Action- Now - Enrichment

It is my belief that our love of action – arises from our need to spend more time ‘Living in the Moment’.
When we are ski-ing down a mountain, white water rafting, rock-climbing or fighting – we are probably more present, more in the moment, that we are at most other times of our lives. I think this is a large part of the reason that many of us find those types of activities to be quite addictive. It seems, that some deep part of us, loves being in the moment.
Why is it that most of us, for a large part of our waking day, tend to drift away from the present, and muse of the happenings of yesterday or the what if’s of tomorrow? In my opinion the larger part of human suffering stems from the habit we have of allowing ourselves to be pulled from the present into the past or the future. All of us, at some time or other, have experienced worry, deep regret or anger over something that happened last month, last year or perhaps even decades ago. I can probably safely say that each of us has experienced worry, apprehension, inner turmoil or stress about something that may or may not eventuate at some time in our future. Why does this happen?
All of us have been endowed, over millions of years of evolution, with some remarkable architecture within the confines of our craniums that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. What we all have, that has allowed to muse, invent, plan and remember is the wonderful structure in our brain called the pre-frontal cortex. This, the largest part of our brain, essentially does two things, pretty much unique in the animal kingdom – it endows us with the ability to look into the future and PLAN – and remember the past and LEARN. The development of the pre-frontal cortex has given us the ability to invent agriculture, build cars and formulate investment and retirement strategies. However, this ability we have, that the rest of the animal kingdom does not possess, comes at a high price …
The pre-frontal cortex has provided us with the ability to plan ahead, and learn from the past, true – but making those journey’s, both into the past, and into the future, also provides us with an effortless means to dwell on the bad things that have happened last month and worry about the bad things that may or may not happen next month. I can only guess (reasonably confidently) that animals, although they lack a developed pre-frontal cortex like us and cannot invent a cell phone or design a new house, are nevertheless able to happily go about their lives living fully in the moment, and being fully engaged and present at all times. Lucky little beasts!
In BJJ (wrestling, boxing, fencing also come to mind) we are quite present when engaged in the throes of combat. It is my contention though, that even though we are fairly present when fighting, the more experienced and best athletes are far more present than most.
Imagine you are grappling, your opponent sweeps you over – you spend two seconds ‘dwelling’ in the sweep and lamenting that this has happened to you – this happens because you have allowed the magical function of the pre-frontal cortex to do it’s thing and drag you (albeit only by two seconds) into the past. If your opponent is in the present, he will gain the advantage. Imagine again. You allow yourself to drift into the future, by three or four seconds, and ponder on the finish or position that you want to establish on your opponent – by doing this, you are not as able to notice what he or she is doing to you right at that moment. In a state of action – we need to be fully present – in the moment – and not allow ourselves to be pulled back into past or drift forward into the future – even by a few seconds. The more we practice, the more present we become and the better we perform and react. Seconds, or even parts of seconds, really count when we are in a state of action.
Off the mat or out of the ring, we should perhaps spend much more time, trying to be in the present – in the now – fully engaged in what we do. I have learned to do this in my teaching – irrespective of how tired, injured, or whatever else is going on in my life. And it is infectious, those present in my class, become more present. The more fully engaged and in the now I am as an instructor, the more fully engaged and in the now my students become. For me personally, training myself to do this, has made me an infinitely happier person. Be in the now … your soul will love you for it – your BJJ opponent will not!


BlakeG2560 said…
An old friend of mine used to say " dream, drift and drown".Training yourself to habitually live in, and focus on , the present is much better advice than the cliched " live each day as if it's your last" we encounter so often.This focus will improve your present and your future.Paradoxically, when you are planning a future event you must be in the moment during the planning session.I believe this is a subtle, yet significant a life skill
Thanks for a very worthwhile post John
JBW said…
Thanks for that Martin. I fully agree - and I like the way you have put it. Cheers.
James said…
Hi John - great post!

I'm not sure if you're familiar with the military strategist John Boyd and his OODA loop model, but you've nailed one key element of it when you presented your example;

"If your opponent is in the present, he will gain the advantage. Imagine again. You allow yourself to drift into the future, by three or four seconds, and ponder on the finish or position that you want to establish..."

In the OODA model, repeated lapses of not thinking clearly or 'in the present' add to a cumulative disadvantage.

It's not necessarily the 'moves' made against you by your opponent that create this disadvantage, but often your own moves are just as destructive because your inability to make clear decisions based 'in the present' is repeatedly compounded until failure.
hi... i came from indonesia...
nice blog!

best regard,...

stop dreaming start action
Anonymous said…
I'm quite familiar with this one John. Some people have such trouble dwelling on the past they need CBT to control it. It can take over your daily life, not just your BJJ. Its easier said than done, but it is possible to correct.
Anonymous said…
With this post John,just opened my eyes,that I am not behaving in a good manner,towards my own divorced
parent's.I dwell to much upon the past,creating imbalance.

Thank you John !
Christopher Rabeda

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