Entraining to michihiko, entraining to the universe…

– – – by Kimbal Anderson Sensei

I’ve always thought it interesting to look at scientific ways of alluding to some of the things that we come across in the traditional aspects of training… And if you look at the Wikipedia definition of ‘entrainment’, it’s pretty interesting, because it looks at all the different ways that one object will become connected to another and begin to assume its properties.

The one I like is the one where they have 37 metronomes, and they get them all scrambled, so they’re all ‘clickety-clackety’ and they let them all sit there for a while, and after a while a bunch of them are doing it together, and then almost all of them…  there’s always, of course, the hold-out…

You’ve probably experienced it when you go to a concert that’s really a downer, and everyone’s just kind of “o-o-o-h-h-h-h”… Or you go to a party, and it’s a really good party, and everyone’s like “whoot! whoot!”… Or you’re having a conversation with a group of people and you kind of get on this flow. Tune into this sense of being…

It is not a negative thing. Entrainment is not a negative.

So, when we talk about the concept of entraining aiki: ‘ai‘… ‘ki‘…. becoming one with nature itself… all these giant properties of nature… the seasons… et cetera et cetera. People saw all this stuff for thousands of years, and we’re now just discovering that it’s there…

Well, in the aikido tradition, there are chants and one of them says: ‘rain falls on deep water’…

So you have the ocean – which appears to be itself – and raindrops – which appear to be themselves – and yet these little tiny bits  fall on the big thing and become one with it.

Is the raindrop destroyed?


It becomes-one-with…


The concept of entrainment and movement in here: so if we’re doing kata, and you’re learning to follow the kata instead of trying to perform it. If you’re performing it, you’re fighting the support of the big movement of everyone. Because you’re trying to be autonomous when really you will learn more if you just feel what it’s doing, and let that be potent in your body.

So, I think, the graduation exercise, in this dojo, is when you realize that. When you stop trying to grasp at something, and just be looking at how the properties of nature work: and go “Oh… I want to learn how to really go right into nature, be one with it…”

So you know the days when you have the feeling everything’s exhibiting synchronicity… people say exactly what you were going to say… things start to happen… or you open the phone book and it happens to be this ad for the thing you just said. That’s a kind of entrainment.

And in the world of science, they talk about molecular entrainment: that water is water… that atoms entrain, electrons entrain. Frequencies of wave-forms entrain to each other.

People entrain to each other.

One of the most profound things is that if you’re sleeping next to each other, your hearts will start to beat the same. It’s very interesting! Baby’s hearts, too… You hold them next to you…the mother metronome holds the little metronome next to it… and it hooks up!

So then we look at: ‘what kind of properties to I want to offer to entrain to.’

Crazy?  Because you can get entrained to crazy, too. That’s why people blow themselves up for their god. It’s a kind of entrainment.

So there’s this old chant: “furube, yura yura to furube“… What it’s saying is that you are the thing: you are the universe.

So this is seeing the Earth as a jewel… floating in space… and it’s turning with the universal flow. So it’s entrained to the big universe. And then you come down a level: and there you are: you are entrained to that. And smaller… and still smaller… I think it’s quite profound.

So O’Sensei suggested, that, just training, you’ll entrain to what you’re being offered. So if you’re being offered how to beat someone up, you’ll entrain to that. So, then, part of this is: you need to entrain to wisdom, and start picking things that are quite smart, that are taking you where you want to go.

And then, check to see if you’re resisting and calling it progress.

If you’re doing aiki, you’re going to become masters of entrainment. The entrainment of the strike with the sword, whatever it might be… And any kind of thing where you make yourself separate from your partner isn’t helping you. But to be lost in that joining is also not good.

The essential thing is: “How do I let go?” Be aware, and let yourself entrain to this new state: experience it, do stuff with it, learn from it, make it your own… But don’t make it your own in the sense that it isolates you.

Training should eliminate barriers between yourself and other, between you and the universe, between you and nature, while allowing you the unique perspective that you have. Your thing.

It may be that part of your thing is separation and anger and all that stuff: well, that isn’t going to work out too well. So you’re going to have to kiri-hiraku – cut through that stuff and get rid of the things that aren’t helpful, and keep the things that have a sense of value to you…

…your own virtuous mind.

In this age, being noble or virtuous have been so devalued…

But you’re going to have to pick what you’re going to entrain to.

Which train you’re getting on.

So… our particular Way… what we do in this dojo has a really nice variety and wholeness… there’s all kinds of places for you

to hook into… find one that suits you. But they’re all going to entrain you to something.

So, in aiki we always say: you entrain yourself to the universe, and to particular aspects of the universe, first.

When you get to a certain point in training you’re going to have moments where you feel this connection and this relationship to uke.

As if it’s a vibration, a song. And it’s totally different from what you might expect. And you see how everything’s really working… see what’s underneath what you think it is. And eventually what you think it is and what it really is

will no longer conflict. You can have your individual show, but it still doesn’t conflict with what is.  And then you can work with it.

So I want to play a little bit with that.

And when you do the jo exercise, instead of thinking: “I got that movement. I got  t h a t   movement – check, check, check, number 27, check…” you see, that doesn’t let you move with whoever’s leading. So you’re not learning how to be entrained, which you’ve got to have for good aiki.  And it’s more like a bunch of geese flying. You know, when you see geese flying, they’re like one giant thing: they’re the kami of geese.

So we’re going to play with that for a little bit.

And I invite you to ask yourself: what if your life was effortless.

Imagine that.

A lot of times we get programmed to think it’s supposed to be hard so that we have virtues… we overcome adversity… all these things.

But what if your feeling of living, even though you have all these things you have to work with, is not a struggle.

How about that, for a thing to entrain to?

Doesn’t make you lazy, doesn’t make you ineffective. But you just start letting yourself ease into the flow of things: let the universe help you out… stop being an a**hole… all those things.

All right?

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