Cultivating Transformation With Your ITP Kata Practice
There is a calling in the ITP stratosphere beckoning you to engage it. Do you answer the invitation? As one of the ITP Commitments, the Kata is making its request 5 times per week! That is no small effort.
Committing to an ITP Kata practice requires discipline and the rewards are truly life-changing. There is a reason long-time practitioners shine their beautiful light upon the transformative nature of a daily Kata practice. In the writing below, I will integrate many of the core philosophies of ITP to honor the transformative power of the ITP Kata and inspire you to engage more deeply with this important practice.
Body as Teacher
Our bodies are facilitators of transformation, enabled through deep listening. The wisdom provided by the body can often go unnoticed. Intimacy with the body is a teaching ground for the student. The Kata provides moments of communication and conversation with your physical presence.
There have been significant practices developed that seek to remove past trauma and pent-up stress from our body. This could be emotional, cognitive, spiritual etc. as described by Murphy (1992), “Somatics is legitimately characterized as a field because its many methods share a common focus on the relationships between the body and cognition, emotion, volition, and other dimensions of the self” (p. 386).
Many of these practices such as Leonard Energy Training, the Feldenkrais Method, Rolfing and others help to understand how our bodies affect thinking and feeling. The Kata can be an effective tool to explore our bodies and the Progressive Muscle Relaxation is an amazing opportunity to be present to our body and what messages or intuitive guidance can be gleaned from our focused engagement. In 2016, while participating in an ITP Session in Tulsa, OK, my body was subtly advising me to go to a sleep specialist. I did not listen right away, but I wrote down the wise guidance I received. Later that year I accidentally fell asleep and almost experienced a heart attack from sleep apnea symptoms.
Developing a closer relationship to the body can be very refreshing. While your abilities of intuition will be more honed, so will other modalities. I often feel my appreciation for music in the body. It provides a joy that is difficult to explain but shines through when I dance. The body also lets me know how to nourish it. What foods I should choose at a restaurant or at the store. It helps me fulfill commitment number 5; “I am conscious of everything I eat.”
Leverage the Kata to develop a more intimate relationship with your body. Listen carefully. It doesn’t always have something to tell you, so patience is required. The messages are also very subtle and can be missed without a keen awareness. The stress and trauma you release may not be a pleasant experience. It is transformative and will result in you showing up in the world more aligned with your aspirations. Train yourself through the Kata to hear the wisdom of your body.
The Kata provides endless opportunities to develop mastery. The most obvious, of course, is physical mastery of the ITP Kata technique, but the Kata can help you to bring mastery to other vocations in your life. The word “Kata” comes from the martial arts and is used to assist Aikido, Karate and Kung Fu participants to practice their technique. It is usually developed with a series of movements that become more advanced as a practitioner matriculates through the art. I have found focusing on the Kata movements through a lens of mastery provides great benefits in my practice.
I recently wrote a manuscript titled, “Be the Ball: The Experience of Singularity.” In that writing I describe the moment when I know I can perform my best in disc golf. It is not just about disc golf, disc golf helped me recognize a special moment of concentration. This experience is also alive in my strength training, golf, mountain biking and other endeavors. Concentration is a door that opens us to higher levels of consciousness. I believe it opens us to the infinite, blissful state of our original being – Brahman.
The Kata can also open this door to us. One simply has to understand the basis and influence of martial arts in our practice. Approach the Kata with an intention of mastery. While performing the movements, concentrate on your technique and make an attempt to do it perfectly. All of our bodies are different and limited. Do what you can to best perform each movement. This focus will remove any distraction from your mind. You will be totally present and you will lose yourself in the moment and in the Kata. It is impossible to use your logical mind while in this state. After performing the Kata, sit back and reflect. Did you have any moments where time disappeared? How about a feeling of calm, concentrated purpose or a deep state of present moment awareness?
“Discipline is Freedom” - George Leonard
I struggled for a long time with the quote above from ITP co-founder George Leonard, and often espoused by ITP President, Pam Kramer. I have always struggled with discipline. Further study proved to be enlightening regarding this statement. Taoist philosophy and Zen philosophy shed some intriguing insights to the potential understanding and power of George’s emphasis on discipline. Specifically, the concept of Wu Wei, the principle of non-action, though it is not associated with laziness or passivity. It is the art of finding the flow of things and blending with that flow.
I believe the discipline George speaks of here is like the bee to flowers. The bee is participating in Wu Wei by virtue of its being. It is adhering to the calling of nature that allows itself and the species to survive and thrive. The bees and flowers “trim their sails to the winds of nature” (Watts, 1975). The discipline by the bee is significant. The bee simply is and that is no small feat! It is following its purpose and brings balance to the ecological system it supports. Without this discipline, we would have half of the fruits and vegetables available to us today.
When an ITP participant wakes up in the morning and knows the Kata is waiting for them there is freedom in knowing the Kata is there to support and nurture their journey. There isn’t wasteful distraction from the ego’s wants and needs as the old Zen sages try to teach. This allows one to settle into just being and doing what is necessary to continue the evolution of themselves and the human race. Like a bee to the flower, apply yourself to the Kata. Notice the support a disciplined Kata routine can provide. As George would say; “Life has one ultimate message: “Yes!” repeated in infinite number and variety.”
