Posted by: B Gourley | July 10, 2008

Just Do It!

One of the more well-known advertising slogans of our times has been Nike’s “Just Do It!” I assume that Nike’s marketing people intended to create a motto designed to compel people to get up off the couch and to be active (with activities utilizing Nike shoes and sportswear.) This is certainly an estimable demand, but it is not the only reading of the simple three word credo. Another way to look at it is as a suggestion that one only do whatever it is one is doing. In other words, that one should put single-minded attention into whatever one is doing.

It is not easy to do whatever one is doing with one’s entirety. It may seem simple enough. However, imagine if, when you drove, you only drove. You did not catch up on the news. You did not plan your day. You did not listen to music. You did not internally reminisce about your glory days. If all a person did was conduct the actions of driving, and all that person’s mind did was exist in the moment and monitor the actions of driving, then that individual would be far more ready for the adversity that can arrive unexpectedly in an instant. A person perpetually disappointed by a range of diets might find that they could make headway merely by being completely mindful of his or her eating rather than operating out of habit.

Most people go through life spending very little time living in the moment. One anticipates the future, remembers the past, and fanaticizes about what is not and never will be. One’s mind is in a constant state of commotion, and it is rare that people take the time to train themselves to just be.

Martial artists sometimes employ a “short-cut” mechanism to increase their sense of preparedness. They obsess over security affairs, and they spend each moment looking for threats and attempting to carry out their lives in a consciously strategic manner. However, at some point it should become clear that this is a crude substitute for living in the moment. One may or may not become more prepared for moments of conflict, but not for the, hopefully, more frequent moments of peace. It is important to avoid distortions in one’s mind that such a mindset causes. A former police officer once told me that the problem with being an officer in a high crime area for a long time is that one spends a disproportionate part of one’s time dealing with the dregs of humanity, and one can begin to imagine that most people are inherently criminal in nature. A clear perception of threat does not arise from seeing threats everywhere, and there is no short-cut to ban pen fu gyou (not being surprised despite 10,000 changes) but to train to have a calm and present mind.

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