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Building Transforming Habits: Finding Presence

October 30, 20235 min read

So far we have examined two related phenomenon:  Japanese Sword fighter legends, like Musashi, and those Masters of Indifference: Cats. 

Hmmmm.  Related phenomenon?  The first sword fighting scenario involves living in the moment so peacefully because  - although the situation relates to sword fighting in a Life or Death scenario - we have no commitment to either outcome. 

If you vex yourself about which movie to see when your choice is sold-out and rise to a high level anxiety, then how would you feel in a Life or Death sword fight?  Through the roof I would imagine. 

Sword Fighting Within

This mental state takes years of intense training - to not be intense.  See the contradiction?  The mind and its Inner Roommate voice will be talking and chattering endlessly about the swordsman’s technique and survival and a block and then slashing cut and more. 

But then again, what is the Enemy to do?  All the pre-ordained supposition about the enemy’s movement or intention is impossible to discern, understand or predict.  So why go down that path?  Instead, take the moment of the stimulus - the attack - and allow the intuitive path to respond.  You cannot do otherwise so allow the moment to unfold effortlessly.  Live in the moment.  Respond in the moment.  The Now. 

Related to this component is the sense of “desire” when one wants to achieve a goal so intently.  With this energetic intention of intense desire, one demonstrates an intense ‘lack’ on the other end of the spectrum.  In other words, whatever we desire intensely, we lack intensely on the other end.  We are out of balance.  The phenomenon is readily seen with many personal experiences.  We want a relationship so intently with someone that it’s not possible.  When we give up on wanting a relationship, one appears. 

In those Master of Indifference - Cats, we can learn that our "lack of (fill in the blank)"  creates an energetic imbalance in the universe.  Our "lack" is negative reaching for a positive but so much so that the tilt to neutrality in the universe is not in our favor.  

Here’s how I look at it:  Our energetic desire to appease a "lack of (fill in the blank)" reaches out into the universe with a positive desire.  We want this lack to be fulfilled.  However, the universe comes and says, "Oh, you are putting out a positive" so we’ll come back with more 'negative' to 'balance out the universe."  Ultimately, in the ledger of desire and return, we get more negative.  Yes, I am struggling for words and explanations but, when one is learning, you do the best  you can.   Cats are those masters who arrive in your lap when you are indifferent to the outcome.  That’s when their affection arrives. 

What if Japanese Sword Masters and Cats point us toward our own balanced lives?

You Are Exactly Where You are Supposed To Be

Japanese sword fighter living in the now, ready for a fight who cannot look to the past nor the future but live in the now.  He's going to a duel without the benefit of friends nor family nor his martial arts school.  He stands in front of a massive Japanese castle where his fighting prowess will be displayed and noted throughout all of Japan.  

His most dangerous adversary?  A Cat who is a Master of Indifference to his skills. 

During the  seminar, I asked about a definition of “Resourced” which (as I recall) was having a sense of balance and inner ‘neutrality’.  

When I think of the philosophical sensibility "What If I am exactly Where I am Supposed To Be", then I do feel a contentment, a peaceful moment.  

I think of action - also called participation -  in the river of life.  As Heraclitus said, "You never step into the same river twice" because the river is constantly flowing, changing and more.  Never to be repeated.  The routine that the mind craves for ease is never possible.  

At the dojo, we teach routines of technique, sets, forms and drills which ultimately are used in a situation where one can never predict the Enemy’s intent nor action. 

One martial artist who is highly respected told me that their physical actions are pointless to study.  A fast martial artist will hit you before you can block.  Their action will beat your reaction.  So you have to sense their energy in the Now. 

Sword masters in ancient Japan seeking a Zen-like enlightenment through their swordsmanship spoke not of a sword of death, but rather the sword of life—the idea that by engaging in battle, one could transcend duality, egoism, and illusion. 

 The concept of a “Sword of Life” comes from the belief that when one engages in battle with another being, they can use it as an opportunity to ascend beyond duality and egoism. This idea may have originated with samurai warriors who believed that by engaging in battle they could transcend their own mortality and reach an enlightened state. This is not to say that they sought out death or harm to others—instead, they used the physical engagement as a way to find inner peace and balance between life and death.

The Sword of Life is also linked to the teachings of bushido, which describes seven virtues including justice, courage, compassion, respect, honesty, honor and loyalty. This mindfulness allows them to stay present in the moment without being overwhelmed by anxiety about their own mortality or regret about past mistakes.

In modern times, this concept has been adopted by many athletes who strive for balance between their physical engagement with opponents or teammates as well as their mental engagement with goals or challenges. Martial artists also benefit from pursuing this path by using physical engagement as a means for developing inner peace and contentment in the present moment. Similarly, artists may use creative expression as another way to find neutrality amidst chaos or conflict within themselves or within society at large. 

One day you could be the Japanese sword fighting master. 

On another day, you could be a Cat.  

Go with the flow. 

Part 1: Build Transforming Habits: Inner Balance & Swords

Part 2: Build Transforming Habits: Cats - Masters of Indifference

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Michael Mandaville

Michael is a writer, filmmaker and dedicated World War II historian who studies martial arts, action films and is learning more about VFX every single darn day. Oh and a Scholar Warrior

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