Nonviolence is fundamental to alternative medicine. Even typical medical ethics claims the maxim, "First, Do no harm". Here, I consider non-violence by comparing Aikido's relatively physical expression of non-violence to the expression of nonviolence in homeopathic practice.
Comparing homeopathic principles with Aikido practice?
I love nonviolent practices.
In addition to loving homeopathy, I am also in love with a Japanese martial art called Aikido. The practice of these healing arts reveals the meaning of non-violence. We typically imagine that we act to cause change. Non-violence in Aikido transforms this belief.Just as we are born and die, aggression is inherent to human lives. Can we learn something valuable from no force in a world of aggressive activity?
Am I qualified to describe Aikido?
Belt degree only describes the number of years that one has put into learning Aikido. I started in 2008. I am a clunky old woman and the author of this nerdy blog. Of course with the foundation, I am not expecting to become an authority on Aikido during this life time. I love the principle of no force as much I love trying to express that goal on the mat. Aikido is always a refinement of ourselves and never a competition with others. So putting aside the issue of qualifications, Aikido is primary about a mental state. Physical action is the entry to learning this mental state.
Nonviolence is a shared ideal
In the following paragraphs, I will describe how the physical practice of Aikido deals with "aggressive" force. On the mat, I rarely succeed in non-violence non-action. I seem to be possessed by the idea that I'm doing something. Nevertheless, I strive to embody nonviolence through my practice. The use of energy in Aikido is the same in the use of energy in homeopathy. I will start by using the terms that a novice would use in describing movement in Aikido. I will place these terms between quotes because they describe a delusion, and they are not the terms that my Master uses.
A novice might say that in Aikido we take the "aggressor" in the direction that he was already going when he "attacked". But, this is the second step of the defensive strategy for dealing with an "attack". The metaphoric "aggressor" is the patient's problem. Homeopathic treatment also takes the pathology in the direction where it was already going. A similar process occurs in homeopathy, but again terms like aggressor, attack or defense are not appropriate. So, please allow me to reframe the situation using the terms that my Master might use.
Comparison of energy use
The use of energy in Aikido is similar to the use of energy in homeopathy. First, in Aikido we guide the initiator of action in the direction that he was going when he began his action. Homeopathic treatment takes a patterned react in the direction where it was already going.
Roles on the mat
If I am grabbed or struck in Aikido, I absorb the force of the attacker by feeling its "source." In Aikido, the person who attacks is not called an attacker. He is called a " Receiver" (Uke). So, attacking is understood in Aikido as receiving. Actually, words like "attack, defense, or aggressor" are never used in Aikido practice. Changes in our vocabulary are essential to understanding the non-violent practices of Aikido.
role Labels express a mental foundation: The receiver role
Terms such as "attack" and "aggression" are both negative. A term such as the "initiator" of action is more neutral and more descriptive of my Aikido Master's vocabulary. Also, Receiving implies other meanings that are not expressed in the term, initiator. In contrast to "attacking", "receiving" is also closer to the neutrality that Aikido practice requires. The novice asks, how can someone who looks like he's attacking be a receiver? Aikido is a mind game that only makes sense if you practice Aikido the way my Master does. He practices Aikido on the mat and in his daily life. The ubiquity of the practice of Aikido suggests that it may also inform homeopathic treatment.
Useful Aikido practice relies on receiver skill, not just taker skill.
Now that I am a bit more advanced than a total novice, I am told to focus more on my skills as a Receiver because if I can receive energy with skill, I will be able to skillfully play the part of the Taker that I have been up practicing all these years. Unfortunately, all these years of learning a thousand plus strategic forms are useless because I have not focused on being a skilled Receiver.
the taker role in Aikido
The role that uses the set forms which the novice thinks is Aikido is called the Taker (Tori). Once the Taker's Hara draws in the force that has been initiated by the Receiver, he is ready to guide that energy of the Receiver to where ever it is already going. After drawing that force into my energy center, I, in this case, the Taker (Tori) simply lead the Receiver in the direction where he was already going, so no one is hurt. Peace is achieved. This is non-violence in Aikido. It involves two steps. 1. Drawing into the Hara. 2. Guiding out in the direction that it is already going.
