Reflections on Meditation – Part 1: Some Benefits

This article is intended for those wondering if meditation might be useful for them in kendo or other areas of life.  I reflect on some of the benefits I have experienced through meditation as it has been very helpful and eye-opening for me.

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Protect yourself…. from your own thoughts. – Rumi

Updates:  Revised the bullet points and added a self-talk one on Sept 26, 2019.


When I started kendo many years ago ago, I recall vaguely my initial surprise with the tradition of a brief meditation (mokusou) at the beginning and end of a practice session.  This was probably my first encounter with meditation.  We were instructed to sit in seiza with our hands folded in a particular way, focus our attention on breathing and leave all our worries and problems outside the dojo.  It was a relief to park my burdens outside the dojo.

A little over ten years ago, I started to attend guided meditation classes sporadically – to help manage the stress from work and life in general (or, more accurately, the mind’s interpretation of the events at work and in life).  This would provide some temporary relief.  I eventually started to meditate more regularly and to notice additional benefits – thanks to the many teachers along the way.  Here are some examples.

  • In the context of kendo, I believe it has helped improve my ability to spar in keiko and manage my mental state in potentially challenging circumstances such as shinsa and shiai.
    • For the former, I believe I am better able to perceive the movements and intentions of the other with a calmer mind and “soft(er)” eyes* and respond more quickly and easily from a more relaxed physical state.
    • For the latter, there seems to be a better ability for the mind and body to reside in calmness in a match.
      • The mind can generate empowering and/or debilitating thoughts, sometimes also referred to as “self-talk”, in anticipation of shinsa or shiai.
        • The debilitating ones may include those related to the four sicknesses (shikai) such as: What if I… fail/lose, look bad, fight a very strong player?  I should have… practiced more, slept more, ate less, warmed up more.  Perhaps I am not… strong enough, fast enough and so on.
        • When unaware of and sucked into thinking such thoughts, it’s easy for “me” to become anxious, tight, nervous or fearful.  This can lead to a stressful experience and/or a poor performance.
        • However, when “aware” of such thoughts without identifying with them, it seems easier to remain more calm, centered and ready to perform well – both physically and mentally.**
  • In the context of relationships, I seem somewhat better at listening and at “How” I say things even if “What” I say remains essentially the same.
    • Before, I may not have been completely present and instead may have been more caught up in thinking – thinking of what to say next, for example, or making a silent commentary to myself while another talked.
    • It helps provide a space to be more mindful and attentive in the presence of others and significant others – especially in crucial or sensitive conversations – where it may be easy to become defensive or nervous.
      • Less instances of harsh words, escalations of tensions or undesirable outcomes and more instances of  kind words, constructive meetings or desirable outcomes.
  • In the context of thoughts and self-talk, there seems to more self-awareness, calmness and awareness of the thoughts running in the mind.
    • For example, I probably had no idea of some of the self-judging and self-critical thoughts that had circulated and can circulate in the mind.  Such thoughts could lead to anxiety, fear, worries or suffering.
      • When aware, however, there is a sense of relief and freedom from such thoughts by the realization that “I” am not those thoughts.
      • It is as if a flashlight has been directed on such thoughts which had hitherto been hidden and unconscious.

These have been the major benefits of meditation for me.  What a wonderful gift!

For More Information on Meditation

For those interested in learning more about meditation, here’s a compilation of resources and quotes for further reading:

Here’s additional information on the related area of mushin:

Wishing calmness in your kendo, mind and life.

 

(Continue to Part 2: Some Experiences)


* The concept of “Soft Eyes” is described in “‘Soft Eyes,’ A Way of Seeing and Being – Resources and Quotes” and “Open-Focus, Mushin and Kendo.”

** It may be helpful to distinguish the approach of positive, empowering self-talk (e.g. saying “I am strong, I can do this.”) from that of mushin (the empty or “no” mind).  In the latter, our attention or awareness is not focused on or limited to any particular thought(s) be they positive, neutral, or negative – to shift to a flow-state as explained in the above links on mushin.  In contrast, in the former, there is a focus on thoughts and, in particular, positive thoughts.

 

Keywords:  Why meditate?  Value of meditation.

Copyright KendoNotes.com 2018

 

 

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