Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Sit-ups


Sit-ups are a classic exercise, but again, forget your idea of sit-ups. We’re not here to crunch out six-pack abs, either in terms this course or in the larger sense of our lives and this world.

Because the task is somewhat simple, now is a great opportunity to put everything we’ve learned so far together and go deeper into it. The first step is reminding yourself of what we’ve covered in previous lessons and applying it to sit-ups.

Sitting up is not an exercise! It is not an artificial movement rooted in an idea. It is completely natural and is just something human bodies do when they’re able. Learn to sit up with relaxation, smoothness, and comfort. Sit up while breathing, and with a calm mind.


1. Lay on your back with legs relaxed and sit up using no arms and minimal tension. Try from different positions on the ground and to both sitting on your butt and sitting on the knees, if you can do it.

2. Experiment with legs and arms in space as counterbalances and to help assist sitting up.

3. Maintain continuous movement, from lying down to sitting and back to lying down.


a. Remember the progression from previous exercises. Check yourself in and between movements. Breath into tension and release any excess.

b. Take care not to grind your spine against the hard ground when you go down. Be mindful how you position your body, so softer areas can make contact first and ease your transition to lying down.

c. Study and develop different seated postures to expand the range of seated positions.


Although sitting up is completely natural, it profoundly changes our relationship to the ground. It changes our spinal axis from horizontal to vertical, fundamentally changing our orientation to space, gravity, the earth below and the heavens above.

Various kinds of sitting meditation are a backbone of spiritual traditions around the world. When considering the fundamental postures of lying down, sitting and standing, sitting is a kind of middle point — a position in which our top half is upright, while our bottom half is still firmly on the ground.

Sitting encourages a balance between relaxation and attention, between restfulness and activity. In this orientation, we are invited into deeper inquiry and an expanded dimension of our practice.

So for 10-45 minutes a day just sit in a meditative posture — cross-legged or in a chair, back straight, eyes soft, breathing through the nose. No need to do anything special — just sit there and see what happens when you do this consistently.


Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks, turnovers, crawling, push-ups, and rolls; then spend 1, 2, or 4 minutes doing a variety of continuous sit-ups.


Make sitting up smooth and intuitive from any laying down position to any sitting up position.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Rolls


As children you may have done log rolls or somersaults down a hill, or spun around with joy. There’s something freeing and fun about rolling that we can recapture in practice.

Rolling around on the ground is a primal, healthy instinct that begins with some of our earliest movement. To some extent, we continue this movement regularly when we roll over in our sleep or roll out of bed in the morning. So let’s bring this movement into our intentional practice.

Rolls can be a slightly more technical and challenging than the previous exercises, depending on each person’s body condition, internal tensions, flexibility, and so on. But if you’ve gotten this far, you will be able to do some kind of roll and improve over time.

It’s important to start slowly so the body understands the movements before throwing yourself into more dynamic rolls. All the work we’ve done so far will help. You may be putting yourself into new positions, so make sure you relax yourself. Don’t allow tension to build up. Keep a calm mind and relaxed body as you roll around.


1. Log Roll: Lay on your back, put your arms and legs in the air and move them around slowly to explore how subtle changes in limb position affects movement. With the arms and legs in the air, roll onto side, stomach, side, and back.

2. Back Roll: Do a leg lift, and if you can extend the legs all the way behind your head. From here, turn your head to side and roll over your shoulder, either to your knees or stretching your legs out so you go onto your stomach.

3. Forward Roll: If you were able to complete a back roll, you can literally reverse the movement to understand a basic forward roll. Otherwise, from your knees, reach out with arm, twisting it forward until your palm is flat on the ground and get the back of the same shoulder on the ground. From there, slowly roll over to the opposite shoulder and down the side of the back.

4. Challenge: Combine three types of rolls into one movement.


a. Use very slow rolling to explore balance, control, and relaxation if various positions. See if you can stop and reverse the roll at any point.

b. If your feel you’re stuck and that in order to continue you will have throw yourself forward, some kind of tension is stopping you, often in the lower back. It could be structural and something you have to work with/on. Or it could just be fear — the body doesn’t understand the position and reacts by tensing up. Try breath into the tension, then release and relax as much your can on exhale. See if that allows you to continue the roll.

c. There are more roll variations but practicing these three provide a solid foundation for further exploration.

d. I’ve done my best with the written instructions, and they will serve well as a reminder, but seeing the teaching segment video is really necessary here.