Drawing in the energy of the Reciever
Buddhist meditation practice also draws in energy
Similar to a Buddhist meditative practice called Tonglen, the apparently aggressive actions of our daily life are drawn in to train the mediator. This meditation technique is particularly useful to draw in disturbing thoughts or images and breathe out neutral energy such as unconditional love. On both the cushion and the mat, we are learning to transform action into non-action. Action naturally transforms into neutrality at the Hara. Always drawing in and recognizing the nature of that action is an essential first step to any non-violent process. It is more like a physical process than a thought process. Yet, the imagery of drawing is a useful first step.
Draw in from a soft inviting surface
Drawing in involves first feeling the energy that has been initiated by the Receiver. It is a process my Master teaches formally on the mat to beginners. If the Taker stiffens his defense, he will not be able to feel the Receiver's energy. Usually, we stiffen our muscles and joints when think we need to defend ourselves. In Aikido, we maintain integrated body coordination through energy that we call Ki. Our joints feel like they are filled with ki, but they also will bend as needed. So, as a coordinated whole and on the surface (the skin level) our body is soft and receptive. Without this inviting surface, the Receiver's energy can not be drawn into the body.
the homeopath drawing in Patient energy
In the above scenario, the Receiver and the Taker become one. In homeopathy, the homeopath performs this above first step of drawing in energy. She draws in the patient's description of his problem and his life. This drawing in activity is called a consultation. After the consultation, the information needs to be digested and patterns must be discovered. So, drawing in is only the first step of the treatment process.
Becoming one Hara
Imagine an "attack" on the mat: a hand grabbing or striking. Those are the external appearances of aggression. By practicing Aikido, we transform that image of attack. That external appearance is not the source of the physical force that my Hara feels when I am grabbed or struck. The source is the Reciever's Hara. The strategies (the thousand plus of moves that I have learned) of Aikido are ineffective if I, in this example, a Taker, focus only on these external appearances.
Hara is the source of energy
So where is the internal source? We call the source of physical and mental body energy the "Hara". As an image, the Hara energy is a ball located in the lower abdomen. The smaller that ball is, the stronger the Hara energy is. The energy of my Master is so small that it is nothing, so a beginner like me cannot locate it. To get around this difficulty, instead of thinking of an "attacker" who is the "enemy", when I take in the Reciever's energy, I imagine that I am one with a Taker." In that way, the Taker connects her Hara with the Hara of the Receiver. On the mat as a Taker, literally, I connect my Hara energy to the Hara energy of the Receiver. That is where the transformation takes place.
The Receiver's Image is not attacker
When you are connecting to the Receiver, it is impossible to think of him as an "attacker." If I habitually think of movement such as grabbing or striking as the focus of my energy, then I can never enter the mindset of Aikido. So, these role labels are important.
If the Taker is not skilled, Practice can only be useful if the receiver connects to the Taker's hara
A skillful Reciever naturally receives the Taker's Hara energy. If the Taker is not very skillful, it is easy for the Receiver to refuse to connect. But then the Receiver would sadly lose a chance to train. This kind of uncooperative practice is called "wasted practice" (tsute geiko).
Wasted Homeopathic treatment?
Even the most experienced homeopaths tell stories of patients who refuse to connect. Refusing to connect is often part of the patient's pathology. This situation could be the same as the Aikido example of wasted practice. A waste for both homeopath and patient. However, if the homeopath skillfully connects with the patient, regardless of the patient's inability to connect, treatment is never wasted.
Go in the direction that the aggressive energy is already going.
As one single "Hara", my Hara leads the Taker in the direction where his Hara is already going. I might add some gravitation by applying my body weight to my Hara and lowering my center of gravity, or centrifugal force by whirling around my core with my Hara, but this added energy is only effective if my Hara motion is going where the Receiver's Hara is already going. Basically, the Taker guides the Receiver into the territory where he has maximum control and out of the territory where the Receiver has maximum control. All movement begins at the Taker's Hara and the peripheral contact with the Receiver such as hands follows their joined Hara's movement.
