Tonglen and Antiracism Practice

posted Sep 30, 2020, 9:06 AM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Sep 30, 2020, 11:13 AM ]

by Phlaurel Strand-Crawford

For several weeks now, we have been coming together to apply our training to the changes required in creating justice and cultural transformation. In this class, we study the Buddhist practice of tonglen, exploring it as both a meditation practice and an ethic we can bring to our antiracism efforts. As we grow together in awareness and capacity, we learn how to apply this practice in our intentions, relationships, and daily actions.

In a very simplified approach, the tonglen practice of sending-and-receiving can be felt as a heart-level version of the improv technique of “Yes. And...” When we allow the “Yes” to be a complete inhale of everything that is so in this moment, inclusive of every aspect of suffering as it exists, we practice the abiding compassion at the heart of tonglen. We practice really letting that in, without rushing to fix or rejecting any part of it. Then, letting this rest at center, we are free to offer what's next: “And...” Exhale. This “And” rides on the out-breath, an offering of lovingkindness & generosity, a gift freely given that can help build what is to come. Practicing this in simplicity, within our class and throughout daily life, we cultivate access to fuller presence with the cultural transformations in process. We can grow our capacities for honestly engaging with what is painful, while freeing up our agency to offer something new in the next moment, from the heart.

As we apply this ethic to our moment in history, we are finding increased resilience & tolerance for the work at hand. Letting the practice grow us, we gain tools for disrupting habits that have perpetuated structures of white supremacy within & without, and we find greater availability to the places where our own choices can make a difference.

Here is one sample exercise from our weekly suggested practices: 11-Minute Tonglen Guided Meditation

I invite you to try on this practice for a moment, a day, a week; and I would love to hear from your experience. As always, we learn together in the arts of change, and we train that we may be in Harmony with the Universe. In leading this class, my co-facilitator Welge Sensei and I offer own learning edges, trusting the growth that comes of training together. This endeavor is one layer of evolution in a many-layered conversation. Please be in touch if you'd like to join the conversation from here.

Living the Shokushu: The Way to Union with Ki

posted Jul 14, 2020, 12:47 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Jul 14, 2020, 1:19 PM ]

by Kirsten Welge

3. The Way to Union with Ki
The absolute Universe is One. We call this Ki. Our lives and our bodies are born of the Ki of the Universe. We study thoroughly the principles of the Universe and practice them. We are one with the universe. There is no need to despond, no need to fear. The way we follow is the way of the Universe which no difficulty nor hardship can hinder. Let us have the courage to say “If I have a clear conscience and a calm spirit, I dare to face courageously any obstacle I may encounter."
--Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei

Since February 2020, we've seen massive changes to routines of daily life:
  • In March, we learned of the devastating impact of COVID in close quarters indoors. In response, we shifted weekly classes onto Zoom, featuring meditation and hitori waza. 
  • In April, our seminar with Shaner Sensei was cancelled.
  • In May, we learned that the documented transmission rate was effectively zero for outdoor interactions with masks and spatial distancing. In response, we invited our members to practice jo in South Saint Anthony Park once a week.
  • In June, our cities were rocked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some of us joined the peaceful protests; all of us were impacted by the injustice, the unrest, and loss of familiar landmarks. Amid smoke, sirens, and helicopters, we reached out to one another, practicing connection in the midst of uncertainty and fear. 
  • By mid-June, we agreed: it did not make sense to pay for an indoor space we could not use for the indefinite future. And once again, our community rose to the challenge. Dojo members showed up separately to pack up our library, jo, bokken and small items. Together, wearing N95s and spatially distanced, we moved the tatami and subflooring out of the space the dojo has called home for 14 years.

As of July 1, our dojo no longer has an address -- but it has not ceased to be. Our dojo is our community. Our practice space is now the world. 

Seen in light of our training, these events point directly to our interdependence and truth of our situation: We are one with the universe. Knowing this, there is no need to fear what happens next. We can face obstacles with a resilient heart and unshakable spirit. We can move freely, and use the great power that is naturally ours.

For now, we meet outside for our regular classes. We meet online on Tuesdays for tonglen practice, focused on applying Ki principles to antiracism in daily life. We offer Community Ed classes online, including Falling Safely and Oneness Rhythm Exercise. Our dojo members continue to explore new opportunities for sharing these principles to support our neighbors and our cities. And, we will celebrate the completion of 14 years in this space, and begin to look ahead to what we wish to create next, with a community gathering later this month.