If you ever feel discouraged your practice, that is a good opportunity to examine yourself — your expectations, your hopes, your fears. It all goes very deep into the ideas we have about ourselves and our life.

Why are you doing this practice? What do you expect will happen? What do you expect to get out of it? Why have you sought out this training? In even attempting this, what are you trying to tell yourself. The truth is: we don’t know. We have to persevere in practice to find out.

At times we may get excited about sudden insights and where they might lead. At time we may feel we’re your hopeless and dejected. Whatever happens, don’t get too caught up in emotions. Just see them for what they are and continue to practice with patience and resolve.


Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks, turnovers, crawling, and push-ups; then spend 5 minutes working on your rolls and rolling around on the ground. If you want more, do 10 minutes, or even 20 minutes of continuous rolls.


Roll comfortably and smoothly on a variety of surfaces while increasing relaxation, range of motion, and coordination of movement.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Push-ups


In addition to being a good exercise, so much can be learned from the simple push-up and its endless variations. But forget about maybe 90% of what think of when you think of push-ups. Try to approach this with a real beginner’s mind. The practice here is quite different from what you may be used to.

As with all the exercises, what’s presented here is just what I’m calling Level 1, meaning it’s a place to get you started. Deeper insight takes time and experience. But whatever we are doing in life, we can only experience what we’re experiencing right now, and we can only see what we can see right now. If we engage fully with this moment, then in the next moment we may see something entirely different.

This approach to push-ups is not as an exercise to build upper-body muscular strength. It will do that to some degree, but in end that’s very limited and there are many more aspects of doing push-ups that are much more interesting and beneficial.

When doing these push-ups, we are developing relaxed strength, whole-body strength, spiritual strength. Some hallmarks of this method are coordinating breath and movement and using only enough tension to accomplish the task. In this way, we are still looking to maximize relaxation in the movement. We’re just making the movement a little bit harder. :)


1. Get into a push-up position. If you need to, go from your knees, making sure to relax the lower part of the legs. As you inhale, start to go down. Note how the tension builds and at about half-way, exhale, releasing as much tension as you can as you continue the rest of the way down. Then go up the same way, inhale and start pushing up. Note the tension building and at about half way, exhale as much tension as you can as you push the rest of the way up.

2. Next, do a few push-ups where on the inhale you go all the way down and on the exhale you push all the way up. And try the reverse, exhaling down and inhaling up. Try not to let tension build up in the movement. Check yourself to see that you aren’t tensing your muscles more than you need to keep form and go up and down.

3. Now, try some freestyle variations. With each push-up, change your hand and feet/knee positions. Breath freely with the movement, as needed, making sure you are never holding your breath


a. Don’t be worried about how many push-ups you can do, especially at the beginning. If you focus on numbers, you will not pay attention to body alignment, breathing, and tension. You will end up sacrificing quality practice for achieving a number.

b. Treat the push-ups as part posture exercise — making sure head, neck, back, and hips are in alignment — and in part relaxation under pressure exercise.

c. Make breathing primary by engaging breath before movement, by focusing attention on the breath rather than muscles, and by inhaling into tension and exhaling excess tension.

d. Don’t do so many push-ups that you over-strain yourself. And don’t do so few that you aren’t challenging yourself. The push-ups are designed to put pressure on the body and psyche. You have to work.


Pay attention to how your mind responds to doing push-ups. Do you resist working hard? Do you have negative thoughts? These are just more forms of tension. Inhale into them and release the thoughts as you exhale.

Usually the inhibiting factor is not the capacity of the body to do more push-ups. We are limited more by a buildup of resistance in the mind. Clear the mind of all negativity, and see how much easier the push-ups become.

If you’re having a particularly difficult time, you can work on taming the mind by repeating an internal prayer or mantra. If you don’t know what to say, try the words “Lord have mercy.” It’s pretty neutral and captures the feeling of surrendering your self and the situation to a higher power.


Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks, turnovers, and crawling; then spend 1 minute on the ground doing push-ups. For deeper practice double the times to 2 or even 4 minutes of steady-paced push-ups.


Maintain calm, clear mind and relaxed body, while under the pressures created by doing push-ups.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Crawling


Crawling is a rich area of practice, and in some ways our first two lessons can be seen as preparatory for crawling. They help the body form a proper foundation for further ground movement.

The term crawling here refers not to a specific repetitive movement, but for all low movement across the ground. It is a kind “walking” across the ground using any and all body parts, including the spine, shoulders, hips, forearms, legs, et cetera. Because crawling activates all the different body parts independently and within the whole, this is fundamental work for developing all further movements. A lot of time can be spent developing soft, smooth, free, joyful movement on the ground.

Most types of movement training focus on giving you specific sequences of moves or even sequences of muscle activation, while paying no attention to the internal state from which the movement arises. Our practices here are not about teaching you specific movements or sequences, so much as helping you find internal states optimized for discovering freedom. It’s important to plant this seed and recognize that whatever your current range of motion or physical ability, you are able to engage in this practices. Each person’s crawling may look different, but the important work is happening inside, and is gauged more in terms of contrast and quality than form.


1. Start slowly by lifting up different parts of the body, stretching them out or drawing them it, and then move the whole body by bringing these parts back to more neutral positions. Vary your crawling by changes in direction, orientation, and amplitude.

2. Initiate movement on inhale, then extend or complete movement on exhale. Pay particular attention to comfort (no bones banging against hard surfaces) and relaxation (no tension buildup).

3. Work toward continuous, sustained, non-broken movement with steady breathing that adjusts to maintain even tone. That means breathing rate or intensity increases if the crawling becomes more vigorous.


a. As with previous drills it is good to practice on a variety of surfaces. Crawling comfortably on hard wood will require slightly different movement than crawling comfortably on carpet, and again when crawling on a pile of rocks.

b. Work toward coordinating breath and movement, so they support each other. To start, engage the breath just before the movement of the body, and make make sure the breathing is not interrupted by movement.

c. When we first begin crawling, we think about and perform one movement, then another, then the next, and so on. Work toward continuous movement by eliminating the separations between thoughts and movements, so it’s all just one movement. We’ll go deeper into this topic in Level 2.

d. To ground yourself, get on the ground and crawl around a little every day!


If you gradually lower the amplitude of your crawling while looking inward, and keep going until there is no outward movement at all, you may notice there is still continuous movement inside the body. You may detect myriad sensations shooting through the body, like electrical impulses prompting potential movements in various direction.

Additionally, as you inhale the the body expands; as you exhale it contracts. And parts of the body are also expanding and contracting independently. The heart is beating and blood is pulsing. The stomach and intestines are digesting and so on.

With breathing, if the body expands or contracts with perfect symmetry, we stay in one place and feel no direction. But if this fundamental movement breaks symmetry, expanding more on the right than the left, for example, suddenly we may feel a direction for movement.

Usually we think we are the origin of our movement. But we are only looking on the surface, content to reassure our egos that we are in control. Look deeper. What is beyond the electrical impulses? What is beyond the breath? See if you can find the source and origin of all movement.


Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks and turnovers; Then spend 10 minutes on the ground working on crawling. For deeper practice double the times to 20 or even to 40 minutes of continuous crawling.


Understand and maintain comfortable, continuous, fluid movement on the ground, without tension buildup or injury.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Turnovers


Today we’re going to work on turning over. As I said in the introduction, the basics will seem very simple at first. To see the fruits of these practices, it’s important to commit to doing them with regularity, and to engaging in an active inquiry into the task at hand with a genuine interest in discovery.

Here are some examples of the kind of questions you can ask yourself: How can I make my movement smoother? Am I relaxed? What resistance do I feel to moving on a hard surface? Is my breathing continuous or are there interruptions? How much residual tension am I holding from one movement to the next? Why do I feel bored or anxious?

We’re just getting started, but these basic exercises and the attitude of inquiry that goes with them are fundamental to the process as we go forward. Eventually, within these very simple activities, it’s possible to find infinite depth and great insight.


