November 19, 2013

The Way of the Spiritual Warrior: Live Intentionally. ~ Paige Vignola


{The Hidari Mitsu Tomoe is said to represent man, heavens and earth in harmonious rotation.}

The way we do anything is the way we do everything.

This is a fundamental tenant of the Budokon practice, serving as a reminder that as practitioners we should live intentionally.

With each moment of every day we, as human beings living and existing in this world, are faced with choices and decisions that we must make; some loom significant and some may seem small and meaningless but the progression and outcome of our lives are directed by each of these choices, no matter how small they appear in the moment.

Far too often we live our lives, moving through our moments, on autopilot.

How often do we ask ourselves, “How did I get here?

Sometimes this question is directed at a literal physical location; we blindly move from place to place, thinking of being elsewhere, thinking of past conversations, thinking of future events, not being present in the moment.

Perhaps we drive our cars and miss an important turn because our minds were elsewhere. We were not driving with intention. We walk from home to work, house to house, shop to shop, class to class, texting, talking on the phone, day dreaming, not participating in the now.

Yet each step, each breath, we took was a moment in the present.

And we missed it; we were focused on elsewhere—-elsewhen—-and not the present moment.

More often this question is more metaphysical in its nature. We fall in and out of relationships blaming circumstances for each reality; we spend years chained to jobs we don’t like, thinking that we have no choice and circumstances prevent us from moving on—-again we shift the responsibility of living our lives to external forces.

The truth is more simple than that.

Every day we are presented with thousands of choices: do I get up when my alarm rings the first time or will I snooze it; will I eat a healthy meal or will I just find the fast processed foods; will I have that conversation I know in my bones will be uncomfortable or will I avoid the situation entirely; do I smile and move on when someone says something hurtful to me or will I take it personally and allow it to bruise my heart; do I accept what my reality is and work to change the things I do not like from within or will I sit helplessly by wishing for “better luck”?

The choices presented to us range in breadth and depth, to be sure, but each one of these actions—-or inactions—- is a choice. We do not have control over the thoughts, actions or words of others, but we do have the choice of how we will respond to them.

When we deceive ourselves into thinking that we have no choice, that we have no ability, in any given situation we are still are choosing. We are choosing to relinquish our power to others.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

The Budokon physical practice—which incorporates the study of yoga asana, martial arts and animal locomotion but which is a mere fraction of the practice as whole—-focuses, like all movement arts, on being present. Our movements are, as I often tell my students, designed to be confusing. They are designed to encourage the full participation of the practitioner: body, mind and emotional being.

Our practice is filled with contra-lateral movements—-movements that require one side of the body to complete an action that may be in direct contradiction to what the other side is doing—-encouraging our brains to forge connections and open lines of communication with our bodies. It is impossible to move through a Budokon practice and not focus on the now.

We begin and end each practice with a seated meditation—-allowing for the opportunity to relinquish thoughts of the past or the future, to let go of attachment to the outcome of our motions, and begin the practice fresh—-and move through our practice in a moving meditation.

I must be preset to move; I must be present to find the fluidity hidden in my body.  I must be present to allow my body to understand the directions my brain is issuing.

We move intentionally: each movement, each placement of our hands or feet, is done with full consideration of how it will complete and refine our postures. Alignment is crucial, but the Budokon practice focuses on the idea that we intentionally transition into and through each series of motions, not find the posture and fix it. Self adjustments are made as we move, discovering how the connection between each thought and movement will change the alignment of our bodies.

My teacher likes to say that practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

What does this mean? Simply put it means that in order to improve one’s own actions and thought patterns, one must be aware of them. Should I move in and out of a series of postures but allow my mind to remain elsewhere—-off my mat, perhaps in a conversation I had earlier in the day or an engagement I will have later in the evening—-my practice will not only not improve, but it will suffer.

Does my form have to be perfect for my practice to be perfect?

Of course not. Perfection is a myth, it is an ideal; there will always be ways to improve. However, if I move through my practice, aware of the capabilities and restraints of my body on that day, aware of how I intend to move, where I intend to place this hand or that foot, my internal practice and, by association, my physical form, will show improvements.

The way I do anything is the way I do everything.

By practicing intentional movement and thought while on my mat, I am practicing for life itself. I am training my brain to behave intentionally. I become aware of the impact my thoughts and emotions have on my physical reality.

The practice of intentional movement can be done anywhere at any time.

Want to challenge your brain-body communication and discover how complex “simple” actions can be? If you are right handed, brush your teeth with your left; if you are left handed, brush them with your right.

This one simple act can show how completely integrated thoughts and actions are—a daily routine that can be accomplished without the slightest sense of awareness can teach a powerful lesson in the complexity of the human mind-body connection when completed with intentional action.

When I practice living intentionally I teach myself the words of Master Lao Tzu:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

It all begins with the mental and emotional practice of intention.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Images via WikiMedia}

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