Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Cultivating a Calm Mind

I've said many times that while I am interested in martial arts for many reasons, the one that rises above the rest is that the study helps me to cultivate a calm mind.

In his excellent Zen Habits blog, Leo Babauta recently had a post about cultivating what he called a flexible mind, which in much in line with what I'm talking about. 

Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.

Why Develop Flexible Mind

The root cause of frustration, irritation, anger, sadness is an inflexible mind — one that wants to hold onto the way we wish things were, the ideas we’re comfortable with. When things don’t go this way, we are then frustrated, angry, sad.

So developing a flexible mind is a way to be open to anything, happy with change, prepared for any situation. Think about it: if there’s a major disruption in your life, it’s only a bad thing because you’re holding onto the way you wish things could be, what you’re comfortable with. If you let go of that wish, the change isn’t bad. It’s just different, and in fact it could be good if you embrace it and see the opportunity.

It’s about developing the ability to cope with change, to be flexible, to simplify.

How: Small Practices

You don’t develop flexible mind overnight — your mind isn’t as easy to change as your outfit. You have to develop mental habits with small changes, consistently over time.

Here’s how:
  1. Make a commitment, for one week, to try to let go of what you’re holding onto when you get irritated, frustrated, sad, etc.
  2. Make a list of the things that trigger these emotions — being interrupted, someone cutting you off in traffic, someone being loud when you’re trying to work, people not washing their dishes, etc.
  3. Create reminders for when those triggers happen — paper notes, a bead bracelet, something written on your hand, a sign on your car’s dashboard, etc.
  4. When the trigger happens, pause. Notice the emotion rising. Feel it, but don’t act. Breathe.
  5. Try to see what you’re holding onto — wishing the driver would be more polite, wishing you could do what you were doing without interruptions, wishing other people would be perfect in cleaning up after themselves. These wishes are fantasies — let them go. Be open to the way things are, to changes that have happened. Breathe, open your heart, accept.
  6.  Now respond appropriately, without wishing things were different, with compassion.
Repeat however many times you like during the week, or a minimum of once a day.

Please note that you will not be perfect at this when you start. It’s a difficult skill to learn, because we have emotional patterns that have built up over the years. It’s good enough to become more aware of it, and to attempt this method once a day. Be flexible in your desire to get this exactly right. Practice it when you remember for the rest of the year.


walt said...

...small changes, consistently over time.

Or, as a lady once said to me, "Baby steps lead to big feats."

Somewhere along the line I learned to nudge myself into new directions, and be satisfied on a given day with small progress. Often I have remembered the day-to-day learning period with tai chi (ha-ha, still on-going!) and used that as a model for changing behavior.

Rick Matz said...

All we can do is to try out best every day.

Rick Matz said...

We can't exceed our limits unless and until we grapple with them.

RunBikeThrow said...

Most of our chains would fall off if we just let go of them.

Rick Matz said...

That is the basic premise of Buddhism.

Jonathan Bluestein said...

Excellent post!!

Rick Matz said...

Zen Habits is a very good site.

Compass Architect said...

By being mindfully aware of himself/herself, one would realize how the integrity of their self is connected to their training. ... This is a good post. ...

Rick Matz said...

It was a good find.