1. Lie down on the ground and get comfortable.

2. On the inhale or exhale, turn over, front to back, side to side, by leading with different parts of the body. For example start the movement with a hand, elbow, shoulder, foot, knee, hip, or the head, chest, back, and so on. The rest of the body follows, like links in a chain being pulled by the part that initiates the movement.

3. Check yourself to make sure that small amounts of residual tension aren’t being held between movements, or building up over a series of movements. If necessary, slow down and take a few breaths at each stop to ensure maximum relaxation.


a. This exercise is an extension of Lesson 1 and the two exercises go together. One focuses on finding maximum relaxation in a variety of static positions, and the next focuses on moving smoothly between these positions without any buildup of tension.

b. Just like Ground Checks, it’s good to try this practice on different surfaces: hard wood, tile, concrete, carpet, mats, dirt, rocks, inclines, et cetera, and to add a variety of obstacles.

c. Mold your body to the ground, being careful to move in such a way that soft body part contact hard surfaces and bony parts are not knocked against hard surfaces. Any pain or discomfort is telling you something. Don’t ignore it.

d. Again this can be used as a bit of a warm-up or as the primary focus of practice.


Turning over smoothly is not just a matter of relaxation. Relaxation will help you to feel what’s going on inside yourself. But don’t stop there.

Usually, there are spikes in localized muscle tension throughout our movement. There are also spikes in psychological tension when we decide to move, initiate movement, and if we experience any discomfort or inhibition.

To turn over smoothly, all these various tensions have to be ironed out and redistributed throughout the body, the mind, and the movement. Relax and slow down so you can notice tension spikes and jerky movement. Allow any tensions that arise to spread out over larger and larger areas, even beyond the body and the mind. Eventually this can lead to insight into how to move and live without any tension at all.


Every day for 1 week, spend 10 minutes working on ground checks and turnovers. For deeper practice double the times to 20 or even again to 40 minutes.


Again, maintain focus on the work. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the work at hand. Each time you turnover, check yourself to see that no tension is building up during or between movements. Inhale into tension and exhale release, just as in Lesson 1.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Ground Checks



Our journey begins with getting comfortable on the ground. When I teach movement-based practice, I often have people start on the ground, then progress to standing up, and at the end we often move back to the ground.

The pattern reflects our experience in life. In the morning we wake up lying down, we progress to standing, go about our day, and at night we lie back down again to sleep. Likewise, in the whole of our life, we begin as infants on the ground, we wiggle around, move a little, turn over, crawl, sit up, eventually stand up, walk, run, and so on. We go about all the activities of our life, for days, weeks, months, years, decades … and at the very end of our life, we lay back down on the ground. Again, in each moment, thoughts, emotions, and sensations rise up within awareness, run their course, and subside again.

This is the natural progression of activity and life. So it makes sense — for health, for relaxation, for fitness, for joy, for inquiry, and for spiritual clarity — that our practice reflects this pattern in various ways.

In this first lesson, we’re going to work on just getting comfortable on the ground. This is important as way to calm the mind and prepare the body for movement. It’s a matter of making friends with the earth and our environment, and of beginning the process of letting go our tensions and fears.



1. Lie down on the ground and get comfortable. Inhale into any tension you have, then exhale and relax. Scan your body for any residual tension and try to release it by inhaling into the tension and releasing on exhale.

2. On the inhale or the exhale, move to a different position and repeat Step 1.

3. Do this with as many different positions as you can. Start with lying on your back, each side, and stomach. Then continue with multiple variations in each of the basic positions. See how many possibilities you can find, and how comfortable you can get.


a. You should try this practice on different ground surfaces. A hardwood floor, a tile floor, carpet, grass, rocks, dirt, and so on, all give different feedback. Somewhat hard and uncomfortable surfaces give great feedback.

b. Continue by adding an obstacle or obstacles — a rock, a child’s toy, sticks, whatever — and continue the practice by lying on them in various positions.

c. If you want to focus on the this practice, treat the practice as a meditation exercise. Start by focusing on the relaxation aspect, then move on to more observation and manipulation-based inquiry. What inhibits deeper states of relaxation? How can these obstacles to relaxation be removed?

d. This practice can also serve to just calm down and get ready before more active and intense movement or practice.