Although the shape and form of our training has shifted dramatically, I see our commitment as individuals to our training and the dojo community is strong. Through all these changes, I see trust growing in our training, and in each other. We are part of the dynamic universe, part of great Nature. When we have a clear conscience and calm spirit, we notice what is important, and respond naturally and appropriately. As we train together, we are connected to each other, and can support each other well in keiko and shugyo. And, we trust that in time, another dojo space will arise that meets the needs of our growing community.

In the meantime, we'll keep training together.

Creating our Next Chapter

posted Jul 14, 2020, 12:36 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Jul 14, 2020, 1:18 PM ]

July 14, 2020, marks the 14th Anniversary of The Center for Mind-Body Oneness--our "Golden Birthday." Since we opened our doors in 2006, hundreds of people have taken classes with us, dozens have trained for many years and earned rank in Ki-Aikido, and several have earned black belts and begun leading their own classes and programs. In addition to the roughly 10,000 hours of classes we have had over the past 14 years, our studio has been host to birthday celebrations, game nights, movie screenings, dinner parties, and even sleep overs. It has been a good home to us as we have grown and developed together.

We often refer to the space we practice in as the dojo. But it has always been the community that makes the dojo, not the space. Since we suspended our use of the studio in mid-March, we have continued to connect and practice Ki Principles together as a community even as we make dramatic adjustments to many aspects of our daily lives.

This summer, we are practicing taiso and weapons in the park, offering daily guided meditation, and running online classes to apply our training to addressing structural inequity in our broader communities. I am grateful to be part of such a resilient community dedicated to enhancing our own and others wellbeing.

Meanwhile, it is unclear when we will be able to resume indoor, in-person classes again. We expect that it will still be some months, and perhaps as much as a year before normal contact indoor Aikido practice is wise. Meanwhile, the new owners of 550 Vandalia St. have been taking advantage of reduced traffic in the building to move ahead with significant renovations and updates. While we have gotten no official word, it appears likely that rent will increase significantly in the near future—which would be a burden to us even under normal circumstances.

Given all this, the core community of the dojo has decided to start creating the next chapter for Minnesota Ki-Aikido. Over the past 27 years, the school has had three different long-term homes—with just over half of that time in our current studio. It's been a good run.

During the last two weeks of June, our community came together at the studio for a final time to carefully disassemble the dojo and place it in storage. The mats, sprung sub-floor, dressing room shelves, Nafudakake (name board), and shomen were packed to await their next home.

This summer, we will begin the conversation about what we wish to create for the future. This is an opportunity to explore not only what kind of physical space we want for our dojo, but also what kind of business structure and governance we feel best reflects and supports our training and our community. I look forward to making this journey together with you.

To all of you who offer financial support to the dojo, thank you. Your donations are what kept our doors open for the past 14 years and enabled us to reach so many people. The dojo not only has been able to cover operating expenses, but has also built up some savings. All the donations that we receive in this time that we are not paying rent will go to building that savings—and creating the next home for Minnesota Ki-Aikido.

warm regards,

Practice in the Park

posted Jun 7, 2020, 2:51 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Sep 26, 2020, 8:58 AM by Jonathan Poppele ]

As we move toward summer, we will be gathering for informal practice in the park in place of some of our online evening classes.

Since the beginning of physical distancing measures last spring, understanding of the spread of the novel coronavirus has continued to develop. It is becoming increasingly clear that most transmission is happening indoors where people are either in close proximity or sharing space for extended periods of time. Transmission outdoors appears to be extremely rare. For an excellent discussion of this, check out this widely shared blog post by Erin Bromage, a professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at Dartmouth. Marty Makary of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health put it this way to the New York Times: “The outdoors is not only good for your mental state, it’s also a safer place than indoors.” Many experts are now promoting moving typically indoor activities outdoors—while wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.

Here are the details:

What: Gatherings will focus on movement, beginning with joint mobility and proceeding to Jo and Bokken practice -- which naturally supports social distancing!

