The natural raw beauty of the Dead Sea and the breath taking views from Metsoke Dragot were the perfect environment for a seminar that was about entering into a process of exploration and discovery. It was as if the creative forces of nature supported, nurtured and infused our inquiry throughout the seminar. From the very beginning it was clear that this seminar was going to be something different.
The training was held in a tent dojo called the “khan”, a large round Bedouin tent, which was sitting at the edge of the cliff overlooking the Dead Sea and Jordan mountains across the water.
This “tent dojo” was by far the most unconventional dojo I have ever been in as it was a large round tent with a shomen in the center. Because of its shape instead of sitting in a traditional straight line we all sat in a large circle which gave a sense of community and contained space.
For the purpose of our inquiry we worked with practice guidelines that supported the weekends exploration. These guidelines were:
2. Suspend judgment
3. Feel yourself (body, heart, mind and spirit)
4. Listen deeply
5. Include others
6. Commit to your highest intention
7. Accept all that is
Although these guidelines can be a challenging practice they proved to be helpful in setting the context of the seminar’s inquiry.
This was an unusual seminar in that it was not about learning “the way things should be”, but rather we all entered a collective exploration into the nature of aikido itself. The very context invited each person to directly discover for themselves the principles that underlie all techniques and practices in aikido. All of us were given permission to come to new understandings and ways of expression in Aikido.
Class by class, as the seminar unfolded, tangible shifts in the collective consciousness could be felt resulting in a release of excitement and joy. And with this release many of us felt the emergance of a greater sense of Aikido’s meaning and potential.
In one class Patrick led us through the “evolution of responses”, in which he showed the hierarchy of responses in the face of conflict. He simplified it into 4 basic types of responses that can come up in conflict:
1. “Oh shit” – the resistance response
2. “OK” – the relaxed and centered response
3. “Oh, wow” – the intuitive response
4. “Oh, thank you” – the co-creative response
Practicing from these different perspectives allowed us to identify our lower tendencies and orient ourselves for making the shift towards our higher potential.
One of the classes I led was on perspectives. It was based on the “I”, “We” and “It” (1st, 2nd and 3rd person) perspectives of Integral Theory. The purpose was to identify how these three perspectives are always available and identify how both individuals and specific aikido styles have a tendency to fixate on one, or two, while giving little attention to the other(s). The purpose of the class was to create the distinction of these three perspectives and then create the ability to freely flow with full awareness between them as needed in the training.
It happened that the Friday of the seminar fell on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Even though it was the shortest day of the year we had a full day a of acitivites with a morning weapons class at 6:30 plus 5 1/2 more hours of training during the day.
But it wasn’t all aikido. On top of the days 6 plus hours of training, that evening we had a very enjoyable “contact improvisation” class taught by Itay Yatuv. Itay is a student at Integral Aikido as well as a teacher at “The Group in Jaffa” (Hakvutsa be Yafo) school of dance. For many this was their first experience of “contact improvisation” which is a method of dance and movement that has its origins in Aikido. Itay’s clear and relaxed teaching style, and his light sense of humor was the perfict way to finish off a full day of training.
After the “contact” class, as a way to aknowledge the longest night of the year, we had a “tribal bonfire” at the edge of the cliff outside the “khan” that lasted late into the night.
Not everyone made it to the weapons class early the next morning, but those that did were greeted with a beautiful sunrise and spectacular view.
We ended he seminar with dialogues in small groups in which all shared what was discovered over the weekend and how the practices touched us personally. It was the common experience of all of us that a great excitement and joy was sparked during this weekend and it has continued to follow us for quite some time after the Dead Sea seminar.
I’m looking forward to the next seminar I’ll be teaching together with Patrick in Cully, Switzerland in May (see Aikido Montreux). Both Patrick and his wife Dominique had a very special time on thier first visit to the Holy Land and I am happy to say that they have agreed to return this December for another “Aikido: Practice and Inquiry” seminar. I hope that you can join us!
More photos: to see many more photos of the Dead Sea seminar go to Olga Vigini’s web album on Picasa here.