I can use minimal force in both Aikido defense and homeopathic treatment by matching my Hara movement/medication to the characteristics of the individual before me. But, giving medication is the second step of the homeopathic process. The first step is the consultation. For you, the patient, this first step of treatment means I listen to you describing your perceptions of your problem, observe you and etc. I am drawing out your story and drawing it in. Most importantly, I have developed a sixth sense for picturing how you are organized. As a Taker on the mat, I feel the force of the Receiver's Hara by feeling how it affects my own quiet and stable Hara. I am not preoccupied with grabbing and striking motions that occur outside my energy center, my Hara. I am physically connecting with the Receiver, but my awareness starts from my Hara. On the mat as Takers, we train systematically to draw in the energy of the Receiver and then as a second step, we match that energy with a similar pattern of action. That is, we go in the direction that the Receiver's Hara is already going in. Two Haras are one and action has no object. This is Non-violence.
drawing in energy or stories
You as a patient embody the Receiver role of Aikido. Your personality, pathological symptoms, desires, and aversions are similar to the strikes and grabbing of hands on the mat. In Aikido, of course, we know how we are grabbed, etc., but that detail is on the broad periphery of the interaction. The homeopath is also a Taker who draws in all of this detail. But, he is not defining you as any one set of detail. The focus of treatment is not this detail.
Similarly, the metaphorical Hara of a patient is the center of the patient's story. I think of this as a pattern. The center or the pattern emerges from an analysis of the story. A good analysis is typically very simple. Also, like the small and eventually immaterial Hara of my Master, homeopathic remedies work at a nonmaterial level. Just as connecting on the mat leads to physical motion, homeopathic treatment also leads to physical changes. But first, the homeopath must begin the consultation by drawing in the patient's stories, in order to discover a pattern. This nonviolent nonaction is also nonmaterial.
If my patient is describing her pathology, I focus on how she feels. I empathized with her perceptions and become one with my patient's energy source--not her Hara, but something similar. As a homeopath, my own self-perceptions are quiet and stable. From this centered awareness, I can sense how my patient is disturbed. As an internal perception, I also observe my own energy center being disturbed by what I am learning from my patient. In that sense, I become one with my patient's perceptions. Awareness of disturbed emotion on my periphery is essential to consultation.
During the consultation, I am not preoccupied with disease names, or what other's think and feel about my patient. Even specific symptoms are not my focus. I focus on how my patient feels as a totality. This is the center of the consultation.
What is the Homeopath's equivalent of the Hara?
Hara energy is neither healthy or unhealthy. It is just the natural and neutral center of our total energy. When I draw in physical energy on the mat, I feel a physical sense of energy in my Hara. If any aspect of a beginner's posture is off, then accessing her Hara energy becomes more difficult. I need to be always aware of my posture and how my torso sits on my Hara because I'm a beginner. A master of Aikido has compacted his Hara energy, so it does not easily fall off balance by changing postures. He is able to easily adapt to postures that are not necessarily upright. Likewise, the healthy individual is not easily knocked off balance by the small stresses of daily life. The healthy individual is adaptable. In either case, healthy energy is neutral and balanced. A homeopath strives to be a master whose energy is not easily thrown off balance by the necessarily unbalanced energy of the patient.
Allowing Patient stories to affect me
In reality, the emotions and the story of most patient affect me. They know me slightly off balance. Because during the consultation. the patient and I are an empathetic one, the natural reactions that I have to any patient whose story I am drawing in are also information that I need to become one with the patient's story. So, staying in perfect balance, not being affected by patient suffering is not a necessary part of any consultation.
Homeopaths visualize a center to their patient's energy. The location of the lower abdomen is not part of the image. But, the notion that we have a basic life force that supports the patterns of wellness is similar to the Hara image. Neither energy centers can be physically measured. Physical and mental/emotional energy are all involved in both images. Balance is also important to both.
Receiving and then matching Patient patterns
When I assume the Taker role in Aikido, I am drawing in and then matching the energy pattern of the Receiver (attacker) --- the equivalent in homeopathy is the patient’s problem. The "Ai" character of Aikido means to match. I can use minimal force in both intuitive practices because I draw in and then match my energy center to the energy characteristics of the individual before me. If you are my patient, this means I listen to you, observe you and I have developed a sixth sense for understanding how you are organized. I rely on intuition often because you were not born with a little tag attached to your belly button describing how your vital force will organize your life. Instead, you tell me about your life experience. You tell me about both your strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the turning point for dis-ease is an event in my patient's life history, other times it is her approach to living. Every individual has patterns in their life energy. Even for a sudden emergency crisis, we all respond in patterns to what feels like aggressive energy.