When: Sundays 2:00 - 3:30pm; Wednesdays & Fridays 6:00 - 7:30pm (updated 9/27)

Where: South St, Anthony Park, located near the dojo at 890 Cromwell Ave, St Paul, MN 55114
Click here for Google map and directions
We are meeting in the eastern corner of the park.

What to Bring:
I encourage you to dress in workout pants and a t-shirt, what we call "Training Clothes" at Ki Society HQ. Gi and hakama are not ideally suited to practice on grass or to commuting, and there is nowhere to change. Please wear whatever you feel are appropriate foot coverings for moving about on grass in a public park where people walk their dogs and where the lighting is poor. Please bring a Jo & Bokken if you have them. We will have weapons available for you to borrow for class or to take home on long-term loan. Finally, please wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Changes due to Weather:
With a shift to outdoor gatherings, we may move a class back online in the event of rain or other inclement weather. We will send out email and text notifications using by 4:00pm (at least two hours before practice). Notifications will also appear on the Minnesota Ki Society Facebook page. To sign up for notifications, either:

Text fudoshin to 84483 or
Click this link and follow the instructions

Here are more details about signing up for notifications:

For SMS mobile phone notifications only, just text fudoshin to 84483 
To confirm you can receive texts from the service, text TEST to 84483 
You can stop receiving notifications, reply STOP to any message.

To sign up online, Click this link
Enter an email address or 10-digit mobile phone number
Agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
(TLDR: does not share any user information except as required by law)
A validation code will be sent to the email or phone you entered. Confirm the validation code and you are all set.

Spring Seminar with Shaner Sensei: April 24-26

posted Mar 3, 2020, 10:28 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Mar 3, 2020, 10:35 AM ]

We are delighted to host Eastern Ki Federation Chief Instructor Shaner Sensei, 8th Dan, for our Spring Seminar this April 24-26. The theme of the seminar is "Setsudo: Teaching the Way of the Universe."

In this 100th Anniversary year of Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei's birth, Shaner Sensei will draw on his lifetime of training to share with us about the legacy of our founder. Please join us for this very special weekend of training.

Dr. David Shaner is a direct student and former uchideshi of Tohei Sensei with over 50 years of experience in Aikido and Ki Development. He is also professor emeritus of Philosophy and Asian Studies at Furman University in Greenville, SC, and is a former World Class downhill skier. Shaner Sensei has a deep understanding of Tohei Sensei’s teachings and is superb at presenting these teachings to Westerners. He is the Chief Instructor of the Eastern Ki Federation, holds Hachidan (8th degree black belt) in Ki-Aikido and Okuden rank in Shinshin Toitsu Do (Ki Development).

Seminar Schedule:

Friday, April 24
6:00 – 8:00   Ki & Aikido Class
8:00 – 10:00  Social at the dojo

Saturday, April 25
9:00 – 12:00  Ki & Aikido Class
                    Lunch Break
1:30 – 4:00    Ki & Aikido Class
6:00 – 9:00    Dinner & Social

Sunday, April 26
9:00 – 12:00   Ki & Aikido Class

Download the seminar flyer and registration form here.

Edgework & Somatic Regulation

posted Jan 29, 2020, 12:03 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Mar 3, 2020, 9:28 AM ]

Special Half-Day Workshops by Strand-Crawford Sensei
Saturday, February 1,12:00 - 3:00p
Saturday, March 14, 2:00 - 5:00p

In tracking my own somatic regulation on & off the mat, I've come to understand some of my own patterns that arise in response to conflict, and how it relates to trauma resolution. Resolving trauma happens on individual & collective levels all the time, and is part of what is going on in our systems regularly, even without direct acknowledgment of the process. If you think back to the last time you stubbed a toe, you'll probably notice a subtle shift in embodied awareness at the recalled feeling. And yet, it's likely that that injury was resolved without a great deal of internal story or conscious processing. Nevertheless, since healing, the body has new subtle wiring that comes into play to avoid the same injury in the same place again. When we look at the ways our patterns around what we perceive as conflict arise, they are likely to show a complex web of interrelated subtle wiring, mapping our embodied healing processes throughout our lives.

When we show up at the dojo, we of course encounter all of these patterns. And we follow the insightful training methods of Ki-Aikido as we witness those patterns untangling & rewiring, in alignment with our balanced center & freedom of movement.

