My practice continues to go well. There is still a bit of a struggle to balance other elements of my life, like working my job, and finding sufficient time to practice Taekwondo and do the physical conditioning I want to do. As I said before, I am looking forward to when my schedule will better enable me to sink more time into training. I got some good training sessions in this week, and I am seeing improvement in my technique, my body, and even my attitude. Things are looking up.
Something I have started this week that I am beginning to see results from is carrying an appreciation stone. What is an appreciation stone you may ask? It’s a stone that reminds us to give our attention to the positive things around us so that we can find and receive more positive things in our life. Any stone can do so long as it is easy and comfortable to carry in one’s pocket. I use a piece of tiger eye because this also reminds me of Shin Ho Kwan.
Anyway, using an appreciation stone is easy. All one does is carry it around in one’s pocket where ever one goes. Every time one feels the stone in one’s pocket or remembers that it is there, one must at that time find something in one’s life to appreciate. It doesn’t have to be some mushy poetic thing; even something simple like “this sandwich is delicious,” is a good thing to focus on. One shouldn’t spend a ton of time trying to mentally search for the most idealistic thing to appreciate either; one ought to focus on what ever subject of appreciation readily comes to mind. It could be a pleasing object or person nearby, or a happy thought about something in one’s mind. The point is to take a moment and give one’s attention to something that one is glad to have included in one’s life.
Well gee, that sounds over the top hippy-happy-go-lucky doesn’t it? Why would someone want to do that? Lots of reasons. This activity gets us out of the habit that most people have of negative thoughts about everything. For a day, listen to how people around you describe what’s going on in their life at the moment. You’ll probably hear things like, “Nothing has gone wrong in my day yet,” “Another day, another dollar,” “Things were good until I woke up,” “I hate how hot it is,” “I’d complain, but no one would listen,” and so on and so forth. Maybe it’s just me, but most people seem to have a negative focus point about their lives. No matter what the weather is there’s something to complain about, and heaven forbid that anyone actually enjoy the work they do. Now maybe some people just say things like the above to sound funny, or cool, or what ever, but things that are said often eventually sink in and affect one’s attitude and perspective. Most people have a negative focus.
This appreciation stone activity helps us create a positive focus. What ever the mind is focused on is what the mind will seek out and find in the surrounding environment. Do you want your mind to seek out more negative things or more positive and fulfilling things? This activity helps us attract more positive thoughts and experiences into our lives.
Even just viewed as an exercise in thought, this activity will benefit our martial arts practice. One who can find and focus on the positive and build that up will have an easier time learning new techniques than someone who focuses on and builds up the negative. Much of our capability in martial arts (and in other activities) is based on our belief in our ability to perform the necessary skills and tasks. The classic example of this is breaking a brick. Is physical techniques important here? Yes. However, belief overshadows physical ability here. The main thing that stops a practitioner from breaking a brick is not his or her technique but rather his or her belief that he or she can break it. Someone who says “I can’t break this,” will have a much harder time doing so than someone who possesses a more positive outlook. Developing a habitual positive outlook will lead to a habitual mind set that is beneficial to martial arts practice.
Now it’s very important to actually feel appreciative and positive about the subject of the thought here. It does little good to say “I like my job,” if one’s feeling that one very much hates one’s job. This activity isn’t supposed to make you like bad things either; this activity is aimed at making us appreciate the positive things around us, and it is not intended to make us believe that the bad things are good too. If you honestly believe deep down at the core of your being that your job sucks and is a waste of your time, then get a different job. We live in a free society that allows us to create what ever life we might like through the proper application of will. This activity is designed to help us get their by better enabling us to be mindful of and follow the thing that we do like.
So give it a try and see what you think. Attitude is so, so, so important. Stay tuned for more posts coming soon, and enjoy the sun we’ve been getting.