When our mind is clear we see that everything is possible. We are always prepared.
To all previous and prospective participants in our Seiki Residential Intensives in Southern Spain.
Thank you so much for your interest, understanding and support. You are among the people who keep the Seiki vision alive. To feel a resonance with this work and to follow through with it in your own life is really something to celebrate and to nourish. Many thanks are due here to my two partners in this project, Maria Navarro and Gill Hall.
This year, as last, most of us are feeling very limited in the pursuit of our usual work, not only the study and practice of Seiki, which is normally learned in group encounters and continued through shared exercises and treatments, but in the much wider field of the manual therapies, including Shiatsu. While it did seem right to cancel the Residential in 2020, this year we feel differently…. On reflection it is clear that Seiki offers us a most adaptable, effective and refreshing range of responses to our current situation. The Seiki vision is wide and its practices are simple, spacious and universal enough to support us at this time. Actually, the whole tradition of Eastern philosophy and healing practice is always there, but through Seiki we take it step-by-step, with care and common sense.
Here then is my keynote essay on Ki-do-ma, a guiding principle in Seiki treatment that is also appropriate for these changing times.
The new Corona virus pandemic reflects to us again that we belong to Nature. Humanity is subject to disease and disaster and death just as we are all included in life’s wonders from the moment we are conceived, irrespective of individual destiny. This position can be re-stated – We are nature. We become gradually estranged from this primary experience due to the way our perception is altered through education. Along the winding path to “Civilisation” an increasing sense of separation from Nature befell many ancient peoples, bringing with it permanent existential anxieties. The gods first arose in answer to this dilemma, but in the modern Age of Reason, man’s mastery of nature was the goal and rallying cry. Now this is becoming ever more questionable as the climate crisis looms. How can we regard ourselves as outside or above that which nourishes us?
Because on some deep level we felt separate and estranged we also yearned to belong, but we became mostly stuck with our ancient dilemmas. Trying to reconcile life and death can’t work; they are not opposed*. We cannot successfully pit our “civilised self” against our wild nature. Both exist within us in potential harmony, awaiting our conscious participation in the whole game. We are now receiving an urgent wake-up call, so where can we start? Seiki is a way of guidance, offering a number of helpful traditional practices united by a simple vision, but it’s not the only way. A “Perennial Wisdom” tradition runs like an underground stream, carrying the best of human values and practices, reflecting our potential for a more integrated, creative life on this planet.
The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote simply about life’s great mystery. In his often quoted phrase, “Whoever brought me here will have to take me home”, he was advocating ‘basic trust’, while also expressing the mystical truth that there is no difference between “here” and “home”. Another great master, the Tibetan Llama Chogyam Trungpa also encouraged the practice of basic trust, which arises with the experience of life’s “basic goodness”, life being nothing if not simply good. In Seiki, this was Kishi’s “zero point”. (Sei can mean emptiness as well as harmony). Recognising the continuous present as the only reality, we sit, alone or in company, in a zone of infinite possibilities. We are empty, nowhere and everywhere. Perhaps there is really nothing to be done, yet nothing remains undone. Trungpa says this is the work of the spiritual warrior because we have no props; we can feel naked and exposed. To drop our personal agenda takes a certain amount of courage, but if we persevere we could find it is possible to relax in this bright, clear, spacious situation.
Ki Do Ma refers to the way this philosophical or spiritual ideal is transformed into appropriate action, or “timing”. Being fully present we offer ourselves wholeheartedly to the needs of the moment and action is realised spontaneously. This awareness is attained through discipline and integrated at the bodily level. Effectively the same as Hara training, it is beyond conventional method and can be reached only through practice. Seiki offers us a number of ways to practise. Giving treatment is but one example of particular interest but actually everything springs from Gyoki – contemplating the lived experience of our own breathing-body-mind. We must practice Gyoki first, and this becomes our guide. Whatever we feel in ourselves, in or between our hands, is happening right now. If we don’t feel so much, this is just as valid. Recognising it is what counts.