What I've noticed is that I greatly benefit from the classes when, from time to time, all my "stuff" comes up and it is able to be met & regulated in the moment. Not something I'm trying to "get through" and then take home to unpack & process later. Knowing y'all through the years, it's likely that training includes a mix of both for everybody. What I've also noticed is when someone else is having a breakthrough in their own patterning, I learn something parallel that benefits my own healing.

So I'm offering a special class, specifically to look at the places where we meet our edges on the mat and to unpack the underlying patterns of trauma & resolution that are naturally occurring therein. I'd like to ask everyone to bring an awareness of where you commonly feel stuck/triggered/frustrated when training, and if applicable, to come with an art in mind that specifically calls up this reaction. I want to start with small-group and full-circle conversations in which to examine & establish the safety of the container. This can be edgy work, so I want to ensure we create a listening space in which our individual senses of safety are humming with ki flow. I want to witness & work with our edges together, as the nervous system's ability to self-regulate can be greatly supported by co-regulation among others.

While this is all very much included in Tohei Sensei's methodology, my hope in setting aside this class time is to slow things down, to allow extra space for working through the underlying processes in ways that may open insight into individual & group patterns as they find resolution through our training.


2020 New Year's Seminar with Nonaka Sensei

posted Jan 29, 2020, 11:21 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Jan 29, 2020, 11:24 AM ]

by Kirsten Welge

This year, we were honored to experience Eric Nonaka Sensei teaching our annual EKF New Year's Seminar. Nonaka Sensei is Assistant Chief Instructor of the Hawai'i Ki Federation, Head Instructor of Mililani Hongwanji Ki-Aikido - and has been training for nearly 60 years. 

Nonaka Sensei began by demonstrating the power of the mind with a simple shokyu ki test, which tests physical posture. When the student tried not to get nervous, the physical posture was not stable. However, this changed dramatically when Sensei advised the student to "Be OK with everything. Say, 'I am keeping one point.' 'This is so good.' 'I am perfect.'" As Sensei noted, it was easy to see how easily mind works for you - or against you. "Words are so powerful."

I also noticed how easy it was to change my mind, and how powerfully it impacts my experience. Sensei reminded us - when we say something hurtful, this affects us as well as others. When practicing the exercise to say something hurtful, I noticed how I withdrew from my experience and became tense. Both I and my partner felt that separation and tension, and I was physically unstable. When I shifted my attention to what I loved, I relaxed. Suddenly I could feel the connection to myself and my partner, and my experience was calm and unshakable. 

Throughout the seminar, when called to demonstrate arts or practicing with a partner, these themes continued. If I was thinking about doing the technique correctly, concerned about moving my partner, or worried about my ability, my stability and connection with my partner suffered. When I remembered his phrases -- "It doesn't really matter." "It's already good." "I can do anything you want me to." -- there was ease, lightness, and connection. 

These same points of mind connected directly to bokken practice on Sunday morning. If I did something to resist a ki test on the bokken blade, I was not stable. As Sensei offered, when we feel pressure, don't resist -- "Feel yourself getting more relaxed!" Likewise, when I made raising the ken a separate act, preparing to "do" something, I was not stable. Instead, Nonaka Sensei reminded us of Curtis Sensei's teaching, "The sword is always cutting." Don't interrupt that act, and don't make it a big deal. Nonaka Sensei also reminded us of Suzuki Sensei’s "Four Points": 1. So what? 2. Be natural. 3. Do nothing. 4. Don’t worry, be happy.

I was amazed by the power and fluidity of Nonaka Sensei's weapons forms, as well as his tremendous kindness and humility in teaching. Towards the end of the seminar, he shared his response when someone once asked him about his swordwork, "When did you get it?" His reply: "Still trying. Never ends. Lucky me."

Lucky us, to know such a teacher. Mahalo nui loa, Sensei! We are grateful for your presence and support.

Our friend Nakita Federov captured the weekend of training and Ohana in photographs, which you can find here.

Foundations of Ki-Aikido: A 5th Kyu Intensive

posted Dec 30, 2019, 8:11 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Dec 30, 2019, 9:00 PM ]

Join us for a comprehensive introduction to the foundations of Ki-Aikido. This two-month intensive program will include two full day workshops and six dedicated classes. The program will cover:
  • An overview of Tohei Sensei's complete curriculum
  • The kaisho style of performing Ki Aikido techniques
  • The Shokyu Ki Test
  • The 5th Kyu Ki Aikido arts
There are three levels of participation in the program:
  • Participation
  • Completion
  • Advanced Completion

Participants who keep the agreements for Advanced Completion can expect to be ready to test for Shokyu and 5th Kyu by the end of the program. The full list of program agreements are available here.

