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  • Shihan Kendall

Magic in the Details

The present moment is filled with Joy and Happiness.

If you are attentive you will see it.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace of mind: it can really seem like a battle these days. It can be easy to feel under siege in our homes, and sometimes hard to imagine calm and equanimity, let alone joy and happiness.

I've been thinking a lot about the Battle for Peace of Mind for reasons both professional (the fighting strength and emotional well-being of my students are part of my job) and personal (I mean, I'm trying to keep it together too). Certainly, a lot of our Dojo training prepares us for times like these. Physical fitness, for instance, is crucial to emotional health. So is mental toughness, the ability to persevere, and the knowledge that the greater the obstacle, the greater the personal growth.

But perhaps the single biggest factor in whether a person can find true Joy, even in challenging times, is the same quality that elevates the finest warriors I know and the finest students I train: attention to, and love of, the little things.

Oftentimes we have a hard time noticing the little things, for all the big things that are either happening around us, or that aren't happening but we're thinking about anyway. Then there are the times that we look at little details and see only tedium--things we don't want to bother with. The best martial artists, though, see magic in the details. Tiny adjustments turn unsteady stances into perfect balance. Little changes in our strikes can multiply our force many times over. It's in the little things that a Warrior finds their power, and their joy.

I've noticed that when I find myself pulled towards sadness and grief, it's the big things I'm mourning. All the missed proms and graduations. The summer concerts and festivals that won't happen. That big, beautiful current of energy when the Dojo is filled with warriors doing what they love with people they love.

On the other side of that coin, I've found that my most profound moments of Joy have come from the little things that I frankly felt I couldn't fit in when there was much more to do and life moved at a much faster pace. More meaningful talks with family and friends. More leisurely dinners with Caroline and Gareth, often after FaceTiming with Autumn as meals were prepared on opposite ends of the time zone. More opportunity on runs with our hounds to watch Spring explode. And, thankfully, all those moments of excitement and discovery, fun and growth are still there in our Dojo classes--we're just experiencing them in a different way.

Does it suck that we don't have graduations, and neighborhood barbecues, concerts, a full Dojo? Heck, yeah. But we can't be distracted by the loss of those big things. Peace of Mind, even Joy and Happiness can still be ours. And we don't even have to fight for them. We just have to open our eyes to them.

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