Distractions from Training
I have come to realize that one of the differences between your average person and a person who excels at the arts of the mind and body is how they practice their art, despite, or even within the distractions of life which pull us from our practice.
Consider Patanjali’s statements on Yoga as focus without distraction. He classifies distractions as real and imagined. Most of the time the yogi or martial artists thinks of these distractions as occurring during meditation, and sometimes during practice of asana, or forms but rarely do we realize that these distractions are constant and ongoing. To truly master our art we must recognize these distractions and deal with them. In this multi part blog posting I consider some of the distractions from practice and offer advice on how to continually improve when distractions arise.
- Obligations – The most frequently cited reason for not practicing is “I am too busy”. We have very real obligations we undertake to our family, work and friends. Finally we oblige ourselves to other activities. I have heard quite a few parents say things like “my child cant come to martial arts because he is doing swimming, dancing, band etc…”
- Illness – when we are sick or hurt, we are unable to do many of the things we could do at peak health.
- Injury - Sometimes rest is the best thing for us. For example, if our shoulder is hurt we will only make it worse with pushups.
- Mood – sometimes we just want to take a day off.
- Cyclical – We all have periods where we have more energy, more enthusiasm, and more support from people around us. Anyone who has run a studio can tell you that bad or nice weather days have low turnout. There is also the Nov-Dec slump in attendance followed by a Jan. bump. It is natural to have some weeks where one trains hard, and others where training is soft.
- Leisure food and sleep – everyone needs time off, time to eat and time to sleep. For most people about half their day is spent doing things like cooking, cleaning, sleeping, showering, or just relaxing. In short, “get a life”.
I will post blogs over the next few weeks describing these distractions in detail, and suggesting remedies. I hope some of my readers will add thoughts to this discussion.
Part 1: Obligations
Practicing when you have Obligations
Connect with your love of the Art - Every single time you practice, cultivate a sense of joy and excitement. Consider all the things that brought you to the practice, and note how each session leads to an improvement in your life. If you are unable to find this joy, consider what can be changed to reconnect.
Finding more time - I do not recommend forcing yourself to go train more. We also need to be wary of neglecting our obligations for training. Both are, in the long run, short term fixes. However, is there some activity that you are currently doing which is not serving you?
Rearranging your schedule to get more time with a favorites teacher, or attending a workshop is no small matter. Consider a simple change, like getting up an hour early. If you skip an hours sleep, your mind
/body will eventually wear down, so you have to get to bed earlier every night. Getting up an hour early means you give an hour of evening time up. It is not a gain of time, but an exchange of time.
Perfect Practice – Master Ali frequently asked us if practice makes perfect, then proceeded to state that perfect practice makes perfect. It is very easy to relax a bit in practice. I often catch myself during an extended yoga pose letting my body soften, and relax rather than engaging in the perfect posture that will stretch and tone the muscles. It is much easier to do a long stance with the foot pointed to the side rather than straightforward as our style demands.
Each time we practice the least optimal method of the pose we are losing the benefit. It is not a waste of time to practice less than perfectly. You can still sweat, brn calories, find peace of mine and grow your skill. But if you practice perfecly it is like adding hours of practice to your session. You not only gain the ability to achieve the next level, you don’t have to go back and spend hours unlearning a bad habit.
Practice off the mat – In his fictional book “Musashi” Yoshikawa has entire chapters about the historical Miyamato Musashi dedicating himself to activities which seem unrelated to his swordsmanship. Musashi, in real life and in the book, saw his art in every activity he undertook. If he saw a lute, he considered the way it bended and vibrated, and applied this quality to dueling with swords. Musashi’s Book of Five Rings discusses how ways of the farmer, craftsmen and other ways apply to fencing (a term he uses for martial arts).
If you have other ideas for dealing with distractions let me know. The next Blog will focus on other factors, like illness and mood.