After our bow-in in the adult class, we do a series of 3 meditations coupled with physical movements as part of the Furitama. These meditations have their roots in Shinto, the native Japanese spiritual tradition, and are part of O’Sensei’s class-opening practice toward the end of his life.
Amterasu No O-Kami
Amterasu was the sun of Japanese mythology. One of the stories in the Nihonshiki (the Japanese myth cycle) is bout the sun becoming disgusted with the world and shutting herself away, and how the other gods draw her back out into the world again.
This exercise uses the breath to stoke the fires of the body, to fill the body with ki, with life, to prepare us for training – but sometimes to draw out our inner fire again which has gone to hide, disgusted by the difficulties of the world.
O-Harai Do No Kami
O-Harai means “Great Purification”. The first purification in Japanese mythology was a great waterfall, and a misogi – a ritual cleansing. Aikido is a misogi practice. It’s meant to purify the body, the heart, the spirit, to make us more clear, better human beings.
Just like clothes get dirty when we wear them out in the world, our spirits also get dirty: little remarks left unaddressed, sadnesses and rages unexpressed, parts of ourselves we reject because others find them difficult. Just like our clothes are not bad when they get dirty, the same with ourselves: we just need to clean up a bit.
In the O-Harai meditation, we imagine a waterfall, or a powerful rain or some other irresistible force pounding down through us. Standing in a waterfall is intense – you are pounded by the water so that any spare effort becomes unthinkable, you have to both surrender to the pounding water and hold on to your core.
In this part of the furitama, we try to relax, to let everything fall away but that bright core we stoked in the first meditation.
Ame No Minakanushi No Kami
This is the meditation of the hara, the center, of the first thing.
When we move from our hearts, we become entangled in things, because feelings are clingy. When we move from our body alone, we are weak and easily injured. When we move from our thoughts we lack relationship to others and often end up getting hit in the face (in reality in practice, and figuratively in life).
The center incorporates the self and the surround together. The center does not cling or overreach or disconnect. Moving in this way, our center is our strength, so the heart can relax and feel everything that is happening, and the mind can relax from all its hard labors and perceive the detail of what is happening, drawing with its enormous capacity the (somewhere between 10,000 and 4 billion) impressions every moment that it absorbs.