Mindfulness: Being in the Flow

The term mindfulness has become very popular lately as neuroscience has taken it on as a distinction (distinguishing it as a theory) in the science. However, mindfulness has been around for centuries in Buddhism, ontological studies, and eastern practices. It is also a core component of Aikido practice, called flow–being present in the moment and blending with the energy.

Let’s start with some definitions of mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” — Psychology Today

“Mindfulness is the practice bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation. The term “mindfulness” is a translation of the Pali-term sati, which is a significant element of some Buddhist traditions.” — Buddhism

From the quotes above, there seems to be convergence on the scientific front with eastern philosophical practices.

In neuroscience or eastern practices, they both agree that the voice that’s constantly going on in our head is not necessarily giving us a true picture of reality. In the case of science, it distinguishes that voice is a left brain function that is necessary for survival but can overtake our sense of what’s real. That voice has opinions, judgments, and assessments of everything that’s happening.

Let’s say you were in the kitchen and you accidentally touched a very hot pot and burned your hand. The next time you’re in the kitchen, the voice may be saying to you “be careful of the pot, it may be hot! Remember you burned yourself last time,” That’s what that voice is designed to do. However, that voice may say, “I’m such a bad cook, I will never cook again because I always hurt myself.” And then we find evidence to fit that assessment to make it true. The voice is a storyteller and we identify with the story as real.

Another example: You see your boss with a frown on his face and looking your way. Your voice may be saying to yourself, “Uh-oh, better get the resume ready, I’m going to be fired!” This happens so automatically that we don’t see that it’s a story or interpretation. We interact with the interpretation as the truth. The voice then becomes who we are as we interact to the world through these interpretations.

So where does Aikido stand in mindfulness?

There are lots of Aikido practices that would equate to mindfulness, with the most similar practice being “flow”. In order to flow in Aikido, you must first be present in-the-moment. Being present is the ability to focus on what’s in front of you without ignoring what’s happening around you in the now.

A favorite saying of one of my senseis is, “easy the I.” When we practice our techniques, it is the ability to focus on the incoming energy and blending and redirecting (flowing with) that energy that we are really training and developing ourselves. Being “easy the I” is my sensei’s way of saying not to let that voice drive, evaluate, or judge our performance of the techniques. The voice doesn’t go away, but it is not driving our interactions or who we are. You can say all of Aikido training is about quieting this voice and be able to be present to deal what really is happening now. Out of this practice, you can discover who you really are, which is anything (or nothing) you can choose to be. In the case of Aikido, O’Sensei chose to be peace, harmony, and love for our fellow human beings; and created Aikido to realize that in the world.

Mindfulness applies in our life everyday, every moment. How many times have we been upset that someone cut us off on the freeway? How many arguments have we had with our loved ones? How many times in life we wanted to accomplish something, but we think (the voice) that we can’t do it and don’t even attempt it? We don’t realize that maybe 99% of the time it’s the voice that’s in control and shapes how we are in the world and how we interact with it.

What if we can be in the flow (mindful) in any situation in life? How would we be in life? Who would we choose to be?

This article, of course, is but a small treatise on a whole world of mindfulness. Knowing about something is not the same as being and doing that something. I hope to whet your appetite about how being mindful and in the flow can transform who you are in the world.

Enjoy your Day and See You On The Mat!

Thanh Huynh
Leadership, Executive and Life Coach – San Jose, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

If you would like to chat with me about how I can help you move forward in your leadership and life, please email me at thanh@aikileader.com.

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