Friday, November 10, 2017

Mindfulness from a Warriors Mindset!

Mindfulness from a Warriors Mindset!

I sometimes find the written word as a way for me to voice my opinion and to relieve myself of thoughts, frustrations, pain, or cheer.  I love to share how I feel, but most of all I love to share the things that I have learned over my almost 52 years on the planet.  Just like most authors, I see how the written word can be taken in so many ways.  Some authors love to be so descriptive, not leaving any room for the reader’s imagination. They control the color of the leaves on the tree, the smell that you smell, the feel of the scene as well as the what you should be thinking while reading.  However, I like to write in more of an Eastern way leaving your space for “food for thought.”  I personally like to reader to interpret my story, my words or my ideas to fit into their world, their imagination and their life. 

Unfortunately as I see this more and more on social media, people tend to see one story, from an entirely different point of view that was meant by the writer.  For example: The reader may see themselves sitting across the table from another person in deep conversation.  There are two cups on the table one is full and the other half empty. The cups represent the pessimistic mind and the optimistic mind.  One person grabs the cup that is full and pulls it in front of them, saying I always think from an optimistic point of view, and you (as they push the half empty cup across the table) always think from a pessimistic point of view.  The person on the other side of the table, reaches out and respectfully disagree ’s and switches the cup saying the same.

Each person sees themselves as the person who is optimistic from their perspective, while the other may disagree vehemently.   This is reality perception, the thought that each person believes what they think is true.  Meaning  “YOUR” reality, is your perception or your perception creates your own reality.  In other words, you create your own belief and world to some extent by believing a specific thought. This is easily understood, when one person says they hate the outdoors and camping, when another loves it, or one person loves spicy food, while the other cannot stand the taste of it. Two different realities both are true.  I was once on a wilderness retreat with my students up in the Catskill mountains. We climbed to the top of the peak on our way to this wonderful place called the “Ice Caves.”  Two students who were a couple stopped as the guy said to his girlfriend “take a picture.”   The girl friend replied “of what?”  He said “the beautiful scenery and nature!”  She then rolled her eyes and let out a breath of frustration and said “I am not wasting my film on nature, nature is stupid.”  We laughed for years about this, however, it was her reality and it was tremendously different from her boyfriend. 

Now here lies the dilemma of a Warrior or a Sensei!  At times, through experience an instructor, teaches from a plethora of experiences. Some of them came from the school of hard knocks, others came from years of making mistakes, while most of it, is a culmination of many, many years of life experiences.  When I teach, I teach from the position I stand in now, with 49 years of martial art training behind me and almost 53 years of life experience.  I also share the lessons from my point of view and over 35 years of teaching to 10’s of thousands of students all over the world.  This doesn’t come without a price though.  Because, as a teacher I have to find a way to slowly baby step people into a specific mindset, working piece by piece to understand something that currently their mind is simply not prepared to understand.   For those reading this that are adults and once heard their parents say when you are my age you will understand and they scoffed at their comments, now realize they were true in most cases.   Experience is what led them to the lesson.

The dilemma that I face continuously as a teacher is simple, how do you explain what you foresee happening in the future before it happens.   Similar to a personal trainer or doctor saying if you continue to eat in this way, you will end up fat, have clogged arteries and possibly die of a myriad of different illnesses.  The mind has been studied for hundreds of years and it is quite adaptable to believing what makes it feel  the best at that moment in time. In other words, it will block out negative thought or the reality of what a person is doing to themselves in order for them to achieve short term in the moment happiness.

My point being, it is difficult for a teacher to sometimes push a student (a parent) to see these ways, because, honestly it basically boils down to trust and letting go.  I understand as a parent of a young women, who has trained in the martial arts for over 16 years, this is not easy.  We as parents protect our children and as adults we avoid things that are uncomfortable.  It is not easy to have trust, when so many stories in the media, bad experiences and what you see going on around you, asks you to question everything.  I believe that you should never follow blindly and question something if they see something that makes them uncomfortable.  However, from a self-defense point of view, we find when this happens it puts a huge learning curve on the lessons taught.  Sometimes it even gets in the way and stops the individuals  progress. 

