I ran across this Zen story earlier in the week. It has resonated with me as I walk my path in life. Read on and you will recognize why I could identify with the apprentice.
After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, “Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?”
“Yes,” Tenno replied.
“Tell me,” the master continued, “did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?”
Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in’s apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.
This week it was hot in St Louis and my short sleeve shirts revealed several bruises on my arms. I must have been asked 40 times what happened to my arms. The answer is embarrassing and simple. I lost my focus and allowed the world to push me into a state of unconsciousness — I call it Being Out to Lunch! As a result I ran into a piece of equipment in the gym. I have a memory of the incident. I knew it would cause a bruise, but I am unable to remember who I was training, where I was in the gym, nor which piece of equipment left me battered. Just when I think I am making progress! I allow my attention to be drawn away from consciousness (Mindfulness) resulting in minor injuries like this. It isn’t something that happens TO me — rather it is something I allow to happen because I am not in present moment awareness.
Think about the times when you rush through your day and then have no memory of how you got from point A to B. If that is happening then you are not Mindful. Did you realize this unconscious behavior can be sabotaging your weight loss program? Let me count the ways.
1. Going through an exercise without being mindful of the muscles you are working can be a waste of time. If you are attempting to do a chest press you want to feel it in the chest, not the arms. However, if you don’t concentrate on making that huge muscle work — your arms will tire and you will never see results in your chest. Be Mindful!
2. On the other side of weight lifting, Mindfulness will ensure you don’t hurt yourself. Concentrate on the task a hand. Thinking about where you are going after your workout will distract you and can cause injury. Remain focused (Mindful).
3. Mindfulness will keep you from shoving food into your mouth. Mothers of small children are notorious for doing this. If you aren’t a mother you aren’t off the hook because eating while standing, driving, watching television, sitting at your desk or while on the phone are all responsible for Mind-LESS automatic eating. It is responsible for adding unwanted calories.
Mindfulness in every part of your life will help you enjoy what’s going on around you. Observe the people around you. Be mindful of how you relate to your world. You can recognize the people around you who practice mindfulness. They are usually more compassionate, focused, peaceful, happy and serene. They are aware of their bodies and their relationship to the world. They rarely have anxious moments. They find humor and great joy in life.
The quest for Full Awareness that Tenno strives for is not necessarily a path you might choose at this time in your life. However, practicing present moment consciousness always leads to a healthy conclusion. Being mindful you are not only able to control your eating and exercise, but you can enjoy your friends and family more. Many people call it your Happy Place. Don’t let the simplified expression fool you. There is power in this secret place. Search for yours and practice it every day. It will help you live in a stress free world and it will help you reach your goals.