Intentionality

Another element of the process of developing empowerment and wholeness has to do with intentionality. Intention is the process that shapes posture, movement, and action. Helping people directly experience the intentional foundations of their actions is a way of both moving them to take responsibility for their responses and showing them how to improve their responses.

To create an operational definition of "intention," I put something, a pencil for example, down about three meters in front of a student and I instruct her/him to want it. I ask the student to actually intend to go over and get the pencil. It must be an authentic wanting. It must be felt in the body.

"Wanting" does not mean either just thinking about or actually going and getting the pencil. It is a sincere somatic sensation of desire. Most people can create an authentic feeling of wanting when they focus on it, though many need some personal guidance to home in on it. What I'm after is just letting the body experience the wanting and react to it naturally and spontaneously.

Once people can establish this feeling, they usually feel themselves "involuntarily" tipping toward the pencil. For most people, this movement will be a small drift toward the pencil, perhaps a third of a centimeter or so, though some people will actually move quite a bit. Most people will feel as though the pencil were a magnet gently drawing them towards it. (Some people will move away from the pencil, which usually is an expression of some need to reject their own desires).

When you have an image of a movement and intend to execute the movement, your brain sends nerve impulses to the muscles which will do the movement. The muscles can act with a range of force, from a barely perceptible tensing to an all-out clenching. However, even below the range of what is barely perceptible to most people, there is still physical activity, the faintest stirrings of the muscles. You could call these faint, normally imperceptible tensings "micromovements." All you have to do is wish to begin moving in some direction and your body will begin to do that movement, either at a microlevel or in larger, more obvious ways.

The pencil-wanting exercise is a way to help people begin to feel and notice the micromovements which are the small beginnings of the action of going to get the pencil. The point of helping people notice this unbroken continuum from thought to movement is to give them a clear realization that there is no separation between the mind and the body. Intending something is the beginning of doing it. And underlying every action, is the intent to do that action, though people are not often aware of the volitional foundations of their actions. (To be more precise, every complex action has an intentional foundation. Simple reflex movements do not arise from intentions.) Experiencing the intentional foundations of action moves people in the direction of taking responsibility for the things they do.

Beyond that, working on the subtle level of intentionality (in addition to the more obvious elements of breath, posture, and movement) is helpful in replacing ineffective actions with more effective ones. By noticing the first faint stirrings of the decisions to execute habitual, ineffective actions, and replacing them with the intentions to execute more effective actions, people can practice and learn better response habits.

Underlying all the work I do on breath, posture, movement mechanics is an ideal which describes optimal intentional functioning. As a general rule, we function most effectively when the mindbody is in a symmetrical, expansive state.

The Six Directions Breathing exercise is a way of practicing the intention of expansiveness. I have people sit quietly with their eyes shut. First they adjust their posture and breathing. Next they inhale into the core of their body just below the navel. And as they exhale, they employ a regular progression of directing their breath outward into the six cardinal directions. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, with one breath for each directional focus, they gently exhale down, up, right, left, forward, backward, and then they exhale in all six directions at once.

This exercise is a way of practicing keeping an open, even, symmetrical, expansive awareness of the whole body. More than that, it is a way of contacting the feeling of being fully in the world. Any fear, anger, helplessness etc. produces dim spots or twists and asymmetries in the feeling of the body's field of energy/attention. Finding those gaps in the field and breathing life back into them is a way of remembering to live fully in the body, in the present, in the world. One can do the exercise projecting simultaneously from the heart as well as the belly, enlarging the focus to include love as well as power.

This breathing exercise is helpful because it gives people a sense of the fundamental level at which choice or intention operates to structure the body and behavior. It gives them a tool for practicing different ways of being. And as they build up skill with this tool, they can use it unobtrusively during challenging situations to interrupt old patterns and substitute new, more effective ones.

Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

Ancient Philosophy Of Aikido

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