Ground, Balance & Center
The Kata is an invitation for your declaring your participation within the ITP practice. It gives expression to the way in which you meet the world and creates a space to support your affirmations. G.R.A.C.E. in itself is representative of the nurturing love provided to you by nature, Mother Earth, cosmic consciousness and the community of practitioners who join you. Simply by putting it on the mat during your Kata practice, you are joining in conversation with ITP’ers across the globe.
When you ground yourself, balance and center, you are in a relaxed and alert state that enables you to make better decisions. A quote from George Leonard’s book “Mastery” highlights our opportunity for transformation:
“What will you choose? This question, this moment of choice, comes up countless times in each of our lives, not just about tennis or some other sport, but about everything that has to do with learning, development, change. Sometimes we chose after careful deliberation, but frequently the choice is careless – a barely conscious one. Seduced by the siren song of a consumerist, quick-fix society, we sometimes choose a course of action that brings only the illusion of accomplishment, the shadow of satisfaction. And sometimes, knowing little or nothing about the process that leads to mastery, we don’t even realize a choice is being offered. Yet even our failures to choose consciously operate as choices, adding to or subtracting from the amount of potential that we will eventually realize” (p. 11).
If you have recently participated in a Kata led by me, you will notice my focus on maintaining a balanced and centered state throughout the Kata. I also bring awareness to transitions as they can be the culprit of losing ourselves to unconscious participation. This comes in the way of soft eyes rather than hard eyes. It’s soft and gentle allowing your unrealized potential to rise to the surface and carry you to your highest self. It is what we call in the practice – focused surrender.
Living in a balanced and centered state allows one to bring their best to every moment and thus provides the basis for self-actualization. All it takes is embodying the centered and balanced state that is always there waiting for you. Once you reach that state during G.R.A.C.E., notice what presents itself. Is it an affirmation? Is it a message from your higher self? Or is it a calm and relaxed feeling that will gently carry you through a nourishing Kata?
Transformational Imagery & Meditation
Transformational imagery can be one of the most powerful practices of ITP. Regular and focused engagement in Transformational Imagery increases your opportunity for achievement with affirmations. The science backs this up unequivocally. When I was studying for my Masters in Sport Psychology, there were myriads of academic studies confirming the significant effects of Transformational Imagery.
To be successful, use as many of your senses as possible. Bring in sight, smell, sound and texture of feeling (cold, warm, rough, smooth). The more vivid, the better. Your mind cannot tell the difference between your images and real experience. One of the most important faculties to include is emotion! What emotions would you feel as you see yourself transformed?
I use imagery in my daily activity. Before I present to a group of professionals I always practice with imagery. Before I hit a golf shot, I visualize its flight and where I would like it to land and react. The results I have experienced are amazing. I always feel much calmer when presenting to my constituents. Many times these presentations determined the outcome of multi-million dollar transactions. I always imagine myself successfully delivering and I like to incorporate challenges. This helps me react to an imperfect scenario where I might be presented with something I didn’t expect.
When I meditate at the end of Kata practice, I surrender to the ground of being. This is where the impetus of latent divinity lives. I have often wondered, “Where do my affirmations come from?” “Why do I have a spark of energy when I think of completing those affirmations?” This is when I refer back to Michael Murphy’s paper,“ The Emergence of Evolutionary Panentheism.” This excerpt could be a clue to answering my questions; “For if it is indeed the case that the entire universe presses to manifest its latent divinity, then we must share that impetus, which is evident in our desire for the illuminations, self-existent delight, self-surpassing love, and sense of eternal freedom and identity we experience in our highest moments.” (p. 4)
This is why we get up every day. There is an impulse and it seeks to express itself through each of us. We all have a unique, subjective experience of the world and this allows us all to bring something novel to contribute. Just sitting for 10 minutes and being human and experiencing what its like to be human is a gift. It is transformative. Michael goes on to say, “It tells us that the universe has an aspiring heart, that human nature is primed for self-surpassing, and that our will to grow is supported by the world’s inexorable drive toward a greater existence.” (p. 5). Meditation allows you to blend with the cosmos. This cosmos is working toward a greater expression of itself and you can ride that energy to your greatest potentials. It is working through you!
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
When you are practicing the Kata, notice themes of feelings or thoughts that come up tugging at your unrealized potential. That is the evolutionary panentheistic spark alive in you! Do not turn away! Embrace that spark and make a choice. Make a choice to be all that promise your beautiful soul has to offer. It seeks to express itself through you and the Kata is a gateway to that realization. While not only cultivating your evolutionary spark, the Kata nourishes the soul, tones, strengthens and heals the body and allows you to come to grips with your unique gifts. It is there, always awaiting your participation. Embrace the Kata and allow the gifts to be delivered in body, mind, heart and soul.
Leonard, G. (1991). Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. Penguin Books. Leonard, G., Murphy, M. (1995). The Life We Are Given: A Long Term Program for Realizing the Potential of Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul. Penguin Books. Murphy, M. (1992). The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature. J.P. Tarcher/Perigee. Murphy, M. (2012). The Emergence of Evolutionary Panentheism. Retrieved from: https://www.itpinternational.org/library/emergence-evolutionary-panenth…. Watts, A., Chung-liang Huang, A. (1975). Tao: The Watercourse Way. Pantheon Books