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Thursday, September 17, 2009

My missing coffee cup: Blindness with eyes wide open


This morning, I made myself a cup of coffee, warmed a pastry and sat myself down at my computer to answer emails, update my task list, and other work related stuff. By habit, I always have my coffee in my favorite mug that has a yin-yang symbol on it. However this morning my mug was nowhere to be found, so put my coffee in a different mug.

After writing a couple emails, I put some eggs in water to poach, and looked for my archery equipment. I sat back down in front of the computer, and realized my coffee wasn't there. I scanned the desk...nothing. Looked in the kitchen. Even looked in the bathroom. Looked downstairs...nothing.

"Mom!" I called out. "Have you seen my white coffe mug? I misplaced it."

"is it in your office?" Mom answered.

"No, it just got up and walked away!"

I made another cup of coffee. As I was in the kitchen, I heard my Mom laughing. I walked to where she was...in my office, pointing at my computer desk..... and there was my first coffee cup. Still warm. "What the hell?" I thought. What the hell am I going to do with this other cup of coffee?

Mom walked away laughing.

It was then I realized that when I was looking for my coffee, I was looking for my favorite Yin-Yang mug, not the brown mug I initially had the coffee in. Blind with eyes wide open. Because I was so intent on looking for a white mug, a different mug just disappeared on my desk because my mind didn't "see" it. There it sat, waiting for me to enjoy it and I was scrambling around the house foolishly looking for it. I had to laugh at myself after feeling silly.

In a martial arts sense, this "looking but not seeing" sometimes happens to us as practitioners. When we are beginners in our art, we tend to look at each new technique with a motivated mind...we want to master it, we want to practice it till we get it down. (Sound familiar, martial artists?)

However, sometimes, as experienced martial artists, we tend to look only for the similar skills that we're habituated to. The different flavor of the new art is ignored, and sometimes we don't even hear corrections from the teacher because we might assume we already know the skill set of the similar movements.

As a result, we miss the flavor of the new activity because we are so intent on seeing "our own mug"...our own "coffee". You keep going to class but you still can't quite get the feel of it the way you expect to. Or, for some, they overestimate their skill, and see their skills as a bit better than it really is.

It is this type of "blindness with eyes wide open" that hinders our progress. We try to seek so hard for things that are already there...we try so hard to place value on our higher skills...our "favorite mug of coffee", so to speak, and we forget about the time when we had no skill. In this sight impaired state, we might even go so far as to denounce the simpler skills...sometimes putting down those with lesser skill because we avidly seek such higher skills and go out of our way to get that skill. "Baby stuff" is not in your vocabulary...you think you're better than that.

Then, when we do find the things we look for that are right there in front of us, we wonder "what the hell am I going to do with this other cup of coffee??" After you've gone through all that trouble of manifesting that new skill that you gained so quickly because you thought you were so good, there will come a time where you'll wonder why you went through all that trouble when the process could have been so much easier if your just saw what was really there.

In martial arts, I've seen this type of "blindness" many times...not only in some students i've taught in the past, but with me as well. I'll admit i've been guilty of thinking that I was "all that and a bag of chips", and would laugh at those with less experience when they are astounded with double-sword techniques or high jumps. "They're just impressed because they can't do it. They're like little kids impressed by a simple cartwheel" I used to think. How dumb of me to forget that I was once at their level.

My advice folks: When given the opportunity, learn to "see" not just "look". Remember where you came from....you were once without skill, remember that. Instead of dismissing those with lesser skills, help them find the skills they're looking for if they're being "blind". Just don't laugh at them like my Mom did with me. :-)

Want to know where my yin yang coffee mug was this whole time? (the sole reason why I used a different coffee mug this morning).... In the fridge....where I left it the day before.

2 comments:

~axe said...

Nicely put! Good reminder and will definately reflect on this during my martial arts as well as my life...Mahalo(thank you)

Restita, Seattle Wushu Center said...

Mahalo to you too, for leaving your comment!