When I was younger I always found myself quick to react.
My eyesight blurred. Focus and clarity gave way to a range of different emotions.
Whenever I became frustrated, envious, and even overly-excited, each became a blinding wave that crashed over me. I became unable to accept and process additional information or inputs from the world around me.
Today I am learning calmness. It’s a difficult practice, but much needed. We all need to learn to let things go.
There’s much in the world that no one can control. I gain nothing from worrying and exciting myself.
However, there is much I can control. Asking myself, “How should I react in this situation?” and, “What am I missing here?” are better expenditures of my attention than getting pissed off or becoming melancholy. Remembering this will make me stronger, wiser, and more stoic.
As I spar in kung fu class, I often get hit. A jab in the face—or several—can cause my training and reflexes to break down. I begin defending meekly and retreat, instead of holding ground and moving forward.
Similarly, I struggle in public, especially in large crowds. As suffocating masses surround me I feel pressure deep within. I know it’s not real, but the human imagination is immensely powerful.
Dealing in these crowds of the self-absorbed, the distracted, and the sick, my attention shifts from enjoying the moment and experience at hand to the annoyance and even fury directed towards others. I try to recognize it as it is occurring.
I know I need to step outside of my self-inflicted inner-conflicts.
Each time I am presented with one such trial I challenge myself to reflect. I attempt to transform each instance into a lesson.
How can I react more positively in the future?
As always, I am reminded just how imperfect I am. Thus I am rewarded with the calmness that comes from accepting that others, and the world, aren’t perfect either.
I’ll never know many of the reasons others act as they do, or why the world is as it is, so I can never possibly hope to control even an infinitesimal fraction of it. Yet, I can learn self-control through cultivating my own calmness.
I couldn’t write a piece on calmness without reference to one of the main places I learn it from.
Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu in Boulder, Colorado has propelled me deeply into the journey of bringing calmness into my life. In addition to calmness, there I gain discipline, confidence, and awareness.
If you are in the vicinity of Shaolin Hung Mei’s academy in Boulder I recommend reaching out to Shifu Howie Solow to arrange for a visit. The class schedule is flexible and inexpensive and it’s a wonderful community that will answer the call for self-improvement.
By John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
Title photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter