We were winding up a seminar training session. I was taking questions. A long distance student asked a very common question. “What is the most important thing for me to work on at my stage of training?” There are always many things; improvement is continuous. Given that this student was a Black Belt my response was more quality of movement focused. “Continue to chip away at unnecessary movement and tension.” This is something we are never done with. I am reminded of the slogan “There is no finish line.”
Beyond physical skill, the great value in adopting this essential principle lies in learning to apply it to our lives. Life is challenging. People are complicated. Things are difficult. Everyone is busy. That will never change, but you can. The first step is to recognize that we are constantly socialized and encouraged into all kinds of unnecessary stress and strife. The seductive lure of excess seems to have permeated everything. Everything is extreme, ultra, and super sized. We are so surrounded by and immersed in it that it can be difficult to notice. It becomes “the way we do things,” the so-called norm.
This is of course, just as it is in our physical training, a very broad and expansive subject. That is the nature of fundamental principles by definition. As a way to apply this principle to your daily experience and the quality of your life, here are a few questions to adopt as routine filters.
Is this worth my time and effort? For example, as An-shu recently described, what is the return on the investment of engaging time and effort in a political rant, or a response to one, on the internet? Often we do not even realize that we are investing precious resources (peace of mind, time, energy, health blood pressure) in negative returns. Why would you do that?
The answer is not as simple as we might expect. It is a very dangerous, yet all too common, trap to fall in to. We can come to believe that the only way for us to feel passionate, excited, and alive is in a negative, arguing context. Through a lack of mindfulness we can convince ourselves that life is dull and boring. So, while these behaviors may be unproductive, ugly, and unhealthy something in our minds says, “well at least I feel alive.” Excited, negative energy is far too common and therefore modeled everywhere, and thus easy to get in the habit of imitating, at great personal expense.
Another question to consider frequently is; how does this fit in to my personal vision of a happy and healthy life? Is devoting time, energy, and money to the acquisition of –fill in the blank – getting me closer to my vision or merely a distraction? The marketers are very good at promising us all manners of happiness if we will just buy their products.
So the applied principle is this: if your are going to invest the precious resources of time, life energy, money (which most likely required the previous two to acquire) and, your peace of mind in the pursuit of something, consider the likely return on your investment. This practice may help you become aware of how often you are unintentionally making investments that are only bringing you negative returns.
This is a form of mindfulness and is certainly worth running the experiment. There will always be difficulties and challenges. We don’t need to mindlessly manufacture more in a misguided effort to feel alive. Any reduction in the level of stress and strife we must cope with is an improvement in our quality of life, peace of mind, health, and experience of happiness. At the end of the day, what is more important than this?