles around the world, not only to aikido students but also with my business partner Chris Thorsen, to people from the business realm, as well as to players in international peace building and conflict resolution work, who have no experience with Aikido.

If you move your physical body off center or out of balance the muscles tighten to hold you from falling. As you center or balance your frame better on your skeleton, you should notice muscles relaxing as the bones take the weight back. If you experiment with the practice you can affect the baseline of centeredness and effectiveness that you sense as usual or comfortable or common. It is easy to see this in the physical realm but the principle applies equally in the mental, emotional and spiritual or attitudinal realms.

Awareness is curative in that as you pay attention, it buys you a better center. It is however a matter of degree. As you learn to pay attention your awareness learns to detect finer and subtler corrections. The problem is when we are in a stressful situation the result seems so important we forget or don’t know that our state of being is a contributing factor and one of the most important elements of success.

The correction is virtually automatic once the system is aware of the imbalance. Very much like once you learn to ride a bike, if it tips to the left you automatically turn into it. Once you’ve learned to ride it happens without thought. Wouldn’t you like to correct your tone in a conversation before you say something you can’t take back but wish you could?

Power lies in the ability to focus your attention into finer sensations or as we call them finer realms or dimensions of awareness. It takes very little to explore these ideas. The real challenge is to practice them enough, so they are there when you most need them, when you are under pressure that captures your attention. The only solution is to practice when you don’t need to, so the skill develops for when you do.

“The essence of Aikido lies in the cultivation of the spirit of reconciliation.”

Morihei Ueshiba, O Sensei



Robert Nadeau with his teacher Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei