The Art Of Kung Fu Meditation
When you hear about martial arts, the first thing you think of is probably a blazing fast flurry of fists and kicks, or maybe a pair of nunchuks flying through the air. But one of the largest aspects of the entire culture of martial arts has much more to do with the mind than with the body that holds it – and it’s arguably one of the most important skills to master. We are, of course, talking about meditation.
At its core, meditation is the art of shutting out distractions and focusing intensely on what your body is telling you: breathing, heartbeat, temperature, sensations, and all the minute details that are all too often overlooked. While it is normally associated with “clearing your mind” and thinking of nothing in particular, the actual emphasis of meditation is quite the opposite. You want to reflect on yourself, and connect the deep, innate parts of your consciousness with the chaotic and complex side that interacts with the everyday world. By bridging the two together, and strengthening the bond over time, you gain a better understanding of who you are, your place in the world, and how you can live the best life for you.
Research shows that even small amounts of meditation has beneficial effects for practitioners. Even five minutes a day can bring noticeable improvements! Regular meditators see benefits to their blood pressure, stress levels, focus and attention, productivity, sleeping patterns, emotional health, social interactions, immune systems, and so much more – but don’t just take our word for it; here’s an article from Psychology Today that links off to study after study discussing this very topic. Experienced meditators, who have dedicated thousands of hours to this activity, have even been shown to use every region of their brain at the same time when they are in a full meditative state – a phenomenon that cannot occur without practice and discipline.
While it’s an excellent idea to unwind and reflect at home – before bed or in the morning are perfect times for it – if you really want to get the most out of your meditations, having a guide to help you along is essential. When you meditate with us here during class at Kung Fu for Life, you engage not only with your mind, but also the rest of you – body, breathing, and chi. An active relationship with chi, (instead of the inactive, passive approach that we usually have) is the key to true self-discovery, and when you do our meditation, your brain is 100% engaged with the motions of timing and breathing, repeating full and satisfying breaths, over and over again. This can be hard to do on your own, especially if you are new to the process.
The original creator of the Shaolin martial arts is said to have spent seven whole years meditating in a cave by the first Shaolin temples, and for much of it simply sat in place – eventually developing the stretching and movement exercises that allowed him to recover afterwards. These exercises are still used today to maintain continuity between the mental meditative state, and the physical motion afterward, because martial arts are all about bridging the gap between not only conscious and subconscious, but mental and physical. As you develop the connections between both sides, they will become more synchronized – and it follows that your “intuitions” will get better, your “instincts” will improve, and your awareness of yourself and the world around you will sharpen. This is because your subconscious mind will be able to more easily express itself to your conscious mind, and vice versa. Experienced meditators can even use their conscious mind to tell their subconscious self how to deal with bodily problems or injuries, and see results by bringing the two into alignment over time. It all comes down to communicating within yourself, and trusting that you can overcome problems together!
If you’ve always wanted to try meditating, but feel like you don’t have the time, or that you aren’t sure what to do, there are some excellent apps like HeadSpace to get you started. Remember, even a few minutes a day is better than none at all, and the science backs that up. As the saying goes, “If you can’t fit five minutes of meditation into your day, you should do 20!”
Learning how to meditate is one of the most important life skills we teach at Kung Fu for Life. Meditation is the focus of one’s own mind in order control oneself, build confidence and increase mental strength. After all, how does a monk stand in the cold for hours, or sit in a horse stance far longer than should be possible? It all comes down to mental strength – a mental strength gained through hours of meditation and disciplined, regular practice.
When you think about it, great achievements of the body are really just great achievements of the mind, and dedicated minds can achieve what others think is impossible.