A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation… you have to catch yourself doing it before you can correct it. ~Seneca
Something that is brought up from time to time in Systema training is being mindful of our training verses being mindless, as in just going through the motions. The point transcends the training at hand. It spills over into every part of our lives. Too often we are on automatic pilot paying no attention to what we are doing or what is around us. As Sonny Puzikas likes to say, being “mind-full” is about self-awareness in anything we do and anywhere we go.
I would say awareness is not something many of us are really taught to do when growing up. I know it has been a struggle for me to take a hold of being aware of everything I am doing, saying or thinking. Systema training has been helpful in making the connection for me.
Why does this matter?
For those of us who aim to be the best we can be, awareness matters because it is a major stepping stone to self-improvement. After we break the illusion of what we think we are we must become aware of everything inside and out to know what it is we need to improve upon. We must know our thoughts, words and deeds as part of seeing ourselves for what we are instead of what we think we are.
How do we become self-aware and conscientious?
Below are some helpful hints that helped me get further along in being more mindful:
- Become aware of your breathing – Do you hold your breath when exerting yourself? How are you breathing when you are excited, when you are driving, or when talking in front of others. Are you breathing fully when nervous? What is the body posture your holding when you are breathing? Systema teaches breath should come in through the nose and out the mouth. Breathing should lead our movement. Test yourself, get on the floor and do a slow forward roll and observe your breathing. Chances are you are holding your breath.
- Think before you speak – Analyze the words you want to speak before you speak and determine the effect of those words. Consider the tone and inflection of your speech while you are speaking. How will those words reflect on you? Are you watching the reaction of those you are speaking to? How about when you are upset? Can you catch yourself before speaking angry words?
- See what you are doing – Watch your outward behavior while working your way through crowds. What is your awareness level and body posture? Is your head upright or looking down at the floor? Do you walk with a straight back or hunched back? Is your breathing normal and steady? Do you see and analyze faces as they go by? Do you look into the eyes of others or do you turn away? Are you looking ahead of your intended path? Are you actively using your peripheral vision? Where are the fire exits?
- Watch your walking – Do you walk like a cat, or more like a cave man? Do you walk on the balls of your feet, or come down hard on your heels? Does the force of your feet hitting the ground reverberate back up through your body? Are your feet straight, turned in or outward as you walk? What kind of sounds do make as your feet contact the ground? Are there other sounds created as you walk that come from your clothing, or maybe something in your pockets?
- Be aware of your sitting and rising – Do you carry your weight all the way down to the seat to an easy touchdown or do you plop down? Do you have to use your hands to support yourself as you sit down or rise up? How do you arise from your seated position? Do you have to push your self up? Are you able to sit and arise with grace and strength? Try learning to sit and rise using one leg instead of both or without the use of your hands for bracing.
- Be mindful of what goes into your mouth – Did you eat a piece of candy from the dish at the secretary’s desk without realizing it? Are you chewing on your pen? How many glasses of water have you had today? Was that your second or third helping of food? Do you chew gum with your mouth opened or closed? Can you recall the snack you had this morning? Did you eat breakfast?
- Be aware of how you interact with others – What is the tone of your voice when speaking? What is your proximity to others? What is your body language like? How is your breath? How do you react to criticism? Do you touch those you interact with? Do you lean in or lean back? Where are your eyes looking?
These are just a few of the pointers that helped me to be mindful of myself and my surroundings. Awareness will not only help on the path to self-mastery, but it can help in others areas like relationships and personal safety. It won’t happen overnight, but the more you do it the better and easier it gets. It may take weeks, months or even years to mature and develop. But any improvement will make a big difference in the walk of life.
Image credit: Spoon