This article to some may come off as the reader being told what to do, or the listener being reprimanded or force fed a philosophy that they may not subscribe to.  Some may say it is someone trying to get the reader to DRINK the Cool-aide.  When in fact it is nothing more than trying to get listeners to shave years off the learning curve or potentially overcome the feelings of quitting the lesson due to not understanding the integrity of it.

You may be thinking, where does the lesson in Mindfulness come in.   Well, here we go……….
During the holidays I talk to my students young and old about being mindful of how lucky we are.  I went around the room of a youth class yesterday and asked my students “what is mindfulness? What is it that you are happy for this holiday season.”  They all responded with amazing answers, - love and appreciate my family, my pets, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, the clothes I have, the food on the table etc.”  All of these are amazing answers!  I then simply asked how are you mindful of this.  Most of them had no way of expressing it.  I then asked the students what their favorite food was and I got a host of different answers.  I asked them, “when was the last time you actually, recognized how delicious the food was.  As I spoke to the students  my daughter was listening in and verified, that when I eat and really enjoy something, as I chew I say “Mmmmm, this is delicious.” I may do that over and over as I take a bit to eat, but it is my way of taking the time to appreciate each bite and each taste of food and recognize its excellence.  I recognize being mindful and being mindful is about being in the moment and seeing clearly the different layers of what is going on.

What are Layers?
Well, there is so much to be mindful of.  For example, in the food, it is not only about the final product and the taste, it is about appreciating what ingredients and seasoning that went into the food. It is about the actual cooking and effort that went into the preparation before the food was cooked.  We can go deeper by thinking of how the food was grown or prepared and really being mindful of what goes into that simple meal.  In essence it is all about the taste, but all of those things enhance the taste.  I asked if the students understood that. They said, “they did.”  I then asked how many actually do what I say and not one person raised their hands.  Mindfulness takes practice. 

The Lesson of a different path!
The other night I taught a sparring class.  We were all geared up, headgear, handgear, foot gear, mouth piece etc.  We were about to start sparring – fighting each other.  While I realize fighting to me, has a different meaning then it does to some students and parents, I see it from a “Martial” point of view.  In other words, I see this from a battle point of view or the preparation for battle.  I realize it is a sport, it is the light version of the sport, however, I see this as a preparation for real life, for Self-Defense.  I do not TEACH a sport martial art, even though we teach sporting aspects of the art.

While I was teaching the class parents looked on in the lobby of my school.  From what one of my instructors saw, they were commenting on how, this kid hit the other kid, how that was not fair, or out of control or mean or negative.   They were riling each other up, and speaking negatively about the class, some of the students and even myself. They went on to say, I wasn’t watching, paying attention, or I did not see, what was going on.  The reality was I was totally 100% in the moment.  From my point of view, I saw every student and what was going on. In my mind, I was processing and creating situations of each event.  One kid was going to hard, so I encouraged him to lighten up, all while watching his opponent for safety.  I watched another young boy that every time his opponent charge him, he would turn his eyes away and fall to the ground. I reprimanded him and explained to him, that he can’t do that and had to speak to him in a loud stern voice in which some people see as yelling.  My yoga teacher would say, it is volume, in order to jar, listening. 

I watched the shy little girl as she timidly fought a person that I handpicked for her as an opponent etc.  This all was going on, as parents who really are inexperienced in coaching, or the martial arts watched and saw only what their mind would allow, their own perspective.  My 49 years of experience was in TOTA
L control of the class.  It all boiled down to trust and seeing the lesson. However, from their perspective I realize they couldn’t.  Sometimes we have to trust that the person in charge is making the right decision to teach the lesson.  We have to be mindful of the lesson!  We have to allow the lesson to come into our life.