As I follow a lot of pages, blogs, Youtube channels etc, about Internal Martial Arts, meditation and similar, I can see that EVERYONE, well almost everyone, is posting things about how to fight the new Corona Virus, how to strengthen the lungs or the immune system.
I myself have followed the development of the terrible situation the world is now facing very closely, right from December 29th, when the news about a new virus reached Chinese and International media, and when I heard about it the first time. I feel very sad and frustrated about how my own country has let its own people down, especially the old and weak.
I won’t go into politics and I won’t write another “how to fight the Corona Virus” post. Most of us are all too tired of all of this. Instead, I want to give some general thoughts, from my own experience and from a traditional Chinese and East-Asian philosophical perspective.
As I have practiced Taijiquan and studied Chinese thought for more than 30 years, I have a bit of experience using some techniques and methods from these traditions. Sometimes it’s very hard to control emotion and thoughts, especially for someone like me, who is in nature an all too much emotional soul that tends to think too much.
First of all, we have something called Wu Xin or No Mind in the Chinese Martial Arts. This is the same as the Samurai called Mushin, it’s the same characters. It means that you need to be able to make your mind blank, to not think or have any emotion. And as a warrior or soldier, you need to be able to keep this mind when you fight or go to war. The interesting thing is that this is also a very much creative mind. In theatre improvisation for instance, the ideal is a mind that is blank, so anything can pop up instantly in your mind. And this is the same mind-set the Warrior use to be able to react instinctively on what happens outside. Thinking about strategy and techniques is too slow. You need to react, not think.
(Tip: Read an old article about Mushin in Black Belt Mag.)
But I don’t believe that meditation or practicing this kind of mind-set alone is enough to control your mind in daily life. Remember that the Samurai was represented by highly creative people. They studied calligraphy, painting and contemplated through tea ceremonies. The high literate Chinese military did similar. They studied calligraphy and painting, they wrote poems and played instruments.
I believe that at least one key to be able to balance yourself in your own daily life lies just as much here in various fields of creativity. The most important thing I believe I myself early found out is that I needed to create a mental room, some space in daily life to do something that is different than my everyday job, something different from all of the problems I face in daily life.
Of course I have my Taijiquan, but sometimes this is not enough. My Taijiquan helps me in a lot of ways. When you have troubles all around you, it’s sometimes not enough to try to completely stop thinking about daily thoughts. You need to occupy it with something else. Just practicing routines is often not creative enough.
So my own space where I can get away from all thoughts and worries, I often find with really creative things. Sometimes when my brain is not too tired of all work, I write a lot. And when I am too tired to think and be intellectual, I paint and draw instead. This way, I can completely focus my energy on something else and my mind is in a different world.
As an entrepreneur and businessman, I work a lot, not always at the same pace, but some periods I work 12 to 14 hours a day, up to 6 or 7 days a week and I get very little sleep. Constantly working, I have found ways to shut off my thoughts and everything that can make me worry. Because if I think about problems, I can’t work very well.
When I started my business, I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I needed to create a certain mind-set just to be able to carry on, work and make it running. First of all, I rather practiced Xingyiquan than Taijiquan. The Xingyi mind-set is a no-nonsense mind-set that doesn’t care about any obstacles. You punch, strike and plow through the opponent regardless what he does. There is no obstacle ahead. So I tried to find this mind-set in whatever I did. I did things and tried to not think about problems or obstacles. This was one of the keys to find the energy and flow to continue working despite how hard things looked.
Both back then and still nowadays, I often listen to talkshows, interviews and podcasts when I don’t work. And I also often do the same when I work with things that doesn’t need too much thinking. Then I have my thoughts occupied on things I like, find interesting or funny. I give my mind no chance to worry or even think about troubles.
Now the most important thing as the world looks like today, seems to be about caring about the immune system. I suggest that finding ways to not even think about worries is a good start. Finding hobbies and creative things to do is also important. And of course, the more you can smile and laugh, the better you will feel. And sleep, get enough of sleep. Easy said, hard to do. I know. However you turn it around, life is hard. But you don’t need to make things harder for yourself than they are.
I remember my Tai Chi teacher when we studied outside. It looked like it was going to rain. He just laughed and said: “Don’t look that way, look that way” and pointed to the part of the sky which was still blue. Your thoughts are your thoughts, What you are going to occupy your mind with is your choice. Choose wisely and despite everything going on, for your own sake, try to be happy.
I wish you all the happiness in the world my friend. I really do.