Sunday, December 18, 2011

12/17/11 Integrity, aikido, heaven and earth, spiritual growth

I had these thoughts in response to aspen apGaia's blog, where he's been writing various things about aikido, and decided I wanted to share them here also. (

To me, integrity has to do with being whole, all of one piece, rather than fragmented or having contradictions between your beliefs and actions.  One with integrity is trustworthy, lined up, consistent, honest.  One doesn’t (fortunately, since none of us are) have to be perfect.  I have a feeling of organic growth, knowing oneself, having clear aims and goals, having strong character, being present and real, following through.  I believe it takes awareness, courage, knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses and limitations, the ability to interact with others without losing one’s own mooring and direction.  There is also a sense of goodness and rightness, that one would not harm others, and would do things to help others and the world.  One would be moving in truth and in love.

c.1400, "innocence, blamelessness; chastity, purity," from O.Fr. integrité or directly from L. integritatem (nom. integritas) "soundness, wholeness, blamelessness," from integer "whole" (see integer). Sense of "wholeness, perfect condition" is mid-15c.

"a whole number" (opposed to fraction), 1570s, from L. integer (adj.) "whole, complete," figuratively, "untainted, upright," lit. "untouched," from in- "not" (see in- (1)) + root of tangere "to touch" (see tangent). The word was used earlier in English as an adjective meaning "whole, entire" (c.1500).

In aikido, one would be lined up with earth, self (body and attention/intention), other, and heaven. One would be fully present in the here and now, centered and grounded, moving from one’s center, fully aware and alive, moving in clear awareness and harmony.  The attacking pattern breaks harmony, launching energy in a way that would harm the other person. Using aikido to blend with the attacking energy, one moves off the line of attack (so out of the way of being harmed), and turns to move (blend) with the attacker which restores harmony.  Your own center now becomes the center for both of you, and you now have control of the resolution.

If one is instead tangled, with lack of awareness, misaligned body, not centered, trying to force the other person instead of blending, then this doesn’t work.  Instead of harmony there is discord and fighting and struggle.  Heaven and earth are not brought together, your heart and the other person’s heart (and perhaps bodies) are hurt, and you are not moving in integrity.  Truth and love are absent.

The interaction of heaven and earth is a profound topic, with many aspects, reflected in many different cultures.  We are beings with body, heart, mind, and spirit.  Many of us have a sense of the earthiness of our bodies (in both positive and negative ways), the shortness and fragility of physical life, and a sense of eternity in terms of our spirits or souls.  We know that reality on this earth does not match our ideal visions and ethics. We have heaven and earth tied together in us.  We can choose lack of awareness.  We can choose evil or good.  We can center on ourselves or on something larger. We can vacillate.  We can grow towards wholeness (integrity).

In the Christian viewpoint, we can invite God to live in us (and us in God).  The Lord’s Prayer says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Jesus also said that unless we become like a little child, we can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.  (I think this points to the importance of awareness, living in the present, being open to imagination and intuition, and straightforward knowing and love and faith, not all tangled up in thoughts of what other people will think or what you should do.)  One of the Hermetic sayings (and, I think, Sufi) is “As above, so below.”  From a non-theistic viewpoint, we can open to the highest in ourselves, or around us, and focus or dwell in that place. As St. Paul put it in the Epistle to the Philippians 4:8 (NIV), “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”.  The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is common to many cultures.

There are 3 stories or writings that have come to my mind as I’m thinking about this. 

One is from a book about using stories to work with children, and it's about Heaven and Hell. An angel comes to a rabbi, and takes him to see Hell and then Heaven. When he is taken to Hell, the rabbi is surprised to see a beautiful meadow with a stream and trees and banquet tables full of wonderful food. However, the people at the tables are utterly miserable -- they can't eat because their elbows are totally stiff and won't bend, so they can't get any of the food or drink to their mouths. The angel then brings him to Heaven. Here things are exactly the same, but the people are all smiling and happy. They are feeding each other.

The second is from Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, in the chapter on Crime and Punishment.  (found on;  I’m quoting part; the whole thing is well worth reading.)

“It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,
That you, alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.
And for that wrong committed must you knock and wait a while unheeded at the gate of the blessed.
Like the ocean is your god-self;
It remains forever undefiled.
And like the ether it lifts but the winged.
Even like the sun is your god-self;
It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.
But your god-self does not dwell alone in your being.
Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own awakening.
And of the man in you would I now speak.
For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist, that knows crime and the punishment of crime.
Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
You are the way and the wayfarers.
And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone. .....
the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,
And ... the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.”

The third is from Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest who was a philosopher and scientist, and whose writings were opposed by the church hierarchy.  I read a book of his for a college course, probably The Phenomenon of Man.  He talks of the evolution of man, and posits a tiny bit of spirit in each tiny bit of matter (atoms), and gradually with the development of more complex molecules and life, more and more spirit/consciousness in each being.  The world progresses from geosphere, to biosphere, to noosphere (formed by human cognition, gradually increasing in complexity and awareness, something more than what is inherent in each individual human), and finally the Omega Point, a maximum level of complexity and consciousness to which the universe is being drawn.  (This is a different thing than the Gaia hypothesis, though that is also a fascinating way of looking at the world.)

Our development as individuals in this world is highly complex and very interesting.  Physically, amazing things occur without us “doing” anything, and there are full disciplines of embryology and human development.  Psychologists have studied human psychological, cognitive, and moral development (Erikson, Piaget, Kohlberg...).  I believe positive systems for growth, healing, and spiritual development are all inherent within us, both individually and as groups/cultures. (For example, slavery, abuse, and the belief that women or different races or cultural groups are inferior, have gradually been changing over hundreds of years.)  I know personally through my lifetime I keep developing spiritually, and my experience is that God brings some new aspect for me to learn or work on as soon as I’ve finished the last thing.  Awareness and intuition (inner vision, hearing, and knowing, including a sense of being called to something), courage, and a willingness to know that I don’t know and am not perfect and have a lot more to learn, are all important for this type of growth.  This is what makes life exciting and worth living (along with the wonder of the world will all its variety and beauty, and love and joy and peace ...)  And I think this is how we help to tie together heaven and earth, and share it with others.

Thanks for sharing part of your journey and being and learning with me.

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