I watched him as he slowly turned around and walked deliberately into the bathroom. I moved toward the front door in case he came running out with a sword again. But he only emerged with his mug. He filled it with water, smiled at me, held the water up as if to toast me, and drank it slowly.
“Well?” I said.
“That’s what? You didn’t do a thing.”
“Ah, but I did. You just don’t have the eyes to appreciate my feat. I was feeling a slight toxicity in my kidneys; in a few days, it might have begun to affect my entire body. So before any symptoms could arise, I located the problem and flushed out my kidneys.”
This passage, taken from Dan Millman’s The Way of the Peaceful Warrior illustrates something that really helps one’s development in both the martial arts and in life; that you must have awareness of your surroundings to maximize your enjoyment. Those surroundings can be the area in which you find yourself or your body. Finding awareness of these spaces allows you to make decisions that improve your situation, either by preventing something from getting worse, or focusing on something that’s positive.
In a fight, your awareness will likely determine how successful you are. There are many things to consider, but a short list would be your opponent’s position relative to you, your current mental state, if there are any other people involved, if there are any weapons, what injuries you’re carrying, what kind of attacks are coming your way and what the area you’re standing in looks like. Really though, the variables are infinite. Only by processing the data you’re given can you choose appropriate attacks. It is for this reason that I often tell my students that they do not get to choose the technique, but the technique is chosen for them by the actions of their assailant, and what makes the most sense.
Awareness requires an attentive ear (and every other sense). Only by listening can you hear what’s going on. Only by hearing what’s going on can you make informed decisions. Only by making informed decisions can you give yourself the best foot forward.
As one goes about their daily life, there are so many communications coming our way that it can be very difficult to stop and listen to the space we inhabit. For example, when you’re busy keeping up with work, and your friends, your family, catching up on your shows, staying informed and spending time on your hobbies, you leave yourself very little time to listen to what the world is telling you. I don’t mean to imply you must meditate for hours at a time to become aware, but I would suggest that you often take a moment to think about your place in the universe and how you feel about it. Or try and “tune-in” to what’s actually going on around you. Get out of selfish thought and see your situation with a more critical eye.
This can be as simple as realizing you’re hungry and finding something to eat. Or it could be paying attention to an injury and taking some time to heal. It could also be more complicated, like realizing that your career is not what you think it is and that you require a life change. By listening to these messages and then taking action, it’s possible to affect real change that improves your life. By ignoring these messages, you will stagnate or worse, degrade.
Whenever you make a positive improvement, your awareness has done its job. You listened, took action, and cultivated a result. So, the more awareness you can find in your day to day life and in your training, the more direction you can find also. While awareness does not necessarily lead to correct decision, it certainly allows you to extrapolate some possibilities and then decide on a course of action that will move you forward, one way or another.
So my suggestion would be to stop every now and then and listen. What state is your mind in? What state is your body in? What do you need? What do you want? Pay mind to your feelings, to the messages that are coming from within, rather than from external sources. And at the same time, pay mind to what is outside your body, outside your thought. What are you being told? They will help you to figure out what is right for you, not for anyone else, but for you. And perhaps one day, your awareness will be so great that you’re fully able to sense the imbalances in your body and adjust before they ever affect your life.
“Buddha means awareness, the awareness of body and mind that prevents evil from arising in either.”