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Fat Cobra
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Joined: 14 Jul 2018
Posts: 311
Location: Carthage, NY
Styles: Ryukyu Kempo

PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2023 11:27 am    Post subject: Zen and Mindfulness Reply with quote

At this point of my life, I find myself focusing more and more on mindfulness and living in the present. This ties back to my martial art (or any one for that matter) when a practitioners puts all of their focus on their training and push out all of the other distractions of the day. Of course, this is something we should use in every day life too, not just in our training.

I recently asked my adult students the following: "If you had a simple house to live in--no tv, no radio, no phone, no electronics of any sort--and you did not have to worry about food or drink, would you be happy?" First, I got a lot of questions, like "can I go outside," "can I have a pet," etc. Then, most said they would not be happy. I asked them why. I got various answers, but in the end I told them that they could make themselves happy by practicing kata and how good they would be at kata if that was their single-minded focus for years. I also stressed that everybody believes happiness lies outside of themselves, that they have to find something to make them happy, but this is not true. Happiness comes from within. You don't need anything extra to make you happy.

What are your thoughts?
Yondan in Ryukyu Kempo
Head of the Shubu Kan Dojo in Carthage, NY
(United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance)
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Black Belt
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 2140
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2023 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have also been focusing on zen recently. Hyams' book Zen and Martial Arts is a great read, if you haven't already.

I agree that happiness lies within us. However, given what you described I don't know that I would be happy. I already practice karate every day for at least an hour. I take great joy in it. Outside of this, I read a lot of literature based on martial arts. If karate was all I had to occupy my time with, however, I think that I would grow quite bored of it, regardless of my deep passion. I would need books, personally, as well as other means of exercise and occupying my time. I already don't really watch TV, but I do structure my life around my phone. It has my calendars, notes, and daily reminders that help me be more in the moment. That is the crux, I think. For me, my phone helps me exist more in the moment. It helps me be better at practicing zen because it allows me to put the task of remembering the daily minutiae to something else. The thing about things, in general, is that they don't create happiness. I cannot be happy with everything in the world if I am not fulfilled. However, if I am fulfilled and content with my life, these things do enhance that happiness. They create moments between the vast nothingness that would otherwise be there. Do I need to have book to survive? No. But books help make surviving worth the struggle. Having been in a mode in which I was only surviving with no leisure time, I can say quite confidently that our activities in our leisure time is what makes the 9-5 (or whatever the schedule) worth suffering.

All of this to say, I think that the desire for no desire, or the idea that zen is achieved with minimalist behaviors, is something of a misnomer. I certainly think that cutting things from your life that you no longer need is a step along the path of self-actualization, but to say that it is the end-all is a step too far. Your hobbies and the things that you do in between work and sleep can relate heavily to this journey of zen. It can teach you to be in the moment. To enjoy things as they are, and not as you wish them to be. I practice zen when I run, but it also exists in the back of my mind when I am doing something like playing a video game. Allowing myself to abandon outer thoughts for an hour is great and that is assisted by my electronics and phones keeping track of my time for me. It allows me to be more focused, and to give into the moment at hand. This, in turn, allows me to feel fulfilled with what I have done, and grant more attention to the next task.
Martial arts training is 30% classroom training, 70% solo training.
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