I bought the book Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams a few weeks ago, but I only sat down to read it properly earlier this week. I finished in about 3 hours. It was great. Every concept that he was talking about in relation to his journey through martial arts was something I felt could be applied to every aspect in life, and especially to my practice in martial arts.
I want to share one particular quote that has stayed with me ever since I read it - said by Master Bong Soo Han:
"You must learn to live in the present," he said. "Not in the future or the past. zen teachers that life must be seized at the moment. By living in the present you are in full contact with yourself and your environment, your energy is not dissipated and is always available. In the present there are no regrets as there are in the past. By thinking of the future, you dilute the present. The time to live is now. As long as what you are doing at the moment is exactly what you are doing at that moment and nothing else, you are one with yourself and with what you are doing -- and that is Zen; while doing something you are doing it at the fullest." (Hyams, 1979: 27-28)
I often find myself being so busy that I multi-task. However, I've often realized that while multi-tasking can help sometimes, it can also distract me from doing a single task to the best of my ability or with all my concentration. I just get it done - without experiencing what it was about, without realizing the significance of what I have done. For me, with my endless list of things to do, I think that it is the only way I can really accomplish everything that I want to do. However, this quote made me take a moment to reflect on what I've been doing. Has the multi-tasking really been important, or is it a consequence of not being organized/disciplined? I'm not sure yet ...
What I am sure of is that life is short, and time is valuable. Marc posted a few videos over the past month about people in their 100s and what they felt was important in their lives -- health, doing what makes you happy, spending time with people you love ... these are the things that are really important.
Wouldn't it be lovely if we could just focus on those things and forget about commuting to work, doing errands, and all those chores?
The reality is that some of us have jobs that we don't enjoy. Some of us have lots of errands to do because there are many people depending on us. The reality is very different from the ideal/fantasy. However, that doesn't mean that we still can't make the most out of those things that we really do enjoy and make life worthwhile. I guess what I'm saying is that even if you can't be 100% present in every thing you do, try to be 100% present in at least the things that mean the most to you -- e.g. dinner time with the family is a TV-free, mobile-free, family only dinner time; replying to emails is only replying to emails, not also checking your messages, scrolling through Facebook, and chatting on the phone.
For these last 100 days of 2014 I'm going to try to set the tone for not only 2015 but for what I hope I can continue for the rest of my life. I'm not talking about making drastic changes. Rather, there are a few things that I want to get into the habit of doing.
Here are my top 10:
1. Watch my posture - As I sit at my desk or in front of the TV or even in my car, I tend to start off sitting straight and then slowly start to curve forward. No more. I want to make a conscious effort of at least trying to sit straight. Hopefully my continuous conscious effort will soon become an instinctive habit.
2. Breathe deeply and fully - When my anxiety was at it's highest and most frequent, I would often hold my breath and wait for the feeling to pass. That was definitely not a good idea. Even if I don't breathe fully and deeply all the time, I do want to be more aware of how I'm breathing and adjust it when necessary.
3. Say/Think something positive before complaining or saying something negative - It's too easy to get wrapped up in what went wrong or was difficult during the day. I think it's absolutely fine to vent to your partner/friend/blog, but before doing that, I think it's important to think of how fortunate we all really are. I saw this quote the other day: "If you have a family that loves you, food on the table, and a roof over your head, you are richer than you think." How true. Despite struggles, anxieties, and worries, there is so much to be thankful for. I think that when you are grateful, you are happy, and when you're happy, that spreads to others. The world could definitely use a lot more happiness!
4. Get back in touch - I need to spend some time reconnecting with some friends who really do mean a lot to me. It's easy to feel like you're in touch with people through social media, but there are a few people who I want to hear a bit more than a status update from. Skype and FaceTime have been so great to keep in touch with my family. I'd love to reconnect that way with a few of my friends too.
5. Wait 20 minutes before eating again - Sometimes after eating, I still feel hungry. However, I read somewhere that the mind takes about 20 minutes before registering the feeling of 'fullness'. I want to make sure I don't eat or drink anything, except for water, within the 20 minutes after eating a meal. I'm sure this will cut down on some mindless munching that always adds more calories to my day than I realize.
6. Monitor my water intake and drink 500 mL of water on an empty stomach - I used to be really good at this, but lately I've been slacking. My overall water intake is good, but I know that as it gets colder, I slack off a bit. This time, I want to make sure I don't slack off at all with my water (particularly because I have now moved to a colder country) and that I drink at least 500 mL each morning on an empty stomach.
7. Chew my food thoroughly - I'm a slow eater in general, but I think I could still stand to chew more thoroughly. I know that this will aid my digestion, but it is also about savoring the flavors and being in the moment. I spend so much time cooking, I really should spend a bit more time enjoying what I have taken time to prepare.
8. Say No to things I don't really want - Whether it's a social invite, something to eat, or an activity, if I don't want to do it, I want to be strong enough to say No thank you. This is difficult in the beginning, but I have found, particularly as I've adopted a healthier lifestyle, that it gets easier with practice. Too often I've felt 'guilted' into doing something/eating something/buying something that I didn't want. No more. I need to stand up for myself and for what I want. This doesn't mean being rude, but it does mean putting what I want first.
9. Do one thing at a time and focus on it - There's no point rushing. I will try to wait until I can really concentrate on what I'm doing instead of just bang something out. This may mean doing less during the day, but hopefully it will mean doing whatever I do well and in a purposeful, relaxed manner.
10. Mediate daily - I've been incorporating daily stretching into my routine for the past 2 weeks now. It feels great. For me, my meditation comes with my yoga practice. I love my yoga classes, but it's during my own sessions at home when I concentrate and meditate more since I am not following someone else's directions.
I'm hoping that by putting these 10 things into practice - which simply involve being aware of what I'm doing - I will feel like I am living more in the present and truly enjoying life.