Alex Yeo - What Is Mindfulness To Me?
I have been primarily a Tai Chi practitioner. I first learnt SNT in 2004 for only a few months before the teacher decided to cancel all classes for some personal reasons. I have never learnt the other forms before, so I don't dare to say that I am a Wing Chun practitioner.
The Covid-19 lockdown in my country means that I have a little time at home, and no space to do my usual Tai Chi exercises, and browsing through YouTube brought up Sifu Nima's channel. Watching the videos have caused me to want to revisit SNT again as I feel that I had never really learnt it properly back then before the teacher ceased the classes.
What is Mindfulness to Me?
I started learning mindfulness through seated meditation and then carried that into martial arts. I always thought I was mindful of how I moved, how I behaved, how I spoke etc. It took me a very long time to realise that the thinking of being mindful is not actually being mindful, and that I am still a very long way from being mindful!
Mindfulness is so much more than just being aware of where the body is tensed. For example, in the past, I would be walking or rushing to take the public transport and then be aware of which parts of the body are tensing up, and then I’d send a mental instruction for those body parts to relax.
My thinking changed a little a few years ago. It began with my noticing how my children would be running around the house and almost damaging or dirtying something, probably because we just renovated the place! I’d scream at them, “Be careful! Be mindful of what you’re doing and where you’re going!” That was when I was hit with the realisation that being mindful is not about being slow and noticing the tensions in the body. Mindfulness applies even when we’re moving quickly. It also applies to that point that I become aware of that moment when I was about to scream at my children.
My idea of ‘mindfulness’ today is being aware of what I am doing, what is inside me as I am doing that something, and what is around me when I’m doing it. Mindfulness is being aware and being present. How this has translated to my form practice is that I have become more aware of the movements and each one affects the rest of the body, whether internally (like, how some muscles will tense as I move) or externally (like, how I may have moved an arm or a leg too much and affected my balance).
Not too long ago, my understanding of mindfulness got ‘upgraded’ again. I drink Chinese tea. Unfortunately, I am too impatient to go through a proper tea ceremony just to drink that cup of tea as I drink it mainly for health reasons, even though the tea ceremony is also an exercise in mindfulness. Somebody commented to me that I was drinking tea incorrectly, and I thought she was referring to how I ignored the ‘proper’ way to prepare and drink my tea. Instead, what she meant was that I was drinking tea as a beverage instead of _actually drinking tea_. I had not taken the effort to sniff in the aroma and feel the taste of the liquid in my mouth. I failed to bother to understand the philosophy of the process of the fresh leaf transforming to the dried leaf and, finally, to the steeped leaf. I don’t claim to understand it fully, but I notice that my tea now tastes a little different when I put my mind into drinking it, even though the brewing process remains the same.
To sum up, to me, being mindful is more than just focusing one's awareness on the present moment. It is also about knowing why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s not just observing what I’m doing, but also being aware of whether I am doing it correctly or incorrectly, and why. I could be mindful, but mindfully wrong. This has changed the way I do my form, especially the faster movements. It is already a challenge to keep the mind involved in the slower movements. I look forward to the day when I can be fully involved in the form, no matter how fast or slow it is.
Thank you, and regards,