§16 – Don’t be that guy

(Part 28 of 28 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Serendipity.

I’ve been working on writing these thoughts for over three years. Without actually checking, I think it was the Fall of 2015 when I sat in Le Jardin Joan d’Arc and read my copy of Thibault’s book in one, all-day sitting. Almost 4 years ago?

I created this particular blank note for Chapter 16 in May of 2016. “16”?

As I’m writing, it is May of 2019. Another, “May”?

About three years ago I started the project which eventually became Movers Mindset. Two years ago the project grew to include a podcast.

This morning, I feel compelled to “finally” get around to writing something for Chapter 16. I open my digital copy, flip to Chapter 16, and I read, “Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat once wrote…”

Care to guess who I am interviewing for the podcast today? Yes, really.

This is sublime.

All those threads woven together lead to this moment of realization at 8:00 in a rented London flat, 6,000km from my home.

Critically, while I’ve known for months the exact date and time of Chris’ interview, I’ve not read Chapter 16 recently enough to have remembered that it starts with his sentiments. If I had, I’d certainly have made some complicated plan to co-publish this writing and the podcast, or something—but this serendipity would not have materialized. Energized by the jolt of adrenaline when I read Chapter 16 this morning, I now feel a renewed belief in the entire Movers Mindset project! (Which is good, because most days there’s more strenuous labor than love in the labor of love.)

But, serendipity and coincidence are bullshit.

It’s just my brain, (yours may be the same,) working its tremendous powers of pattern matching. This morning my mind found a slightly-more-interesting-than-usual pattern and screamed, (ala the old adrenal gland,) that it had found something that demanded much closer attention. I’ve been spurred to carefully read Chapter 16 about five times this morning, to mull over my thoughts, to spend an hour or so writing, and to think of all the people I want to share this story with. I was inspired to create a vision of how the interview will go, new questions have popped into my head, and I’ve thought of a specific person who I now realize I’d forgot for about two years!

I wonder: What would life be like if I simply paid closer attention?

What if—instead of needing a kick in the adrenals to be this motivated—I could begin to intentionally notice things a bit smaller than this morning’s coincidence?

What if!

…and of course, “don’t be that guy.”

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The letting go

https://www.librarything.com/work/294031

When our mind is tranquil, there will be an occasional pause to its feverish activities, there will be a letting go, and it is only then in the interval between two thoughts that a flash of UNDERSTANDING—understanding, which is not thought—can take place.

~ Bruce Lee

I’m not sure I’ve experienced the not-thought which is that flash of understanding. I think things are even more simple; Year after year, as I quiet my mind, understand simply expands into the new space.

Regardless, tranquility is key. Pausing is key.

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Practicing mindfulness

(Part 15 of 28 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Mindfulness is an inward directed practice of contemplation. It is a continuous process of being present. For me, because it was initially unfamiliar, it was more difficult to approach than the obvious physical activities such as running, jumping, and climbing. But after some practice, it became a critical part of the foundation on which I’ve placed many other parts of Parkour.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness at large in one’s life. For example, Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, has a great piece titled, 9 Mindfulness Rituals to Make Your Day Better I am a firm believer that mindfulness across the full breadth of daily life yields big benefits. But in this post, I’m focusing on the practice of mindfulness within Parkour.

In many ways, mindfulness is like any other skill that you can practice intentionally. But unlike other skills, failing to be mindful leaves me with blindspots. These blindspots, which are closely related to the Dunning Kruger Effect, create space for “unknown unknowns” to lay hidden.

Worse, lack of mindfulness is akin to: Failure of attention, which leads to injury; Failure to notice moods and emotions, which leads to loss of interest in the short term and training plateaus in the longer term; Failure to notice signals from my body, which leads to chronic injury and developmental imbalances.

Options for practicing mindfulness

One option would be to set out explicitly to practice mindfulness. (“Today, instead of practicing vaults, I’m going to practice mindfulness.”) Unfortunately, I would need to be highly mindful in order to stay on task working on being mindful. But, if I could be that mindful, I wouldn’t need to practice being mindful. (Which is a Catch-22 that makes my brain hurt before I even start doing anything.) In the end I find that saying, “I’m going to practice mindfulness,” is simply too vague to be motivating.

Another option is to passively rely on fellow traceurs, or coaches, to call me out for “not being mindful”. (Or for them to set up specific “mindfulness practice.”) But mindfulness is too important for me to simply rely on other people to hold me to it. It’s much better for me to practice it intentionally.

To make the options more complicated, it is not at all clear how I switch from being NOT mindful to being mindful enough to notice that just-a-moment-ago I was NOT being mindful. Heavy stuff that. In reality, I usually notice my mind has wandered, (“I’m paying attention to irrelevant things around me,”) or I notice my practice has become unmotivated, (“When did this get boring?”)

Shoelaces

So how do I practice mindfulness? I think of it like tied shoelaces. It’s important my shoelaces be tied, but I don’t obsess over them by constantly checking my shoes. I simply tie them when I notice they are untied.

I practice mindfulness when I notice I’m not being mindful.

My mindfulness drill

So when I notice, what can I do, exactly?

I locate a small jump. The jump needs to be well within my ability; not something risky or overly tiring. I want a relatively easy jump that I know I can do without thinking. It must be any easy jump, because there can be no nervousness or doubt. I’m purposely selecting a jump to set myself up to be lulled into NOT being mindful.

I physically prepare to jump. I position myself, arrange my limbs, engage muscles, etc. Eventually I arrive at that point in space and time which would normally be the last point before I jump. At this exact point, I wait. I am poised, comfortable, ready, willing and perfectly able to jump. I know I’m in at the correct point when I suspect that if someone startled me, I would jump involuntarily.

I find my thoughts are like birds flitting around a cavernous room. Some thoughts are on-task as they seem related to the jump: The way my body feels; The anticipation of being in the air; The expectations of the landing. But depending on how mindful I am, there are more or less other “off-task” thoughts flitting about the room.

The sky is blue.
How much time is left?
I’m thirsty.
There’s an ant where I’m going to land.
What’s for dinner?
People must be looking at me funny.
…and on and on and on.

I am alone with my thoughts, and I am simply an observer in a room with these harmless, incorporeal, flitting birds. I notice as many of the thoughts as I can, taking special notice of the ones that I believe are related to the jump. I don’t fight with the thoughts, because I cannot catch nor chase away any particular bird. In fact, chasing them is worse than useless because they simply loop around to become “the thought about the thought I just tried to chase away.”

Gradually, some of the extraneous birds fly away. When I think the number of extraneous thoughts in my head has reached a point where it’s as good as it’s going to get . . .

I jump.

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§5 – Moment to moment

(Part 14 of 28 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

I reached section 5, and got stuck.

It’s obvious the key idea of section 5 is mindfulness. So I started by thinking about “mindfulness in Parkour practice.” But I wasn’t able to find a compelling thread to unify my thoughts. I came away from a few writing sessions with nothing of value. Eventually it occurred to me to circle back and reconsider my writing process.

I reread this whole series and — aside from, “Wow, I suck at writing!” — it struck me that I have been “unpacking” each of the first four sections. My process has been to sift each section for a key idea, and then simply spend time thinking about that specific idea:

What exactly does the idea mean?
Do I already know and understand the idea?
How does it relate to my Parkour practice?
What other areas of knowledge does it relate to?

But section 5 is already short and to-the-point and doesn’t need to be unpacked.

I’m so META Even This Acronym:

Stop the presses! It seems I have just discovered the concept of being mindful of the writing process. /sarcasm

Next up:

I am actually writing something about section 5 now that I have a different plan.

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