Do Not Feed The Devil
Everyone has heard the saying “mind over matter”, but few people actually take the time to think about what it really means. Far from being an annoying mantra that means you should never feel down about anything, it’s intended as a guiding principle that will help you overcome negativity in a healthy and useful way.
To illustrate this point, let’s change gears for a moment and talk about an old folk tale. In it, a bedridden prince is stuck in bed with a mysterious illness, and nothing seems to help. One day, he and his attendants see, lurking in the corner of the room, a demon that seems to be at the root of all the trouble. Frightened and angry, they scream and they curse, but it does no good – the demon grows, every day, until it takes up most of the room. Soon it will be too late for the prince, unless they can think of a solution.
So out of curiosity – and because they could think of nothing else – the prince and the attendants try being kind to the demon. They reach out to it, they offer food and drink, and they refuse to let its increasing anger faze them. As the demon shrinks down again, it becomes more violent and unpredictable, but the people continue…and before long, the demon is gone, and they have all learned a valuable lesson.
So what does this mean for our students?
When we encounter difficult situations – especially ones over which we feel we have little or no control – our main gut reaction is to get upset. We might lash out, turn negative, or push away the people who care about us. This begins a cycle of anger that reinforces itself and continues the behaviour, which seems increasingly unfair, so we get even more angry….and before long, we have turned a setback (which are always going to happen) into something insurmountable. What this story tells us is that instead, we should step back and consider all the other sides of the problem: who else is affected by our actions? Realistically, will being angry change anything? Is it worth losing patience over this? Often we will find that we can calm ourselves and remain steady if we choose not to give in to those base reactions.
It is nicely summed up in the legendary story of the “Two Wolves”, which are in constant battle inside every person: one made of darkness and despair, and the other light and hope. The winner depends on which one you choose to feed!
Meditative martial arts like kung fu can help you reach a point of tranquility, where your emotions are better balanced and you carefully consider the impacts of your actions. The mind and the body are tied together, and when they improve in tandem, you will find that you are capable of great changes in your life that you may have never thought possible. It’s just one more benefit to studying martial arts!
Am I Meditating Properly?
If you’re only going by what you’ve seen in the movies, you may think of meditation as something that only monks or masters do – an exercise in discipline where you must sit perfectly upright for hours, clear your mind of every last thought, and always have a grand revelation or uncover some deep divine wisdom. In reality, meditation is nothing nearly so fancy. It is simply a way to re-centre yourself, be more aligned with your body and surroundings, and to be more mindful of what your senses are telling you. In other words – don’t feel pressured to have an epiphany, because there are no expectations!
Here are some of the questions we get asked most often about the best way to meditate. If you’re curious about this ancient (and provably beneficial) practice, read on for more information.
Can I lie down?
If that’s what works for you, sure! Some people believe it enhances your chi energy if you sit upright with a straight back, which is where the traditional “meditating monk” image comes from. But if that’s uncomfortable or not working for you, feel free to lie down and stretch out.
How long do I have to do it?
The length of a session depends on what you want to achieve. To overcome depression or sadness, 5-10 minutes a day is a good place to start, and it’s short enough to easily set aside the time, even in a busy schedule. For anxiety, go a little longer to get in the practice of letting go of worries – 15 minutes or so per day. If you have a focus on healing injuries, 30-60 minutes is best. For all of these, if you miss a day you can make it up the next day, which is nice to know!
A good recommendation is that you should meditate one minute for every year of your age.
Is it okay to think my thoughts?
Absolutely! It’s very difficult to stop conscious thoughts altogether, so embrace them and allow them to continue. Our only guideline is to make sure that the thoughts don’t take over, or bring you to a negative place – if you’re having an internal argument, or only thinking about all the other things you have to be doing, those are not constructive and you should refocus.
What’s the best way to control breathing?
When you are new to the process, you should control your breathing to be as slow and steady as possible, for as long as you can. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, all while compressing your abdomen from the top downward. Over time, and with more experience, this will get easier, and the breathing itself will become a tool you can use to reach a meditative mind state. An ultimate goal is to eventually be able to reach that mind state first, with the breathing following automatically.
Are guided meditations as good as individual ones?
Guided meditations are excellent for beginners, and can still be useful for intermediate and advanced practitioners. Once you are more familiar with the practice and your own capabilities, you will develop better control and will eventually reach a state where you can meditate without outside assistance – but everyone is different, so don’t feel rushed.
Is it wasteful to meditate before bed?
No! It is actually extremely beneficial. It completely clears your mind and gives you more peaceful, restful sleep. In addition, if you put a healing intention behind it, your body can heal better during sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
Alternately, if you wake up before your alarm, use those extra few minutes to meditate – for about twenty minutes before we sleep and after we wake, our brains are in transition to a different state and are a lot more open to suggestions.
How do I know if I’m meditating correctly?
Actually committing to the act of meditation is half the battle, so just by sitting to do it, you’re already on your way! Despite what martial arts movies might say, there is no such thing as doing it “correctly”. There are 100+ methods of meditation if you look into it – you can do it while driving, standing, walking, reading, anything. Why?
Because meditation is simply focusing. It is being completely focused on what you’re doing, even if that is nothing in particular. You will know if you are doing it incorrectly, because your mind will be jumping back and forth between ideas and you’ll have a hard time concentrating. If you are getting angry or emotionally attached to your thoughts, then you’re further from a state of meditation.
What’s the best advice you have for improving my meditation?
Be consistent with it daily, be immersed, and keep your mind open. Don’t let yourself get attached to thoughts or everyday stress when you’re trying to relax your mind, but in turn, don’t beat yourself up if every session isn’t a 100% success.
Meditating is a release, not a chore. Let yourself go, see where it takes you, and enjoy the benefits that follow!
The Importance Of The Mind
A lot of people focus on how they look and what their bodies can do, but less actually consider how they think and how it affects everything else. The old saying “mind over matter” can come across as a tired platitude about the power of positive thinking, but it turns out that there’s actually a fair amount of truth to it.
How to Get a Better Mindset
The first thing that a truly successful person understands about the mind is the role that the ego plays in it. This is, essentially, your perception of yourself and how you use that perception to interact with the environment – including how you see your own skills and abilities. Obviously, this is rather important for training in martial arts classes! Your ego, for example, plays a huge part in how you defend yourself: if your hands are down because you’re overconfident that you can react in time, you could be a multi-degree black belt and still get hit in the face by someone new.
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