This article is intended for those wondering if meditation might be useful for them in kendo or other areas of life. I reflect on my experiences with meditation as it has become invaluable for me.
Protect yourself…. from your own thoughts. – Rumi
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.
About ten years ago, I started to attend guided meditation classes sporadically – to help manage stress “from” work and life in general. I eventually started meditating more regularly and noticing additional benefits – thanks to 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, the mind can generate empowering and/or debilitating thoughts, sometimes also referred to as “self-talk”, in anticipation of such special situations. 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 to become anxious, tight, nervous or fearful. Which can lead to a stressful experience and/or a poor performance. However, when “aware” of such thoughts without identifying with them, it seems easier for me to remain more calm, centered and ready to perform well – both physically and mentally.**
- In the context of relationships, my automatic, unconscious and habitual responses to certain words, actions and behaviors of others and, in particular, significant others can lead to tension, escalated emotions and pain at my end and/or for perhaps others, too. The practice of meditation seems to have led to less instances of such responses. There’s a better ability to “see” the thoughts – rather than believing that “I am the thoughts” – and a better ability to respond in more constructive and effective ways.
Meditation has become helpful for me in other areas of life as well. I am grateful for this 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:
- Resources on Meditation (黙想 mokusou)
- Quotes on Meditation and Mindfulness – Related to Thoughts and Thinking
Here’s additional information on the related area of mushin:
Wishing calmness in your kendo, mind and life.
* The concept of “Soft Eyes” is described in “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.
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