Matching patient patterns to medicine patterns
Resisting versus following energy Patterns
Selecting a medicine is the second step of treatment. The matching medicine will encompass and redirect that pattern for the patient's greater wellness.
Of course, patients and their bodies are not trained as skilled Receivers. They naturally will resist following the force of a medicine if the medicine is not selected to take them down a path that they are already on. Likewise, a skilled Aikido Receiver may not follow the movement of a Taker if that movement is not going in the direction that he is already going in. He will resist just as a patient will resist if he is given the medication that does not match his own patterns. On the mat, the Aikido Receiver follows because he feels at one with the Hara of the Taker. Also, he does not want to waste a chance to train his Hara.
We know the patterns of remedies
So, what is meant by matching a patient's pattern to a medicines pattern? In other posts, I have described how we know about medicines. Medicines also express patterns when they are tested or used in the clinic. Medicines used by healthy individuals produce symptoms that on analysis form patterns. When the medicine is used by another person, the same patterns can be healed by the medicine. So medicines predictably produce and cure symptoms.
The art of homeopathy is totally based on the principle of matching patient and medicine symptoms. By matching medicinal patterns with the patient's life patterns, homeopaths select the medicine that will encompass and redirect a similar pattern to promote greater wellness. This matching is only possible because the great homeopaths of my classical tradition have carefully described the healing patterns of our medicines. The details of what is being matched is concrete, even if the pattern recognition insight that guides the treatment is abstract.
Allowing remedies to act naturally
A sword is similar to a remedy
When the homeopath gives a remedy (medicine), the remedy becomes something like a sword. A sword will not move smoothly and quickly if the swordsperson holds tight to the handle or attempts to direct the action of the blade with his hands and arms. Letting the sword fall with gravity and adding only the slightest "guidance" by moving the Hara or the whole body will allow for the greatest power to be expressed by the sword.
Neutrality of remedies and sword action
When a remedy (medicine) that matches the patient's patterns of suffering etc., is given to a patient, a much more neutral force has been added to the treatment. A remedy is like a sword. The homeopath can only vaguely predict how the remedy will influence the patient. He cannot strongly grasp the remedy and control its action. He periodically observes the patient's reaction to the remedy and then changes the remedy as needed. This follow-up guidance is again based on the nonviolent practice described above.
Is our homeopathic treatment actually nonviolent?
the ideal consultation scenario
As homeopaths, we typically believe that we heal our patients. Actually, we draw in the stories of our patients as the first step of the treatment process. Then, as the second step, because the homeopath has chosen a remedy that can both heal and produce the symptoms that the patient has described, the remedy does the healing. At this second stage of the treatment process, The homeopath only observes the patient's reaction. Both the first step of drawing in the patient's stories during consultations and the second step of allowing the remedy to work as it naturally would our nonviolent. The homeopath is doing as little as possible to interfere with the process.
my actual consultation practice
In reality, my own practice of homeopathic consultations involves far more interference than the ideal consultation. I asked questions. I try to limit the consultation to no more than three hours. If I were more skilled, I would limit my consultations to one hour. Obviously, I have to interfere in the patient's storytelling process. Hopefully, I will rethink my consultation practices and strive to move closer to my ideals.
An Aikido model of non-violence in treatment
The English verb "take" as in "case taking" suggest an action with an object. The object of "taking" is the patient's case. In the non-violent Aikido scenario, non-violence is only possible because the Taker "draws in" the energy of the Receiver. In the same way, the homeopath draws in the stories of the patient. Without this understanding, the role of the Taker implies something much more active than what the homeopath is doing in the above ideal non-violent scenario. I would like to suggest that we homeopaths could gain depth in their understanding of non-violent homeopathic practice through a comparison with other non-violent practices, such as Aikido. From experience, I know that developing an image of any practice on the mat is as important as the physical practice. No doubt, the same is true in learning to practice non-violent homeopathy.