Friday, June 12, 2009

Meditation for Martial Arts?

[Question from a reader]

Hi Cliff,
I noticed on your facebook fan page that under interests you mention that you meditate - I've done some in the past ; problem solving and such. But I am curious to know if you meditate specifically for martial arts?

The short answer is that 'yes' I do meditate for martial arts. But I guess in a 'round about' way!

Many martial arts are by nature very meditative. We see this in arts such as Tai Chi, but it is also a major part of karate, wing chun etc etc and also the more 'fight' rather than 'form' based martial arts of Muay Thai and even boxing. Also consider that many of these martial arts were born out of societies in which meditation was an integral part of the culture and religion and several martial arts were developed by monks and nuns.

The meditative aspect of martial arts for me is two fold.
1. The exercise as meditation
Here is an excerpt from my book:
"Any exercise can become more meditative. Some forms of physical exercise are, by their very nature and design, meditative (like Tai Chi and Yoga).
Other exercise can be meditative when performed mindfully. The key is that when you are exercising you are just exercising and not thinking about television, work or what you’re going to have for dinner! To make exercise more mindful we need to focus on the movement of the body and when the mind wanders gently return its focus to the body and the movement.
Running can, for example, be extremely meditative. The constant and repetitive nature of the movement encourages mindfulness and often leads to a state of deep yet gentle focus. Runners call this ‘the zone’ and it can involve a state where the runner isn’t distracted by thoughts. In many cases this sensation of awareness is so great that the runner and the action cease to exist and there is simply ‘running’."

This has been something cultivated by martial artists over centuries. The idea of simply 'being'. With this mind the fighter becomes the fight, he becomes the movement and fights with pure non-attachment, not out of anger, malice and without the trappings of ego and vanity.

2. Meditation as a 'global' tool for martial arts.
Another excerpt from "Choosing You":
"Put simply mindfulness is seeing things for what they are. It is being open to what is going on around you, without attachment and without reaction.
It is developing the ‘watcher’ or the ‘observer’ within. Our minds are perpetual motion machines that create thought after thought. Mindfulness is recognising that these thoughts are transient and these thoughts are not us.
By observing our thoughts and emotions, by developing the ‘watcher’ within, we can see that our thoughts are not us. There is something deeper than this. We know this simply because we can become mindful, we can ‘watch’ our thoughts and emotions arise…and so we know that they are things that happen, and are in fact things that we ‘do’ and cannot therefore be ‘us’.
Think about your emotions as a rollercoaster. Many of us, most of the time jump on board the rollercoaster every time it starts up! When you are angry for example you almost become anger – you have jumped on board the ‘angercoaster’, but you know that you are not anger, you are you!
You can choose to observe the rollercoaster of emotion instead of always getting carried away with it.

Our mind creates thoughts and emotions on a subconscious level or we actively create or pursue them on a conscious level. Our thought process is really a never-ending cascade of ideas that is instigated at birth and is supplemented in its content by everything that happens to us, everything we do and everything that we are exposed to in any way. On the grandest scale this includes everything in the universe and becomes more specific to our own character and thoughts the closer it comes to us. What we actually ‘see’ in our minds eye is what we have chosen on some level to attach to because it is (or appears to be at the time) the most relevant information to us.
Our thoughts are constructs of the brain. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the results of ‘just doing it’ are extremely powerful!"

So we can see that meditation will help us in any area of life. And in fact as we develop a meditative practice our entire life becomes more mindful and meditative in, and of, itself. In the ancient traditions there are so many forms of meditation; sitting, lying, standing, walking, whirling, dancing....all of which develop greater awareness and ultimately peace.

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