Do Nothing Else While Reading This


 
That's right. Ignore all other tasks and focus solely on these words. Can't do that right now? Put me down and come back when you can. ... Hey, again! Do I have your attention? Even if you say, "sure", we both know that's not true. You're thinking about what to make for dinner, why that friend hasn't texted back (it's been THREE MINUTES!), or just some random thought which tickled your mental processes.
 
That's ok. You're not alone. We all struggle with distractions. Keeping ourselves focused on any one thing is tough. Especially if something more exciting appears...RIGHT...OVER...THERE! Part of the Mu Do Kai system is to help us all find our focus. It's just one more reason to train regularly. A recent article discussed fidget spinners. They may have saved or destroyed your sanity, but either way, they're a symbol. A generation crying out, "stop making us sit still all the time!" It's the symptom of the issue I'll explain here.
First, let's define some words so we're all on the same page.
Fidget: What happens when movement is artificially restricted. Society considers it a bad thing. It's not a bad thing. It's a warning light of another bad thing.
Distractions: Things demanding your attention in the same moment as one or more other items. Let's say, Facebook alerts arriving while you're drafting a text to your husband. Like weeds, they're only bad by definition and location.
Focus: Ability to put all of your mental and physical energy into a single thing. Unlike computers, we do not multitask. No matter how much you may think you do.
Stillness: A lack of movement, both of your body and your mind. Not a rigid state, but relaxed, like when you're getting an awesome massage.
Great, I love when there's mutual clarity.
 
June 2017 Newsletter1
 
We live in a world of endless Distractions. It feels like there are more than in the past because there are. Each day, there is more information in the world. And most of it has no effect on your life. But our brains want to know everything, so as these Distractions come by, we can't but help pay attention. It's no accident your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds scroll without end. We are more able to tap into the information deluge than at any other time in human history. Like with physical movement and attention, our brains haven't had time to evolve to cope.
 
With so many Distractions, and a brain eager to KNOW IT ALL, we have little hope to achieve anything resembling Focus. Yet this is where our best ideas and accomplishments reside. You can bet Michael Jordan wasn't checking what people were saying about him as he went for his shot. Nor was Thomas Edison gossiping about Nikola Tesla when he finally found a way to create the electric light bulb. Actually, given their relationship, he might have been. But you get the idea. If you allow Distractions to stay in control, you cannot achieve Focus. So without Distractions, we can achieve Focus. But only for a time! Eventually, Distractions invade your Focus. Your best bet is to take a break, let your mind and body reset. It's what recess is for in schools (you mean that essential activity is gone?!). If you aren't allowed to take a break, you may Fidget.
 
June 2017 Newsletter2
 
This is normal. And should be accommodated to be made productive. Clicking a pen is satisfying but useless. As is a fidget spinner. Crafting various geometric figures with clay during math class is useful, but probably discouraged.
Now, Distractions can be overcome by Focus, but sometimes with the help of Fidgeting. Insist on no movement for long periods and you're back to Distractions. Or a Fidget you don't like (kids becoming increasingly out of control). "But what about Stillness?" you ask. "Isn't that what you're railing against?" Great point. It's a little different, in an important way. Being told to "sit still" versus being guided towards Stillness are differing experiences. It's the difference between giving a cat a bath (and being the cat) and lounging in a sauna (not as a cat). One is a tense and stressful demand. The other is a welcome reprieve. The key is learning to achieve Stillness without having to be in a massage parlor or Turkish bath-house. We work on this skill here at the Dojo any time the students are not actively executing a move. Whether it be awaiting a command in fighting stance or standing in attention prior to bowing in or out of class, we teach Stillness as an essential part of the Mu Do Kai system.
 
June 2017 Newsletter3
 
Earlier, I said that Fidgeting (and the popularity of fidget spinners) was a symptom of a greater issue. That issue is an expectation of people to behave like computers. Computers work fine sitting around 99% of the time doing nothing. They also work fine doing a lot 99% of the time. Thing is, kids, adults, in fact all human beings, are not computers. We're humans. Living beings who need to move, express themselves, take breaks, and get then re-engaged. We're all noisy, distracted animals at our core. The human is just a relatively new addition in the evolutionary process. We just aim to help you become the best version of that human you can be. MuDoKai, the ultimate practice to achieve the ultimate you.

© 2017 Sensei Joe Winn 4th Dan Black Belt