When you hear the word 'meditation', what comes to mind? Someone with a shaved head, legs crossed, surrounded by candles?
In the past I've taught classes where I've mentioned that we're going to practice meditation and it's been received with fits of giggles (mainly from kids). Meditation has a bad rep!
But it isn't as hippy or weird as it sounds, especially when you change the word to 'mindfulness'.
How often have you done something, something mundane and boring, and not even noticed you've done it? Instead, your mind has been somewhere else. When do I have to pay that bill? I wonder what will happen during the next episode of Line of Duty? When is Jez going to release his new blog post? :-)
The problem is, when we think these things, we're not being present in the moment. We're not being mindful of what's happening right now.
Of course there will be times that you've practiced mindfulness, and not even realised it. Whether you're doing a kata, playing football, or painting – if you've ever felt like you were 'in the zone', the likelihood is you were practicing mindfulness.
The thing about being mindful – or in the moment – is that any everyday thoughts that distract you start to fade away. They'll never go entirely, but you can learn to not 'attach' yourself to them, and that's where the magic happens.
"Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought"
– One of the 8 precepts written by Miyagi Chojun (founder of Goju-Ryu)
I remember having a spar with my instructor, and he was beating me as you’d expect. I could feel that I was over-thinking my technique. I took a breath and calmed my thoughts. All of a sudden I could visualise his next move. As he threw a punch, I started to turn my body and threw up a hook kick to his head. His punch ended up between my torso and leg.
The technique might be pretty impractical, but my point? I had clarity for a split second. I could see what he was about to do and what I needed to do. Because my mind was clear and wasn’t being cluttered with other things, I was able to focus on the task at hand – beating my sensei! :-)
This isn’t just helpful for karate. Imagine being fully immersed in an activity and actually remembering having done it, actually enjoying it? Whatever you call it – 'meditation', 'mindfulness' or 'mokosu' (if you're a karate-ka) – being present will enrich your life.
Check out this animation by Headspace!