As you work on these practices, just when you think you’re completely relaxed, you may discover a deeper tension. It’s like a web, sort of holding yourself together. It may feel like if you released that tension, your body would come apart. It may feel like you’re on the edge of a precipice, and if you fully relaxed you would fall.

Remember, when doing ground checks your body is safely on the ground, at one with the earth. It will not come apart or fall. This deeper tension is more like an idea of yourself that you’re holding onto. If you wish to let go of it, give yourself permission to come apart or to fall. Inhale into it … and let go.


Every day for 1 week, spend 5 minutes working on ground checks. For deeper practice double the times to 10 or even to 20 minutes.


Maintain focus on the work. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the work at hand. With each inhale, try to identify tensions and patterns of tension in the mind and body. With each exhale, try to let go of those tensions.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Introduction


Welcome to this series of level 1 practice guides. These exercises have an emphasis on relaxation, mobility, insight, and self-inquiry. The practices will seem very simple at first. But each contains the potential for deeper and deeper inquiry into the body, the mind, the world, and the self.

There will be twelve core lessons, and a few supplementary lessons tying things together. Each lesson will have a video introduction, a video teaching segment, and accompanying written materials, including step by step instructions, notes, training routines, and objectives.

To learn more about my background and approach to practice, visit my website (matthewlowes.com) or read the Practices section of my book, That Which is Before You. I hope you enjoy the guides. See you for the first lesson. :)


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Preview


I’m going to be putting out a series of video practice guides. With my regular class on hiatus, I wanted to provide some direction for my students as well as reach out to a larger audience. This training may appeal to people interested in movement in general, including martial arts, yoga, or dance, as well meditation and self inquiry.

The lessons will be sequential and progressive, so anybody jumping onboard should start at the beginning. The video lessons will come out Wednesdays, with accompanying written materials. Each lesson can cover a week of daily practice, but the series can also serve as a guide for self-paced practice, especially once you’ve worked through it once.

In some ways, what I’m teaching has its roots in my Systema training and exposure to various meditation, health, and spiritual practices. Since the content is meant for people with broad interests, I’m just calling it a Mind-Body Practice — but even that is too limiting. It can be approached as movement practice, health practice, or meditation practice. However you like. But ultimately, what I’m teaching is a holistic practice as an aide to self realization. In the end, there are no limits to this practice; it is what you discover within yourself.


I want to thank Kaizen Taki of Movement Daily, as well as Vladimir Vasiliev, Konstantine Komorov, and the larger Systema community, without whom I would not have been exposed to this type of training.


preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

A Mystical View of Current Events

A friend asked me how I was feeling about current events. He asked what a mystic sees in all this, and how I walk within this “painful human dynamic.” It’s a good question, and a difficult one to answer with words, because it calls for an account of the absolute while bearing in mind a relative world focused on present change. Here’s what I wrote:

It’s heartbreaking when I see people gripped by fear, aggression, despair, and suffering. It’s uplifting when I see them embrace courage, hope, friendship, and selflessness in the midst of uncertainty. But from a spiritual perspective, what’s going on and the stakes involved are no different now than they have always been. Delusion and ignorance are the source of suffering. When there is great delusion, there is great suffering. That’s nothing new. It’s been going on for a long time.

The mystical view is one of absolute unity, without any division or separation whatsoever. There is nothing but that unity, that limitless One. All phenomena, including one’s own body, one’s mind, one’s thoughts, the world, others, all things and events, all of time and space, appear — dream-like — within that. Behind it and through it always and everywhere is this limitless reality of being. So while great change may erupt around us — whatever it is — it is not other than divine.

I read a piece by Buddhist teacher Alex Kakuyo recently that said “The world is both a land of suffering and a wish-fulfilling jewel.” And that’s a good way of putting it. The relative and the absolute are not separate. So although delusion is the source of suffering, it is this very suffering that turns us toward the truth, puts us on the path, and leads us to that which is beyond all things.

