Whatever you wish to achieve in life, it requires intention, focus, effort and perseverance. Without these elements, you will not create a reason to do something or put in the work, time and dedication needed to make it happen. There is a process of investment that leads to your desired outcome.
If there is a process of striving, how can you ever be at peace?
Once you reach your goal, do you not run the risk of stagnation?
These are the questions that bring the deeper meanings of martial arts out of the training hall and into the arena of daily living. There are many schools of martial arts. I can only talk of my own experience. For many, martial arts are about fitness, for others about self defence. Some do them for the competitive element and others enjoy the combative edge. There is also the aspect of facing the fear of being hurt and the opportunity of dominating another through skill or even brute force. Even the violence of the fight appeals to some people.
These are not what martial arts are about for me!!!!
I admit, fitness and self defence were the reasons I started and there was the element of conquering my fear every time I did my training- the unknown and the unexpected are powerful forces that can disturb the mind. But very early on I realised there was a deeper element to martial arts that intrigued and fascinated me. It went beyond the physical training and touched my mind, heart and spirit. The greatest conflicts of life are of the mind. Yes, the body can become injured, ill and diseased and thankfully there is an in- build repair and maintenance system at hand to take care of these situations. The mind is an altogether different proposition and martial arts can give you the means to harness its power in a positive and life affirming way.
There are many centres to the mind- memory, visual, emotional, auditory, fear to name a few. My study of psychology, no more than an amateur’s reading, and life experience helps me realise the power and intricacy of the human mind. My professional research in neuroscience and nerve regeneration gives me some idea of the complexity of the human brain. The details are staggering and I work much better with metaphors to illustrate complex ideas……… please join me on my current working analogies of the mind and brain.
You become what you focus on- if you are in the throes of new romance you feel consumed with love and all is well with the world; when you are about to do something you really don’t like, you might be filled with fear, apathy, worry or indifference. Where your attention lies defines you in that moment. I liken it to a flash light- your attention casts a focussed spot of light on the part of the mind it is aware of. MRI scans of people’s brains taken while they perform certain activities demonstrates how specific centres of the brain light up (indicating increased local blood flow) inferring greater neurological (nerve cell) activity in that area.
In martial arts you learn how to control the awareness of the mind. Do you think ahead or in the moment? Do you allow yourself to be consumed with fear and self- doubt, or do you remain calm and alert? Will you allow tiredness to lead to mistakes or remain focussed on the task at hand? When learning techniques, will you allow yourself to be overwhelmed or will you break it down and learn it step by step? These are all important questions that can be applied to a wider life context.
The options available are many, but simply break down into two categories: calmness and confusion. The mind either focuses on the calm, still centre or its attention lies on the maelstrom of activity, emotion and confusion that spins around that centre. If you think of it like a tornado, the destructive part is the violent wind of emotion (doubt and fear), confusion (a lack of perspective due to being tossed around beyond your control) and activity (trying to sort things out while you are in the storm). The calm centre is more grounded and controlled, allowing you to see the emotional response for what it is, gaining better perspectives of the situation at hand and acting from a still place to sort out the situation.
Very often you find your attention or awareness in the outer, spinning wall of air and the resulting confusion. What if you could shine your light of awareness on the still centre while the storms of life rage around you, allowing you to see with more clarity, make decisions with a better understanding of the broader perspectives and feel calm as you make your life choices and move your life forward in your desired direction? If so, peace would always be yours.
It is simply a question of focussing the mind on peace. To strive is to move forward, not to be in turmoil. Peace is to remain centred in control of your attention, expanding your awareness and strengthening your power. This column of peace in the centre of the tornado draws energy from the environment around it- up from the ground beneath it; down from the universe above and; in from the spinning world surrounding it. This is how stagnation is avoided- the growing energy in the centre seeks outlets of creativity, enquiry, curiosity and endeavour ensuring that life becomes a journey of adventure, growing wisdom and endless learning- the true meaning and purpose of martial arts.