I recently heard something interesting from someone who hangs out with a lot of successful entrepreneurs. He said that most of them don’t seem stressed out much and are generally quite relaxed and in control. This blasted my view of the rich business person I previously had out of the water. I always thought about these people as being super stressed, constantly being on the edge of having a heart attack. Having heard this leads me to believe these people hire others to do that. It’s the ones who are self-aware and in control of themselves (aiki) that usually start something and own it. Interesting insight, I thought.
So, in case you were wondering why I haven’t been updating AikiLiving much last month, it’s because I’ve been consumed with, among my daily life responsibilities, writing my 50,000 word novel for a win in the 2011 NaNoWriMo contest, which I achieved at the very last minute the afternoon of November 30th! It was a great accomplishment and I kind of decided at the last minute to do it. It took about 90 minutes a day for 30 days straight of non stop writing and brain vomiting. Thanks to Ommwriter for the software that helped get me in the zen mindset to commit myself to it. Anyways, stay tuned, because you’ll be seeing the regular posts resume here at AikiLiving.
By the way, kind of playing around with the new look. How bout that header logo heh? I really liked the old one, but this one has some features I really like which are too geeky to get into here. Lemme know what you think.
This post is a follow-up to last Friday’s post, “How to Mindfully Begin Class.” Enjoy…
– So, it’s near the end of class. You can probably tell because of your heartbeat and the sweat soaked up in your gi. There’s 10 minutes to go and your attention is starting to wane. Notice that and use that awareness to push through. Make the last 10 minutes more alive than the first 10 minutes. That doesn’t mean to train like an easter bunny on crack. That means to just fully be fully alive in each attack and each technique. Put full focus on what you’re doing even more so than when you weren’t tired. Step the focus up.
– You’ve done that and Sensei gives the sign (usually a clap or two) to line up. As you walk to the line, straighten your gi. Don’t be a slob in front of O’Sensei (who’s picture is usually located at the Shomen which you’re about to bow to). Control your breath, nobody wants to hear you panting as you bow.
– When getting into seiza (seated on your knees), again, sink into the mat (yep, this is a pretty consistant theme here). Build a strong base before you bow. Feel your physical center (approx. 2 inches below your navel). Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth sinking and relaxing more with each breath. Let your awareness expand into the peripheral. Feel the presence of your training partners, Sensei, and the whole Dojo. Be appreciative (even if you just received nikkyo for a half hour straight).
– When Sensei bows, bow in sink with that. Every Dojo is different. You know how yours do it, and you know the right way to do it. Do it. With awareness. Not sloppily while just wanting to get outta there. The final bow or clap (whatever your dojo does) is like hitting the ‘save’ button on the computer. All of what you just experienced in class is now stored to your hard drive. Yep, I’m kind of a geek, but you know what I mean. If a different analogy works better for you, use it.
– If your dojo ritual is to sweep the mat, this is huge. See my post here about sweeping. You’re not sweeping the sidewalk. This is the last technique of class and, from what I’m told, the Japanese take this very seriously. It’s a purification ritual. I know, don’t worry about the word ‘ritual’. I’m not talking about a human sacrifice here. Just something that’s routinely done in the spirit of a certain intention. This one in particular being a cleansing and harmonious thing. Sweep lightly and in sink with your training partners. Don’t smash the dirt into the mat or kick up the dust. Provide just enough force for the stuff on the mat to be moved to its destination.
– See this post for changing etiquette.
– On the way out, give the Shomen a quick final bow. Acknowledge any training partners who may be trying to say goodbye.
– As you walk to your car, bike, bus, taxi, camel, or home, feel the fresh air outside the dojo. Look up at the vast sky and acknowledge your unity with the universe. If you’re nice enough to have been holding an ushiro kiai (fart) all class, feel free to let it fly. Be okay with it.
– Before going to sleep that night reflect back on the experience of class and make note of what you learned. It’s great to keep an Aikido journal for this. Log your experience. Don’t make a big deal out of it, just make some quick notes if you want. You’ll thank yourself years down the road when you go back and read them.
– Go to sleep acknowledging the privelege you have of being an Aikidoist. You are an active participant in one of the most self-enriching and powerful arts there is. Don’t take that for granted and fall asleep with an appreciation that it is so. Rest up for the next class.
Time is very valuable. From the time we’re born and the clock starts, we have an average of about 30,000 days to go. As finite as that is, it’s still quite a bit of time. Watching most of us race around like we do, you’d think we had about a week. Crazy thing is, while we’re going crazy, frantically moving on from one extraneous thing to another, we don’t seem to get much done. We don’t have enough time to do anything, it seems. Look how fast time flies, it’s already the end of October! Can this sad state be attributed to time restraints or to lack of focus? I’ve written before how we actually have ample time to do a lot of what we want and need to do, it’s just that we waste most of it worrying about running out of time.
I want to focus here on something else, but it goes along the same lines. I want to talk about attention. I’m of the belief that attention is more valuable than time. Of all the time we have available to us, where do we put our attention? As I stated above, I’d argue that most of our time is wasted on extraneous b.s. that does us no good. What if we were to just focus 100% of our attention on whatever task we may be doing at the time. What if we were to focus 100% on the conversation we’re having right now, or on the book we’re reading, or on the hike we’re taking, or on the customer we have in front of us right now? That’s the best gift you could give somebody, is your attention. Just because you may give someone a lot of time doesn’t mean they’re getting your attention. How much time goes by in the typical conversation before one of the two people involved pull out their cell phone and start texting or checking emails? Some people spend years and years together (time) but end up feeling like they don’t know each other anymore. All that time has gone for nothing.
How much of your attention is actually directed on what you’re doing right now? Are you directing your focus only on those things you want to do or only on the people you actually want to be around? If you have a job, is it something you can fully be present in, or are you just going through the motions hoping for a change? We who train in Aikido run into the same issues. Is our practice going towards improving ourselves, or are we just going through the motions? Is every ounce of our being into it when we train? If not, we’re robbing ourselves.
These are important questions and ones that I believe are worth asking ourselves. Life boils down not to how much time we have here but to where we direct our attention while we’re here. Not to get too dark here, but death teaches us this. When someone we love passes, how often do we regret those conversations that were rushed or spent on negative, wasteful subject matter? I know I do with those who have passed in my life. Attention is the most valuable currency we have. Lets Spend it wisely.