“A student said to Master Ichu, 'Please write for me something of great wisdom.’
Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: 'Attention.’
The student said, 'Is that all?’
The master wrote, 'Attention. Attention.’
The student became irritable. 'That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me.’
In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, 'Attention. Attention. Attention.’
In frustration, the student demanded, 'What does this word attention mean?’
Master Ichu replied, 'Attention means attention.”
- Old Zen Story
Our attention is dispersed and weakened by constant streams of information. But, like many other human attributes, attention can be trained. Mindfulness Meditation is a very potent method to train our attention.
Awareness of breath is a key component of most Mindfulness Meditation traditions. With practice, it becomes possible to shift one's awareness toward peaceful embodiment in any situation, but it is often difficult for beginners to do so. The floatation tank is a tremendous tool to help beginners learn how to train their attention in a "controlled environment," and find states of deeper focus faster. A student can then take what was learned in the tank, and apply it to sitting meditation, mindful movement practices like yoga and MovNat, and everyday life tasks.
Practices in the Tank: Attention training need not be difficult.
A very simple method for people just starting attention training is to simply count the breath. As you know, our natural breathing pattern includes an in-breath, and an out-breath. On every in-breath, enjoy the feeling of breathing into your belly. Count every out-breath, starting from 1, and go up to 10. Once you've reached 10, return to 1, and start again. If your attention wanders along the way to 10, no need to punish yourself, simply continue with the method and bring it back to counting the breath.
With practice, you'll find it increasingly easier to stay on the method. Then you too can begin reaping the rewards of having learned that, as Master Ichu said, "Attention means attention.”
How Floatation Therapy Helps Spiritual Fitness:
“Those who have a 'WHY' to live, can bear with almost any 'HOW'.”
- Victor Frankl, Psychiatrist, Holocaust Survivor, Author of "Man's Search for Meaning"
In the US Army, we found that there is no greater source of motivation, and no greater psychological defense against tragedy, than a clearly determined ultimate aim.
The "highest possible good" was largely determined for our ancestors by their society. Their path was created to fit within the constraints that their family and local community thought great for them. If they deviated from that path, they were often ostracized and punished, sometimes brutally. However, times have changed.
"Today, more people die from obesity than from starvation; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed in war."
- Yuval Harari, Historian, Dedicated Meditator, Author of "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind"
We now live in a world of abundance. What was once decided for us, is now for us to decide. We have capabilities, possibilities, and technologies that our ancestors would have thought impossible.
With all of these newfound options, young urban professionals suffer from a new problem: too many decisions to make.
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
- Jerzy Gregorek, Poet, World Champion Weightlifter, Author of "The Happy Body Program"
The cure for the problem of "too many decisions" is to have already clearly defined our ultimate aim, and made the "hard choices." This helps us eliminate the non-essential, and do what really matters for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
- Joseph Campbell, Mythologist, Philosopher, Author of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces"
In our world of constant distraction, there are few places for us to truly pause and listen to ourselves. Furthermore, many people are so used to filling their attention with distractions that they fear what they may find if they do listen to themselves.
"Your vision becomes clear when you look inside your heart. He who looks outside, dreams. He who looks inside, awakens.”
- Carl G. Jung, Psychoanalyst, Mystical Visionary, Author of “Modern Man in Search of a Soul”
There is no place in a city like inside of a floatation tank to strip away distractions and make the important decisions.
Practices in the Tank: Inquiry
If you have a tough decision to make, or need to brainstorm for solving a problem, this practice of inquiry is a very powerful tool that I've found. It is a tremendous way to realize themes and relationships which go deeper than math.
It works very simply, (but could allow for endless variations):
Maybe a man realizes that an addictive behavior with alcohol is having a detrimental effect on his life, but he doesn't know what to do about it.
1. "What is my relationship with alcohol?"
Then he could wait for the answer. The more he asks, the more answers he'll receive from a deeper part of his mind (referred to by Jung as the "unconscious"). When he feels clear about the ways he's misusing alcohol, he could then move on to question #2.
2. "Why do I relate to alcohol in this way?"
He could again repeat the question, and investigate the answers as they bubble up from his unconscious. When he feels he understands enough to take action, he can then ask himself question #3.
3. "How can I leave this behavior behind?"
When he has a better idea of the WHAT and WHY, he can now begin to find the HOW to plan a better course in life.
When he finishes floating, he can then record his most important insights in a voice message, or with a pen and paper.
And so the same for you: If you want to answer the BIG questions in your life, consider this practice of Inquiry.
RJ's Guidelines for Floating:
Below are some general guidelines that I've acquired from more than 100 hours of floating time, and many more hours of observed floating time in my students.
- Try at least 3 sessions to get comfortable with it
- 1 hour sessions are good to start, try 1.5 or even 2 hours once you feel ready
- Aim to do it at least once per week as a way to check in, 2 times per week is better
- Do it before a workout or physical event for better performance
- Do it after a workout of physical event for better recovery
- Use it for times when you want to access greater creativity
- Use it for times when you feel overwhelmed and want peace
- Use if for times when you want to determine your next move
A Final Note on Intention vs. Expectation:
Intention is a direction for our creative energy.
Expectation is an attachment to an outcome.
Intention comes from within.
Expectation is worrying what will happen without.
When you float, set your intention, let go of any expectations, and give yourself to the process.
About Recon John:
Recon John is a Body-Mind Performance Coach.
He holds numerous certifications in a wide variety of fitness, movement and physical training disciplines.
He helps individuals and organizations create peak performance by training at the level of physiology and psychology.
He can be reached on WeChat at: recon_john
He can also be found at: MindfulAndMoving.com
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