Monday, April 16, 2007

Your Attitude and Perspective Shapes Your Experiences

(A lesson in Martial Arts Mastery)

You Know This
As you were reading the title of this report, your brain probably had an automatic moment of acceptance of the idea of it, as we all, I believe, have a basic understanding that our own attitude and the way we choose to look at things shapes our experiences. Most likely you thought –or think –“I know that.”

It’s Not What You Know…
Yes, well, it is one thing to “know” something --and another to apply what you “know” repeatedly, consistently and in most all situations. To know is one thing, to make that knowledge work for you, automatically and without conscious thought, is another. To know something is to own a hammer; to have that knowledge working for you, automatically out of training, habit, and self-discipline, is like having a crew of ten carpenters working on your behalf.

It’s Just Like the Martial Arts
Learning, practicing, and “knowing” the martial arts is closely connected to learning, practicing, and “knowing” that attitude shapes experience. To really “know” the martial arts, one has to practice the various techniques and ideas to the point of complete absorption, to the point when a block, parry, punch, or throw is delivered without thought, but from instant reaction at the perfect time and place. This kind of knowing means that the brain goes on automatic while under pressure, while over-stimulated by stress, demand, and adrenaline. This skill, for most of us, comes from practice. It comes from forming, building, and strengthening the neural pathways and muscle memories that turn thoughts into automatic responses.

The Path is as Important as the Destination
What good is knowing the martial arts if you can’t apply the techniques when you need them? Likewise, what good is it in knowing that your attitude and perspective shapes your experiences --if you are unable to apply the idea, consistently and effectively, to your life when you need it? Yes, mastery is the goal. Putting the technique or idea on auto-pilot, that’s the highest level of skill. However, the path to mastery is as important as mastery itself.

With the martial arts, the point of practice is to master the movements --on all levels (physically, mentally, and spiritually). However, practicing the movements is just as great a benefit –if not a greater one –as mastering the movements. It is through the repetitive practice of all the movements that one gets fit, learns to focus, learns when to conserve and when to unleash, and learns to perform despite fears or instinctive responses (like: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!). It is during the practice that one interacts with his or her teachers and classmates and garners the experiences, friendships, and memories that are often equal too (or greater than) the physical benefits of the practice itself.

The Magic Resides in the Practice
As with physical practice and mastery, practicing the idea that our attitude shapes our experiences is where the greatest benefits may reside. While we want to “know” this concept automatically, we want the idea to kick in when we need it and control our experiences by controlling how we see and translate them, it is practicing this concept, situation after situation and day after day, that gives us the greatest return.

It’s the repetitive and conscious practice that gets and keeps us mentally fit –and is equal, I believe, to the benefit of knowing it completely. During the practice of shaping our attitude and outlook on life’s difficulties, we sharpen our mental and emotional coping skills –and quite often, we make friends and realize the benefits of forgiveness, compassion, kindness, and love.

Practice is just as important, if not more important, than mastery. Practice is life; mastery is achievement. Mastery might not even exist! The point might be that the practice and pursuit of mastery is the most beneficial aspect of the journey.

Thank You Sir, May I have Another?
So, I say welcome the emotional and mental difficulties and challenges of life --as you welcome the beginning of a martial arts class. You know it’s going to make you sweat, you know you’re going to have to work, but it’s GOOD! You commit yourself to a class, willingly and (hopefully) enthusiastically. You happily accept the challenges of training, because you know it is how you improve. Why not do the same with your attitude and perspective on life (and its challenges)?

Practice developing a good attitude and healthy, peaceful outlook about things that would normally drive you nuts –or bring you down. Tell yourself positive things about the what, where, when, why, and who of situations that might normally send you off the deep end. Practice smiling when you might have cried, practice being calm when you want to blow a fuse.

Tell yourself that THIS IS YOUR TRAINING, your classroom, your instruction, your lessons. This is what makes you a master. Don’t know and teach the idea that attitude is everything –PRACTICE IT! LIVE IT!

Tom Callos

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