“We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand...
and melting like a snowflake.”

Enter the flow

I've been practising BJJ for about a year now and I feel very happy to have made the decision to start practising this art.

Practising BJJ helps me to develop a number of qualities which out of the mat are of great importance.

I would like to use BJJ as a vehicle for developing my potential. I'm very much interested in the concept of developing relaxation and awareness in BJJ and in daily life. I feel my potential doubles when I feel centered, and thus am able to make the best possible decisions while on my best state of mind, which in turn ends up having a positive impact on my body, in the people surrounding me, and professionally.

This state of mind is very hard to achieve though for a number of reasons: society, consumerism, entertainment, gratification, the human condition and so on...

And also of course because of our minds: my mind (and I assume everyone here feels more or less the same way) is quiet a rebel. I've been practising meditation for about 10 years and still to this day it baffles me how little control we seem to have over our minds although it does seem we do have control.

BJJ is really a good example for this. 90% of the time I roll I feel quite nervous, I breath heavily, I roll instinctively instead of consciously, I forget most of the technique I learned... Part of the reason why is because I know that my mind and body are genetically inclined to be this way. Other reasons might be because I'm small and light, and lack strength. Most guys are heavier, more athletic, more explosive and more confident. I assume that my mind instinctively feels that danger is ahead and it gets chaotic, the body tenses up and... you know the rest...

It just so happens that the other 10% of the time for some reason my mind turns off. Or the thinking mind (ego) just gets tired. Or sometimes maybe I just don't care and I just stand there and for some mysterious reason I end up doing things right. I survive much better, I'm focused, and I might even catch someone at my level or above. Also less prone to injuries and more balanced in the way the body moves.

I believe that this is what is known today as the flow. Entering the flow is key to doing things efficiently and for overall happiness.

But why is it so hard? One of the obstacles I sense are on the way to that state of mind is the desire to get there, or desire itself in whatever form.  It's a mind state that makes it difficult to surrender to the moment. It's somehow related to fear of not having enough, fear of getting injured, of getting so fed up of getting smashed that one day I'll want to quit. So then that makes me think in those moments that the answer is more strength, more power, more determination and sweat... of course it is not, I end up getting more tired, less focused, more angry when things don't go my way...

The ego or thinking mind is a mechanism programmed to protect and meet our needs. Our desires (orders given by our egos) are the outcome of needs. This is very natural. So if the need for recognition, for respect, for physical integrity, for control become too strong we might just lose some balance and become convinced that we're not quite there yet: there meaning that place when we are ok, happy, satisfied. Thus we become tense and defensive. In this state of mind we are out of the process, out of the flow, it's an unloving mind state. We're not rolling with someone out of pleasure and friendship, but we're using that moment and person to achieve something in the future (black belt? respect? or just ventilate our daily frustrations?).

The paradox is: if I let go of whatever I was striving for but still able to be present and available, I might just actually get "there", centred, satisfied, accepting things as they are: happy! The mind relaxes, the body relaxes as well and things flow much better. Becoming centered makes the brain more efficient in the output: doing things, understanding, executing. But also much more efficient at understanding, learning, acquiring new data.

This is a very interesting point for me. I found that I can't speak to anyone about this at the academy because as soon as the word "mind state" or anything similar is introduced I believe people get defensive or uncomfortable. Maybe because they fear going to the root of things. Or maybe they're just thinking: "oh no... not again..." or something...

"Good warriors make others come to them, and do not go to others. This is the principle of emptiness and fullness of others and self. When you induce opponents to come to you, then their force is always empty; as long as you do not go to them, your force is always full. Attacking emptiness with fullness is like throwing stones on eggs."
— Zhang Yu

What are your thoughts on this? How can one strive for awareness in BJJ without getting entangled in the ego process? In other words: how to relax?

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