If a ninja and a samurai fought, who would win the duel? Ninjas move in the shadows and samurai fight by publicly advertised appointments, so we will probably never know. Better to be a ninja, I think.
Don’t get me wrong, samurai are great warriors from whom we can learn much: honor, discipline, mental strength, the value of training, etc. Historically, samurai would seek the best teachers to instruct them in a style that would lead to victory. They were always in search of the best methods. That’s admirable.
The greatest samurai of all, Musashi, had no method: “By all accepted standards, Musashi was not a great sword technician. Schools, styles, theories, traditions – none of these meant anything to him. His mode fighting was completely pragmatic. What he knew was only what he had learned from experience. He wasn’t putting theory into practice; he fought first and theorized later.”
Musashi was actually a spiritual warrior. He started his training by spending three years locked in a monastery studying what it meant be human. His conclusion: to be fully human is to fully live in the moment. This fighting style, if it can be called that, carried him to many glorious victories and into Japanese legend.
Consciousness was his weapon.
Musashi is long gone and so are the shoguns, daimyos, and ninjas. But if he were alive, he’d be a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle.
Musashi: “Fighting isn’t all there is to the Art of War. The men who think that way, and are satisfied to have food to eat and a place to sleep, are mere vagabonds. A serious student is much more concerned with training his mind and disciplining his spirit.”
Meet Eckhart Tolle, German Mystic and Champion of the Now. Tolle asserts that your whole life exists only in this present moment. Locking your conscious in the Now unlocks power. For us Biz Warriors that is power to fully connect with people, exercise clear judgment, and inspire creative solutions. Being elsewhere other than the Now, in a place he calls Psychological Time, as opposed to Clock Time, fills our head with worries, fears, and anxieties.
These distractions disconnect us from clients, customers, and teammates in critical moments such as closing deals. Mental distractions cloud our judgment when fear dictates strategy instead of clarity. Left brain analytical noise overwhelms the quiet, inspired right brain from where creative epiphanies arise. For Musashi, allowing his conscious to slip from the present added milliseconds to his sword stroke, costing him many defeats in his early days.
Tolle presents concept and techniques to anchor us into the present.
There Is Only Now: The past and future do not exist, except as concepts in the mind. All reality is now. Our (left, or analytical) brain tells us stories about the past and future. They aren’t real in the present moment other than our mind tells us they are real.
Psychological Time vs Clock Time: The former is a hazardous place where our mind leaves the present to focus on thoughts and feelings about times past and future. The latter is the practical reality that must be dealt with through plans and strategies.
Consciousness: The human existence composes four realities. The first three are where 99% of people live their lives: thoughts, feelings, & perceptions. The fourth is the space in which the first first three exist. That space is called consciousness. Enlightenment: you are not your mind (Descartes was wrong), you are your consciousness (Jesus, Buddha, James K A Smith, and Pascal were right).
Wanting is Weakness: “Most egos have conflicting wants. They want different things at different times or may not even know what they want except that they don’t want what is: the present moment. Unease, restlessness, boredom, anxiety, dissatisfaction (and all other forms of neurosis) are the result of unfulfilled wanting.”
The following serve to quiet the left brain, center the awareness in the present, and make us alert to the right (creative) brain.
Focus on the Breath: This, the most ancient of meditative practices, can easily be done 1-2x per hour all day. Merely take three slow, full breaths giving them your full attention. The brain chatter will recede momentarily.
Connect with the Natural: The second most ancient meditative practice, also quiets the chatter. Focus for 20-30 seconds on something natural. That can be sunlight, a tree, a flower, your thumb. Notice things about it. Thoughts will come. Instead of resisting or analyzing them, just notice them and then re-focus on nature.
Observe Your Inner Energy: Similar to the above, focus a moment periodically through the day experiencing the feeling of aliveness inside you. Take a breath, find a place of tension, which is the physical manifestation of “non-acceptance,” and relax that part of your body in your exhale.
Accept, then Act: “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it if you had chosen it. Always work with it not against it. Use it as your ally, not your enemy.” Cease internal conversations about how you feel about your circumstances and how they inform your egoistic self-narrative. These things are not reality. Instead, accept your present and live fully in it.
Watch Your Mind: “Be present as a watcher of your mind — your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations.” You are not your thoughts or emotions, you are the watcher. Your consciousness rises to this higher level of awareness. Neurotic mind-chatter fades and the creative spirit that is God’s gift to all humans emerges. That spirit, your whole self, will solve the business problems that stumped your analytical brain.
Execution in the Now: Recognize that your life journey or business strategy “ultimately consists of the step you are taking at this moment.” Set times aside to plan and strategize. Then execute, execute, execute. There is only this pitch, this conversation, this hand shake, this eye contact, this pause to fully listen. Your brilliant strategy to dominate your market means nothing outside of this moment of execution. Read Dwight D Eisenhower’s reflections the days before launching the D-Day assault.
Live, Work with Uncertainty: As you no longer let your ego (left brain chatter) run your life you enter into uncertainty. Learn to live with it and love it. The universe has all you need. Your heightened awareness will help you become comfortable with uncertainty, which is merely infinite possibility. The Roman philosopher Tacitus “rightly observed that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.”
Consciously Do: “The modalities of awakened doing are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm.” Cease your doing, your amazing start-up or exhilarating new executive responsibilities, from want, and move to enjoyment and enthusiasm. The ego wants, and therefore you do, you do all sorts of unpleasant, miserable, hateful things that spawn negative energy. Doing with inspiration and enthusiasm, which can be translated from their original language to ‘with spirit and with God,’ drives you towards your vision with the divine energy in all humans. Jesus called this the Kingdom of Heaven that dwells inside all of us. The Stoics called it the Divine Spark.
Aim, Fire, Forget: Your left brain is a wonderful, incredibly powerful weapon. Situations will arise that require its use. Aim your analytical Death Star beam at the situation, question, challenge, and fire all guns. Then holster your analytical blaster and return to conscious awareness. Marcus Aurelius calls this the Hegemonikon, or the Directed Mind.
Even a half-hearted pursuit of the above should yield increased tranquility and focus. As always, be stoic about your pursuit of this, or any other, particular notion of stoicism. If you screw up, or have set-backs, be stoic. It’s not a big deal. Try again in a half hour, or try another three breaths.
For more, listen to Tolle’s chat at Google: