Thursday, 22 March 2012

Awareness Training

How to turn meditation into a personal radar system

I witnessed this skill once…a Black Belt who knew with absolute certainty when and how someone would attack before the attack was launched!

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. His opponents were limited to one type of kick or punch. Their orders were to stand a few paces back, and then, at their discretion, launch an attack. Their goal was to hit him as fast and as hard as possible.

They attacked, one after the other, full bore. Yet he always waited until the last possible moment to counter-attack... at the point where a punch was only an inch or two away from his face.

Black Belts in traditional Karate can punch at speeds of up to 1/12 of a second.  Yet he responded perfectly every time. He knew - ahead of time - whether an opponent was about to throw a roundhouse kick to the ribs or a front kick to the head.

He was a master of zanshin, a term used in the martial arts for a type of relaxed awareness so profound you can sense a heart beating in the next room.

I like to think of zanshin as a perfectly tuned radar system. At the core of the system is a person with a mind and body completely relaxed, with all of her senses open to the world.  The emotions are completely calm – and there is no ego!

Why is even a small portion of this skill relevant to modern life?

Allow me to show you by running through a basic 3 step training pattern in zanshin I use at the end of my classes –


Sit in a darkened room. Place your back against a wall or a piece of furniture. Close your eyes.  Inhale very slowly through the nose and exhale very slowly through the mouth until there is practically no breath left. Listen to your breathing. Imagine your breath flowing into your abdomen and down through your legs.

For any radar system to work there can be little or no interference between you and the information you receive from your surroundings. There can be no anger, fear, bitterness…negative emotions like these distort what people say to you. They create a wall between you and others. They interfere with life!


Once your center is calm, listen for either    a. The furthest sound away from you (a plane passing, a car, a voice somewhere in the building, etc.)  - or -  b. The smallest sound (a clicking noise from a fridge, water stirring in the pipes). Focus on this sound as you breathe. You’ve just established the furthest perimeter of your system. With a calm attitude you listen to the world.

3.  UNITE THE CORE AND THE PERIPHERY - Now your radar system contains both a very calm core combined with an awareness that extends far into your surroundings.  Through your breathing,  you unite with the entire radar field.

You can instantly spot the huge advantages such training has…learning to listen to people's real intentions; learning not to prejudge people; learning to deal with the events of the day without filtering them through anger and fear; learning to live in harmony with your surroundings...

There is also the self defense component...sensing an attack before it happens; reacting to an attack in a calm manner; executing your counter-attack properly and without fear.

In future posts I'd like to show you how to practise zanshin awareness while walking in a mall or sitting inside a crowded theatre or talking to people at a party, etc. The martial arts are rich with skills like zanshin.  I can’t wait to share more of them with you!


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