The Dojo is silent. Ten students all sit with their backs straight, in seiza, eyes closed, breathing in through their noses, out through their mouths. Sweat runs down their backs, seeping from the pores on their heads. Muggy air fills their nostrils, and each student feels their heart beating in their chests and the blood pumping through their bodies. The faint sound of a car accelerating too quickly can be heard, the quiet buzz of the heater. One particular student’s nose twitches, the corners of his lips rising for just a moment, before settling back to their motionless state.
There are many points in my martial arts career I wish I could relive; the first class I ever attended, the first time I was punched in the face, the first time I punched someone else in the face, the first time I executed a diving roll, the first time I really threw someone, my black belt grading, my first student grading. There are many more. You get the point.
Often, we get so caught up in the anxieties of our lives that we forget to appreciate the moments that we live through. Those moments make up our lives and if we’re not present for them, it’s entirely possible to go our entire existences without ever feeling like we’ve lived at all. It’s such a tragic thought, that we could spend seventy to eighty years on this earth, learning, loving, teaching, training, falling, getting up, getting down, succeeding, failing, loving again, experiencing, traveling, hurting and healing without ever really appreciating the feeling of being alive.
The question becomes how to appreciate what you have, how to pay attention to those moments such that you really remember them, such that you really live them, such that your life has meaning for you.
My answer is no more complex than just to listen.
Stop talking, stop thinking, stop planning, stop reading, stop writing, stop arguing, stop waiting, stop fighting, stop working, stop caring, stop moving, stop everything.
And just listen.
Just as with focusing on your breath during meditation or a yoga class, listening forces you to live in the moment. You can’t listen to something actively, meaning thinking solely on the noises you’re hearing without being present. And being present, at least in my experience, gives one a great feeling of appreciation for what is happening right now.
So as you sit at your computer, or stand with your phone, or lie with your laptop, or however it is that you’re reading this, stop. Close your eyes, listen to the world around you. Be present.
And then, perhaps, in a few years time, when you look back on the moments of your life, you won’t need to feel like you want to relive them, because you’ll have already been there fully the first time around.
“The past is history,the future is still a mystery and today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.”
~ Master Oogway (Kung Fu Panda)