Cutting Myself into Shape

Daily practice: standing tall

Thank goodness the sun’s arrived! Today started out misty and cool, bordering on cold. By supper time it was hot and bright, neighbours on both sides were out, and everything was just fine.

I have a bokken (Japanese wooden sword) practice, which I hesitate to do outside in the rain (water and wood, nah, not so good). As a result, I’ve been doing my daily practice inside for a while.

my daily practice of cutting myself into shape

Which way up?

I hadn’t noticed until today that every time I lift the bokken over my head to cut down, I shrink slightly – a slight bend of the knees, a whisper of a shrug. Why? So I don’t poke holes in the ceiling, of course.

It makes perfect sense inside, but not so much outside – and it was clearly shown up today as an unconscious part of the shape that I’m creating. Hah! Got ya!

And now, normal service can resume in the balmy evening air (for those worried about the neighbours, we have a tall fence that they can’t see over). Once again I rise to my full height as I lift the bokken up ready to slice.

More than me

But why do I do this? My bokken enables me to practice being more than myself.

Our peripersonal space is the space so close to us that it fits within our brain’s map of us. In other words, my brain considers that close peripersonal space to be part of me. By extension, tools become part of our peripersonal map too – knives & forks, pens. For professional tennis players, their racquets; for footballers, the ball at their feet.

And for me, I hope, my bokken. Through daily practice, I re-create my map to include the bokken, and the space that it can describe around me – hence being more than myself. Given that we all tend to shrink when under pressure, it’s useful to have a routine in which we practise expanding.

Seeing the future; shaping myself

And, then there is the moment when I hold the bokken out in front of me, focusing along the top of the blade and off into the distance – my body organising its structure and energy around the shape of moving forward with a powerful intention.

Ever heard of people visualising what they want to create? The more life-like and multi-sensory the visualisation, the more likely it is to manifest, goes the theory. So, standing with my bokken pointing towards my intentional target aligns my desire with my body shape, organisation and energy. Visualising with knobs on!

O'Sensei's daily practice with a bokken

Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train ~ Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido.

How’s your shape?

Obviously, I do this in a particular way because of my Aikido training, but I’m sure that the practice is as valid with any straight stick. Imagine someone’s pointing out a bird in the bushes to you, but they just look intensely towards it. Hmm. Now they just point their finger without moving their hand. Hmm, again. Now they extend their arm as they point. My guess is that you’ll see the bird most swiftly and easily the third time.

If you fancy trying this for yourself, find a straight stick about a metre long and hold it out in front of you, as in the images on this page. Move your attention from your body down your arms to your hands, and then along the length of the stick. Really feel – or imagine feeling – your intention coursing along the wood. Then, once you’ve got a sense of that, project from the end of the stick out to some point ahead of you, so that you’re drawing a line from your body through the stick and to the target. Stand for a short while letting your energy flow in that direction.

Repeat this for a week or so, and I guess that you’ll start to feel a subtle flow when you pick up your stick. If that simple daily practice is tied in to a meaningful intention, then that flow will be towards your intention. For the record, my intention is: “I am committed to an abundant and playful life helping others grow their authentic leadership”. I’m still working on it, as it’s a bit wordy. What’s yours?

If you know there’s something that you want to bring to life, but can’t quite name it or don’t know where to start making it happen, I would love to help! I offer group and one-to-one coaching in Leadership Embodiment which uses the body to deepen your capacity to hold true to your intention. Contact me to book a free, no-obligation consultation. I’d love to hear what you’re offering the world.