Modern life is busy, cluttered, and stressful.
As adults we are constantly bombarded with sensory input, televisions, radios, billboards, the boss, the “music” eminating from the car beside you, the noise and noxious smell of traffic as you drive, all of these things that we encounter daily take their toll. These are what is known as “sensory overload” and over a very short period of time can create stress in our lives. This is just one kind of stress we face as adults. There are others. What can you do to escape from some of the stress in your life?
Find the “white spaces” and relax into them.
In an online article on Zen practices for the modern life the author suggests that what is often missing in our lives are the “white spaces”. In his article Leo Babauta suggests that by finding those places in our lives where there is no clutter, we can begin to relax. The creation, or discovery, of true “white spaces” requires learning, discipline, and practice. One of the places we can go as adults to begin to cultivate “white spaces” is to our local Martial Arts school.
The practice of martial arts kata, also known as poomsae or forms, is an excellent place to begin our personal search for, and practice of, “white spaces”. Mr. Babauta gives us some excellent examples of what “white spaces” can do for printed material and how the practice of using them can translate into our lives. These same properties are found in the practice of forms.
As a martial artist practices their kata, or forms, they will find themselves developing a
- Sense of Clarity – Practice is a simple, focused effort. Learning to be able to push the distractions of the world aside for even a few minutes a day can have meaningful and lasting effects on your stress level and health. Practicing a simple form daily is moving meditation, it allows you to clear your mind of the clutter and become calm and focused, a state that lasts well beyond the actual practice of the form.
- Peace from “decompression” – The physical space needed to practice your form, even a short one, must be clear of obstacles. The act of simply standing in a place that is not full of clutter can bring a sense of peace to your being. Having taken the time, even just a few minutes, to be focused on the form and not the rest of your too-busy-to-live schedule can help you develop a lasting sense of peace and order in your life.
- Balance and “how” to Breath – Most adults live in an “out of balance” manner. Most of us live with such a focus on work that we forget to take care of ourselves and really live our lives. Learning the physical balance needed for a good form can also show us how to be more balanced in our daily activities. Most adults have forgotten how to breath. As babies and young children we breathed fully, from the belly, and only held our breath when we were trying to as a game. But, as adults we breath from the chest and if you really pay attention to your breathing sometime you will be surprised to find that you stop breathing quite often! Breathing is essential to good forms practice, and learning to breath during practice retrains the body to breath more effectively in daily life.
- Focus on the Important – Have you ever noticed how much of what you do daily really is not that important? There are the “must do” things, there are the “want to do” things, and then there are the “shouldn’t be done” things in our lives. The trouble is we often do the last group first because they pop up first. Learning a form and then practicing it daily teaches one to sort out the important and critical from the unnecessary. There are literally thousands of martial arts techniques to choose from, why would your form only contain a few of these many? Why would those very few then be repeated? Because those are the “important few”. While the other techniques may demonstrate knowledge, power, flexibility, or balance, those few in your kata are the basis for good self-defense. They were chosen specifically to help you develop the skills needed most for daily life. Learning to sort and prioritize between possible techniques is an exercise that can teach you to do the same for your daily activities.
Suggestion: Go read Mr. Babauta’s article on putting “white spaces” into your life. Then go find a good martial arts school and Instructor who can help you develop those “white spaces”.
It has been said by many that in modern society the practice of martial arts is a metaphor for life. Instead of a metaphor for life, lets make the practice a training ground for how to live. There is so much more to martial arts than “punching and kicking”, the ideas you can learn in the pursuit of your chosen art can help you make meaningful and lasting changes in your life. Learning to de-stress and live with “white spaces” is a great place to start.