Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mind Like Water

For many people the practice of meditation is an opportunity for gaining some control over the often hectic thought process of the mind, the success of which is usually in direct proportion to the amount of time actually spent in meditation. If you throw a handful of dirt into a glass of water and shake it up, you have a glass of muddy water. If you set the glass aside and allow things to settle, the dirt sinks to the bottom and the water becomes clear. This is a simplification of the basic meditation process. The mind is the glass of water, the swirling dirt makes up the myriad thoughts we have filling our heads during every waking moment of every day, and meditation is setting the glass aside to allow the thoughts to settle.
Most of the time we spend our days listening to this nonstop monologue inside our heads. Do this, go there, buy that, eat this, look there, smell that, I like this, I hate that, she’s funny, he’s smart, I wonder if, etc. It never ends. From the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep, the chatter continues unabated in our heads. On and on it jumps from subject to subject, idea to idea, emotion to emotion, and thought to thought like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, occasionally stopping to drink more fully of some idea or thought, and then off again. Sometimes, when it finally does stop on one subject it clamps onto it tightly, causing us to think continuously about it, processing the subject from every angle over and over until it borders on or becomes an obsession. We have all experienced this at some point when we have stressed about something so much that it seemed to consume us - maybe it was an unexpected money issue or a personal confrontation with someone. We can get so caught up in the worrying that even eating and sleeping become difficult. Our glass of water can get very muddy.

In traditional martial arts the concept of Mind Like Water goes deeper. Mind Like Water is used to define the state of perfect readiness in preparation for executing a response to any given situation. Imagine a pool of water. If you throw a pebble into the center of the pool, the water ripples out in a totally appropriate response in relation to the force and mass of the input. The water’s reaction is in exact proportion to the size of the pebble. If we toss a big rock into the pool, we get a large splash and bigger ripples. Each and every time the response is exactly as it should be, given what we throw into the pool. The water doesn’t overreact with a huge splash when a small pebble is thrown in. Nor does it under react with a small splash when a boulder is dropped into it. When applied, this concept can be very useful for anyone in the process of navigating through our hectic world.
Water is shapeless. If you put water into a glass it becomes the glass. If you pour it into a bucket it becomes the bucket. It reacts to any situation just as it needs by following the path of least resistance. If you place a large rock in a mountain stream, the water will find a way to flow around the rock and continue on.
Mind Like Water is the process of mindful awareness. When our minds are full of thoughts and distractions, we have difficulty responding effectively to situations that come up. If we have too much stuff going on in our heads, we can miss opportunities or fall into difficult situations. On the other hand, if we are focused on the present moment, we are able to see our situation clearly and react in an appropriate and effective manner. We basically become ready for anything that life puts before us. In this way we are able to bring a sense of calmness and peace to our lives.
Mindful awareness of the present moment is based on intention. Intention is a concentrated focus of the mind, causing the occurrence of events in our lives. When you intend to do something, you cause it to happen. If you do something unintentionally it is from a lack of mental focus that it comes to pass. Learning to stay present is training intention. Training intention allows you to be successful in whatever you attempt.
Unlike more modern styles, traditional martial artists train their minds just as hard as they train their bodies. They understand that the physical body has limitations and techniques that depend solely on physical action will always be less effective than techniques that are done with a connection between the mind and body. Summoning the mental energy needed to deal with a situation is creating intention. When the mind has a clear idea of the task at hand and its commitment to that task, the motions of the physical body will be controlled and guided to their highest levels of proficiency. Our response matches the size of the stone thrown into the pool of our mind.
Water flows to the path of least resistance yet it has the power to overcome any obstacle. If we are able to maintain our center in the present moment we are able to react and adapt to situations as they appear. Cultivating this can be a challenge if our mind is swirling with dirty water. Finding a few moments each day to sit and allow the thoughts to settle will be of great benefit. You don’t necessarily have to think of it as meditation…Think of it as watering your mind.
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