Too much meditation practice, without physical activity is not good for you; it can leave you unbalanced and spacey. Many people today meditate using one form of it or another, but; martial arts practice makes you “put your money where your mouth is” by physically challenging your meditation to demonstrate its effect on your whole self.
Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)
When you can still the mind, you can control the mind. At the highest levels, the martial artist’s mind must be quiet, but aware, and active. Some call this level “the unified field of consciousness,”, others call it “the gap between thoughts,” still others call it “the zone.”
Sometimes if you watch the boxing documentaries you’ll see the coach and fighter watching video of an upcoming opponent. They’ll watch and study his stances, his balance, his favorite punches, his footwork, how he covers and defends. They want to “know” him, to reduce him to a predictable quantity for which they can develop skills and strategies to defeat him.
In spite of that, sometimes the fighter looses, because they didn’t know how he himself would respond or react to certain changes or stimuli. They knew the opponent but didn’t know themselves. I like for my students to know their skill levels and abilities, and their limitations. I also like them to consider the possibilities for transcendence. To know yourself and achieve this transcendence, you need time and space. Meditation will afford you that, and it’s why I teach and encourage it, not only in relation to martial arts, but to personal growth as well.
A little review.
The term meditation is used to describe both the activity and the state of being. Context will easily tell you which is which. The most mystical part of meditation for most people is not the act itself or the technique, but the lingering after effects: mental and emotional calmness, clarity of thought, diversity of views and approaches to situations, self confidence, and more. The more you practice, the deeper and more consistent the benefits.
Make time for the practice. One teacher told me that if you meditate for 24 minutes a day you infuse 24 hours of the day with that blessing or power, and that it didn’t have to be all at once! You can do like 12 minutes in the morning or afternoon, and 12 minutes in the evening, of course you can do more, but always remember moderation! That said, here’s a couple of techniques for you to try out.
Meditative technique one: So Hum.
This is the very first meditative technique I ever learned and one I still use as often as I want or feel I want it. It involves the use of a mantra. A mantra, is a sound, often a word or even a name. In this case it is a word, but the meaning of the word is not important with this one.
The significant aspect of this mantra is that is mimics the sound of calm, deep, breathing. It is an “silent” or internal mantra, meaning the sound is not made with your voice. You imagine the sound in your head, “so” as you inhale, “hum” as you exhale. The “sound” doesn’t even have to be precise. Do you pronounce the sound in your head with a hard O and soft U, or soft O like with “ohh”, or U as in “hum”, or “haam?” It doesn’t matter.
The variables of language, and accents, and speech, make this one much more flexible than what is taught about some other mantras. You are mimicking and echoing calm deep breathing. You are creating a metronome of one pointed consistency. Thoughts will come and go, passing in around and through your inner chanting of this mantra, like when a pianist is playing a melody, and the metronome is still clicking in the background. With practice and consistency, the melody of thoughts will turn its volume down, and even off, but the metronome of the calm deep “So Hum” continues, it can even fade away, and return.
You do this in a casual and relaxed way, with no stress even about doing this “right.” Generally, you will be awake, aware, and alert. This is not for going into a trance, this is for developing one pointed mental focus, whether for one fleeting second during the meditation, or the entirety of the session. Do not grade yourself about it. Enjoy the relaxed stillness you are practicing. Set a timer if you can for whatever time you want. I recommend starting with twelve minutes twice a day, but don’t stress this either, how about once a day to start? Sure.
So here it is:
- Find a reasonably quiet time and place.
- Sit in a relaxed posture, get comfortable but don’t slouch.
- You can place your hands on arm rests or on your lap, one trick is to place them on your lap palms up, so if you start to drift off into sleepiness and nod, your arms flinch and keep you “up.”
- Take a couple of deep breaths to get going and oxygenate your body and mind.
- Feel, listen to, or pronounce the sound “So” in your head, or with your imagination as you inhale. Sometimes there’s a pause at the end of the inhale sometimes not, don’t stress on it.
- As your exhale begins feel, listen to, or pronounce the sound “Hum” in your head or with your imagination. There’s often a longer pause upon the exhale, but again no stress on length, sometimes you may be excited and it’s shorter breathing till you settle, just relax and let the meditation relax you as well.
- Upon the start of the next inhale return to the sound of “So” and continue repeating the process till your timer goes off of you feel like stopping, but I warn you, at the beginning a few seconds can seem like a long time, so I recommend setting a timer and starting to develop discipline in this.
That’s it! This is a well known meditation technique that never looses its value. Among the benefits of it are overall relaxation, developing one pointed focus, the ability to isolate thoughts, stabilizing of the circulatory systems, and a sense of peace and calm. These are some important elements in how the mind works and the critical thinking process, among the reasons meditation is helpful overall to living and functioning in the world.
For martial arts purposes, in a high speed high, stress situation, like a fight or a self defense situation; the ability to function spontaneously, reflexively, with a clear head, without preconceptions, and without the confusion of the constant swirl of competing thoughts in your head may mean the difference between timely and effective action or having to endure harm. This meditation technique sets you into a practice of calm, active, alertness that can come into play as needed. The balance to improve on this is to actually train the physical skills as well. As I said at the start “Too much meditation without physical practice is not good for you; it can leave you unbalanced and spacey.” As much as possible, be rounded and balanced.
A final note on this technique: Our teacher was once asked “I often fall asleep doing it, what should I do?’ The teacher replied, “don’t worry about it, it is a Holy Sleep!” With regular and consistent practice you won’t often fall asleep, but if you occasionally do, enjoy it.