Monday was suspiciously nice outside. For those of us in the Northeastern U.S., warm weather has only visited once or twice in the last five months. Therefore, it was with great trepidation that I took a step outside in order to get the mail a block away.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be t-shirt weather, with a slight breeze and hint of Spring in the air. I started off for the mailbox using my “winter speed walk”, but before long slowed down to a leisurely pace. It was midday so there were no cars buzzing through the lot nor children ambling about. All I could hear was the faint clacking of my shoes against the pavement.
After arriving at the mailbox I decided it might be appropriate to take the long route back to my apartment; a winding stretch of macadam that traces the treeline and wraps around a few extra buildings.
While traveling the path I fell into a comfortable rhythm, not mindfully set…just natural. I observed which trees had decided to push toward blooming, and which were still suspicious of impending frost (not unlike myself a few minutes earlier). I also passed my gaze over nearby apartments, decorations, birdhouses….anything that came into view. Not analyzing anything, just recognizing them as they slipped in and away.
I was enjoying this soft no-mind when suddenly I was invaded by an uncomfortable feeling. Guilt. Back at the apartment I had bills waiting, a lunch to make, and dishes to do. Before my walk I had heard about more struggles in Japan and Syria, not to mention a nearby house that had burnt down (as reported by the local news).
All of those misfortunes…and I was out strolling about.
For a moment it seemed unfathomable that I would be so negligent of the world and my responsibilities.
My loss of focus, or perhaps loss of conscientious non-focus, is not surprising. Indeed, the mind is a complex network that can sometimes work against it’s own benefit. We, as modern humans, seem to yearn for simplicity and quiet; yet when those rare moments arrive our minds fight back and remind us of our duties and concerns.
As a society we’ve adapted a few methods to combat this issue, the most prominent being ‘vacation’. A lot of people can temporarily suspend their guilt and give themselves permission to relax. Even so, usually after a few days the ‘real world’ creeps back in steadily. Most parents I know don’t experience much vacation even when on vacation.
On a day to day, week to week basis it can be extremely difficult to find ways to push out the world at large and find time to reset the mind and spirit.
That being said, let me ask: how often do you worry about bills during kata training? What about the kid’s soccer practice while sparring?
My guess is that those external matters rarely creep in on you. In fact, those few training moments are probably your most focused throughout the entire day, or even week.
To perform a kata even remotely well, you need to pay exacting attention to what you’re doing. Eventually you can even experience mushin. But the benefit of kata is that it maintains your focus and consistently draws you back into the moment. If you drift into other emotions (like I allowed myself to do during my walk) your kata will crumble. Naturally you don’t want that to happen so your odds of course correction are much higher.
Good martial arts training can suspend time for you. It’s often said that your training shouldn’t stop at the dojo door, which is true. But it’s certainly permissible to leave your troubles at the door when entering.