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, July 28, 2012

Change Your Mind

Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning. - Thoreau

That's one of my favorite quotes. What is the point of studying any sort of philisophy if you don't attempt to apply it in your daily life.

For years now, I have been practicing at night; or at least after work once I get my "stuff" around the house done. Even though my kids are gone though, I find myself just busier and busier.

The result has been that by the time I've been getting around to taking car of my self, it's been a 50/50 proposition. I could easily be mentally and physically spent from the days' activities.

This is one of my favorite stories from Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu)

Once a zookeeper said to his monkeys: "You'll get 3 bananas in the Morning and 4 in the afternoon."
All monkeys are upset.

"OK. How about 4 bananas in Morning and 3 in the afternoon?"

Hearing this, the monkeys are content.

The zoo keeper has a flexible and open mind. He doesn't mind changing  his plans to accommodate the monkeys as long as the task is being met, He could have stuck rigidly to his own idea, but then he'd have a bunch of unhappy monkeys on his hands and anyone who has coached youth sports knowns that that isn't a happy place. Parents can be awful.
What did he do? He changed his mind.

I changed my mind.

I had been adamant that I wasn't going to get up any earlier than had already been my habit. It wa almost a matter of principal with me.  "Don't I do enough? Now I am going to get up EXTRA early?!"

One of the points of resistence had been the idea of the (artificial) deadline looming over me, the little dose of anxiety that I had to be finished by a certain time (or else what? I don't know; I come and go pretty much as I please at work). It was a self imposed obstacle. I also had my little morning rituals to which I had become unconciously attached.

I changed my mind.

I started getting up an hour earlier and found that I was consistently getting one and a half hours in every day regardless of what came my way later on. I not only changed my mind, but have embraced the change of outlook. I can go into the office every day knowing that I've already taken care of what I need to do for myself. It's a great feeling.

Practicing ~5 days a week x ~50 weeks a year adds up. Weekends are more relaxing since I'm not trying to get the training in that I may have skipped during the work week. Weekends can either be a recovery time or bonus training!

So. The moral of the story is that if you have a rough spot or sore point in your training, take a good look at it. Maybe all that you need to do is to change your mind.


Yamabushi said...

Good story about change. I have been debating similar changes myself. But I am not much of a morning person.

Rick Matz said...

You can change that, you know.

walt said...

For years I would read that "All action begins with a thought" or "Thinking is doing" or "The mind leads the chi" -- and struggle to sense what was being suggested. But over time, I noticed instances like yours, where whole situations would shift with merely the change of an idea, and what seemed impossible became quite doable.

Now I wonder: What are the broadest implications of this? A lot of great teachers have left a lot of strong hints about the subject. Of course, with a little more time in the mornings, there will be opportunities to ponder.

I also wonder -- how I can spend days/weeks/years stretching and working and practicing to keep the body flexible ... and then still find myself inhibited by a rigid little knot of an idea in my mind? Obviously there is more work to do.

Good account, Rick. Glad your practice is more comfortable for you.

Paul said...

Nice post. You are very serious on your practice...and SHE is dead serious too, look at the way she is doing zhan zhuang, in particular her stretched fingers!

Rick Matz said...

@Walt - Kushida Sensei said, "Hold on to the hard things and your mind will open." When you turn a problem over in your mind enough, sometimes the answers reveal themsevles to have been there all along.

@Paul - that cats' kung fu is very strong!

Anonymous said...

The real challenge however, becomes how to change without bending over backwards - or being drawn out of your center as my Sensei(s) would have it.

Rick Matz said...

@Dragonriderone - that's all in your mind too.

Consider what you are doing as you play the part of uke: You attack sincerely, then as shite responds you yield, follow, stick, receive the technique and emerge unscathed; none the worse for the wear.

Yamabushi said...

@Rick That pun is simultaneously so good and so bad. I feel like I should have seen that coming...I guess I can change that too. :D