Of Dogs, Gambling, Aikido, and Energy Healing

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Cesar copyBecause my wife and I are training a two-year old Ausiedoodle and are preparing to do so with a puppy Lhasa Apso, we have been watching many videos by Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer.” Most of what he has to say and demonstrate is weirdly familiar to me from my years in Aikido, the paradoxical pacifist martial art, which relies on an energy called ki rather than on muscle. I say “weirdly familiar” because, except for the words “energy” and “leading” Milan has a different vocabulary from the martial art. The difference is enough so that I would be surprised if he were an Aikidoist. And yet…

Take for instance posture. He insists on pet owners adopting a relaxed, centered, balanced posture (whether walking or sitting) that is taught by Ki-Aikido, where the basic principles are relax completely, concentrate on the body’s center of gravity, imagine the body’s energy flowing out infinitely, and let the weight of the body settle naturally downward. Of these principles, Millan only mentions relaxation and he leaves out the “completely” but his posture in leading dogs is identical to what Aikidoists use in leading attackers . Consequently, when  owners bend, strain, or reach in ways that weaken that posture, Millan corrects them as an Aikido teacher does with similar mistakes .

Much else is familiar. His gentle ways of deflecting and distracting the dogs are extremely similar to tricks I learned in Aikido for leading attackers. Furthermore, one of Millan’s basic principles is for owners to “claim their space” by directing their energy to such claiming. When in the 1970s I began Aikido, one of the first things my instructor told me was to own my space, i.e., not pull one’s energy in but let it expand infinitely, which also is natural to relaxation. (Nervous people pull their energy in.) An aid to energy flow is massage, which we learned in Ki-Aikido and Millan teaches to relax the dogs and instill positive reinforcement.

I could note other similarities between the two, but my point is that all disciplines for drawing on the power of the Unconscious have much in common. They begin with focus on relaxation to override the Conscious mind’s tendency to strain and/or make the body rigid in a struggle for control. In contrast, the Unconscious leads by joining confidently and calmly with what is to be led whether it is an animal (as in pet training) or a part of your own body (as in bio-feedback) or a part of someone else’s body (as in energy healing) or an attacking human (as in Aikido).

At the Driftwood Library that has sales every Monday, I ran across a psychology professor’s book about his taking his grad students to Las Vegas to experiment with any effect one’s state of mind might have on gambling (Joe Gallenberger’s Inner Vegas). He alleges that the optimum state for that is the same relaxed, confident one he employs for energy healing and bending spoons. Admittedly, the Conscious mind is likely to be offended or amused by the suggestion that spoon bending, energy healing, luck at gambling, etc. might not be a fraud or delusion. If everything is integrally connected so that one’s mind can have effect beyond one’s body, then the boundaries that Consciousness tries to maintain are not very firm.

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