For any individual at any given time, this turning toward the truth may happen in a very small way, like a whisper one barely hears, tries to ignore, or even actively pushes away. But once truly heard, the sacred fire is lit. And this thirst for truth, when followed, leads all to a heaven that is both this very world and beyond it.

Nothing bad happens when we regard all beings with compassion and see their actions in this light. So I pray for all people to hear that whisper, that call to the truth. I pray that whatever suffering they endure shows them the next step on their spiritual journey, and that they may keep walking, all the way to the end, to realize the great love and the great perfection that is always with us.

Reflection on the Nature of Aikido

I have been practicing Aikido, in one way or another, for 30 years. For all those years, I had one fundamental question about Aikido: What is it? Of course, it’s a martial art, but it’s concerned with much more than fighting, so there’s a lot of mystery and confusion about what exactly it is and why or how to practice. I had many excellent teachers, but I never asked them this question. Somehow I knew that no answer would satisfy me, that I would have to find out for myself. Like many, I went through periods when I had some insights and held this idea or that idea about what Aikido was and how to develop it. And I followed those ideas wherever they led, even when they lead outside the realm of what was being taught in the Aikido dojo, including practicing Systema for fifteen years.

In 2016, I had a sudden, unexpected, and profound spiritual awakening that instantly transformed my perception of reality. I wrote a whole book about that — but let’s just say it was the culmination not just of my training, but of the entire path and circumstances of my life. The clarity that blossoms in the aftermath of such an awakening is beyond imagination. So if I ask myself “What is Aikido?” now, I can answer without reservation. Please take my answer for what it is — a sign post, pointing in the direction I have gone. There is no substitution for practice and experience, and nothing is really realized unless it is realized for oneself.

Let me start with this: everything is fundamentally one thing — although it’s not really a thing because there is nothing else. This oneness is always in harmony with itself. There are no real conflicts within it, and there is no outside of it. What’s seen as a conflict at one level, is harmony at a higher level. And since oneness admits no levels at all, both conflicts and levels are illusory. There is just this one great divine harmony, which is reality itself. What is seen as the separate self — the source of all conflict — is nothing but this great divine harmony. And all notions that we are not that, are just more illusory conflicts.

Aikido, as most practitioners know, means harmony-ki-way. This is sometimes interpreted as a way of “harmonizing ki” or “harmonizing with ki.” That’s okay to begin with, but ultimately those ideas will keep you separate and in the realm of illusory conflicts that need harmonizing. Many Aikido practitioners are merely in a struggle to develop subtler and subtler skill or stronger and stronger technique. That’s not bad, but it has no end, and does not in itself lead to great harmony. For as long as you are struggling to harmonize something or with something, you are in fact in the midst of conflict.

Aikido is a practice for realizing what is already eternally harmonious. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, said “I am the universe!” not “I can harmonize with the universe.” Realizing unity removes all separation and instantly reveals total harmony, regardless of skill or events. So in the end, the technical aspects of Aikido are beside the point when it comes to this great realization. That may seem like a disappointment to those seeking mastery, but it doesn’t mean skill has only practical value or none at all. Aikido is a vehicle for inquiry, insight, and realization. As such, we can enjoy it, learn from it, teach with it, and pass it on to others. In time, they may develop skill as well, but more importantly, they may realize the truth within Aikido.

O-sensei’s words, “I am the universe!” are not a boast, nor a metaphor. It is true for everyone, but few realize it. O-sensei had great skill, of course, but his true gift was that he realized the source of his power was not himself. True power can only be realized by surrendering the separate self and all its illusory sources of power. True power is to always be at peace with what is, regardless of circumstances. One who has realized that power — even if beaten or killed — cannot be defeated.

So if you look for Aikido in soft, subtle technique, you will not find it. If you look for Aikido in strong martial technique, you will not find it. If you look for Aikido in philosophies and so on, you will not find it. But do not stop looking! There is a oneness and a harmony so profound that the separate mind cannot imagine it. So look everywhere, within and without. Train relentlessly, wherever the path takes you — until at last you realize there was never any conflict to begin with. There, you will find the spirit of great harmony … there you will find an invincible peace.