Workshop 1
 Saturday, February 8 10:00 – 5:00
  Class February 15 or 16 TBD at first Workshop
  Class Sunday, February 23 2:00 – 4:00
  Class Sunday, March 1 2:00 – 4:00
Workshop 2 Saturday, March 7 10:00 – 5:00
  Class Sunday, March 15 2:00 – 4:00
  Class Sunday, March 22 2:00 – 4:00
  Completion Sunday, March 29 2:00 – 4:00

This program is open to all dojo members, and is focused on supporting new members in preparing for Shokyu & 5th Kyu. There is an application for this program. An online application is available here, and a printed application is available here. Applications are due by Wednesday, January 22.

New Year's Training: January 1, 2020

posted Dec 29, 2019, 10:13 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Dec 29, 2019, 10:13 AM ]

You're warmly invited to join our community as we welcome 2020 with training on New Year's Day.

We'll gather around 7:35 AM at the dojo for tea and light breakfast, followed by a very special morning of training. We will travel to the Mississippi for Senshin no Gyo (river misogi), then return to the dojo for Sokushin no Gyu (bell misogi) and weapons training.

If you have never practiced river misogi before, please read Poppele Sensei's brief blog post.

We will break around 11:30 AM for a potluck lunch and conversation featuring "Renewal of Creative Path" questions 4-8. These questions invite personal exploration into the particular gifts, talents, and vision each of us carry, and lead into releasing expectations and crafting a vibrant, joyful vision for the coming year.

These questions are available here to give you an opportunity to reflect on them before we gather.

We look forward to practicing with you as part of our community, and hearing your insights and inspiration for action in 2020.

RSVP is encouraged. Please contact Kirsten Welge to let her know your plans.

We look forward to kicking off the New Year together with you.

Quotes & Reflections from National Instructor's Seminar

posted Sep 4, 2019, 11:24 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Sep 4, 2019, 11:25 AM ]

Kirsten Welge attended her first National Seminar as a third kyu student in 2014. The 2019 National Seminar was her first opportunity to experience Shinichi Tohei Sensei's Instructor's Class, and fully appreciate the North American Ki Aikido community. Here, Kirsten shares quotes from Tohei Sensei's teaching, together with her reflections.

"Experience. Feel. Master. Sometimes we think too much, explain too much. All we have to do is experience. Feel with the whole body, and learn from this." - Shinichi Tohei Sensei
  • Aikido and ki principles are learned through the body, not thinking or talking. 
  • The best way to teach is to keep one point, then share that experience and feeling with another.
"Let me know the state of my mind. You don't have to get some result first!" - Tohei Sensei
"What is my basic concept? Push? Or keep one point and touch?" - Tohei Sensei
  • Examiners must keep one point precisely and just touch. No pushing. No result in mind. Be aware and responsible for your mind.
    • If the examiner's concept is to push or show the other where they are wrong, that's not it. 
    • When testing, connect as though the other person is sick and asking for help. The intent is to support.
  • How do you show your partner when they are making an error? 
    • Mimic them. Ask, "What do you feel?"
    • Then, show the correct way, so they feel the difference. 
    • Then, ask them to correct the error, and ki test. Ask them, "Is this easier?"
    • Then, ask them, "Can you show your earlier way?" Test. Ask "Is it easy?" No.
    • Leave them with a clear difference in feeling. 
"Keep one point and test." - Tohei Sensei

This is very simple, but can be very difficult to practice. What can help us with this? 
  • Curtis Sensei offered three points: Look at your partner's face. Feel with your body. Show, by moving with your partner.
    • It's not the feeling of, "How do I push my partner?" but "How do I take care of you?"
  • We can practice connecting and feeling shifts in the body or attention by touching our partner on the shoulder with a soft hand. 
    • As they tense different parts of their body, we can feel where ki gets stuck, and share what we feel. 
    • This is how we become familiar with what tension in different areas feels like.

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