Then, at one moment we are able to include in our awareness certain feelings for another person, our guest. This feeling, channelled through the hands at first, but engaging the vision too, can be amplified and focussed. We centre our attention on the Hara area of our partner’s body initially because of our discipline. We have to know where and how to begin. We offer one hand only – it’s enough – floating above the Hara: This empty state, this original and complete body-life, a meeting! So then, if we are going to touch, the question is where, when and for how long? Where is the attraction, and when is something finished? We are working with imagination and our thirst for recognition, our desire! Who will receive me, and when? Our feelings can tell us how and when to move; absence of feeling suggests that we wait, do nothing. Something will happen but we have to accept the unknown and the unexpected too. This is what Kishi called Myoto.
Mistakes are included, and we have to allow all our feelings as well – curiosity, empathy, satisfaction, wonder and, equally important, repulsion, disappointment, indifference, even boredom. Negative feelings inform us equally. Appreciating ourselves as nature, art and artist in all that we feel, the quality of our experience is what guides us. It’s as simple as that. If we can’t summon the patience or trust in the guidance of life-movement harmony, again the struggle begins. It is important to recognise this also. We need both humility and perseverance.
This was and will be the theme of our Summer Residential in the beautiful Alpujarra region, basking in Great Nature all around, feeling nourished by nature inside. It is with some sadness but no regret that we decided to “postpone” last year’s residential. We must respond to each moment with our best attention and go with our feelings. To do otherwise puts us out of the game. If the game has changed it is good to know. Our fall-back situation is “Trust in life”. With Basic Goodness every situation is workable. Ki do ma is the discipline of living consciously within the Tao. And this will continue to be our theme going forward……..
Taking a short walk in the woods,
death and decay are everywhere
branching, blossoming, buzzing with life.
Best wishes, and let’s stay in touch.
PS. Let’s just recap on the basic Seiki practices and put them together:
1) Gyoki, or Gassyo Gyoki (breathing through the hands). This practise is a completely
integrated meditation on what I describe as “breathing-body-mind”. It begins with a
particular focus on the hands, these being a most sensitive and highly developed part of our
biological anatomy. We breathe in and out, as it were, through the fingertips and palms,
imagining a pathway opening all the way down through the body to the lower belly. When
we separate the hands a little we can become more aware of the subtle sensations between
them. Breathing by the hands guide us into a more profound level of perception – physical
breathing movements are influenced by a feeling of spaciousness, both outside and inside.
Our skin breathes – we are really connected with our environment. This gives us an entrance
into our interior feelings. Inside us, the field of our emotions and the effects of our thoughts
begin to manifest as movement, as life-force, and merge with the breathing experience. All
this is Ki. Slowly the practise brings heightened self awareness. We discover that we have
many doubts about our natural state and we frequently inhibit ourselves or force ourselves
for no apparent reason. Gyoki is guided by an accompanying idea – It’s not necessary or
helpful to force ourselves. Allow whatever you feel; just take care.
2) Katsugen (spontaneous natural movement). Practices related to Katsugen are integral to
Seiki. Katsugen refers to all natural body movement and the integrated healthy functioning
of the organs and body systems. It is synonymous with the life force acting through us and
spontaneously responding to all environmental influences. “Katsugen practice” in Seiki is a
conscious undertaking in which we use particular exercises to release ourselves from
unconsciously inhibited behaviour and all kinds of habitual attitudes, roles, postures and
ways of thinking, whether we are aware of them or not. Katsugen practices bring us into
contact with our original nature, our true self. Spontaneous movements are encountered, or
rediscovered in the course of this practice. They cannot be predicted or defined, only
recognised and allowed. Old patterns are progressively released. We discover anew the
necessary functions of purification and renewal, in nature and in human endeavour.
3) Practising together (sharing exercise, exchanging treatment, accompanying one another).
When we work and play together as a community, we are just realising our natural human
potential. We are social beings and this is something we can consciously examine and enjoy.
Seiki is a way of furthering our ability to live happily as creative individuals, to understand
our collective needs and collaborate with our fellows in harmony with the natural
environment on which we depend. The group provides a safe and supportive ambience for
our experiments in the healing arts of touch, movement and other expressive forms. Initially
we can work together in pairs to accompany or guide one another in the fundamental
practices. “Ki Culture”, the art of creative living, may then be gradually realised,
rediscovered within the traditions and further developed, freely and without harm.
Extending the creative experience; practising consciously in ordinary life.