“The little things?
The little moments?
They aren’t little.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
This week I came across a great article about mindfulness, and how – thanks to a better understanding of what it does for us and why – it’s shedding the public perception of some kind of “hippy-dippy magical thinking.” The article looks at the growing body of evidence, collected through scientific method, that is moving the school of mindfulness from the mystical to the practical. While a worthwhile read for both people who practice meditation or other mindfulness exercises, as well as skeptics and everyone in between, this information hardly comes as news to martial artists. People who train in the Dojo are very familiar with the mental focus, physical health and the emotional wellness that come with heightened mindfulness.
The precautions we take to keep everyone on the mate safe are largely dependant on each participant being mindful of safety. And even with those safeguards, combat practice carries with it a level of urgency and risk. Simply put, it's hard to let one's mind wander when they have fists or feet flying at them. Responding effectively in those situations requires a heightened awareness of our partners and their movement, as well as that of our own bodies. Our intense focus on body mechanics, balance and breathing further strengthens the critical mind-body connection.
But perhaps the biggest mindfulness-related benefit of martial arts training is the attention to detail it requires. Minute adjustments in our stances can translate to major increases in the power of our strikes. A seemingly minor change in the way we execute our blocks can make the difference between whether deflect a punch or get hit. Small hints in the way a potential attacker moves can give away their intentions and their plan. Victory or defeat, life or death can sometimes hinge on those details.
Just as our practice heightens our mindfulness, mindfullness heightens our practice--and our lives. Life's big moments are too few and far between to rely on them for our happiness, especially when so much joy can be found in the little moments that make up every day. And the bad stuff? Dealing with those challenges becomes much easier when our mind and body work together, when we are fully conscious of our circumstances, and when we pay close attention to the little things. It makes a big difference indeed..