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40. Zanshin – Feeling Attacked from All Sides?

This article was originally written for the Little Creek

Like being surrounded by real attacks, our thoughts can overwhelm us and kill our moment.  


And here, I’m talking about a specific type of thought; the stress of having too much to do.


So, imagine that you’re doing something, maybe getting breakfast ready for the kids on a school day, so everything’s intense right?  They’re putting their clothes on back-to-front, arguing with one another, they haven’t cleaned their teeth yet, or brushed their hair, and are unaware that the time is ticking by…


…and you? 

You’re getting the breakfast ready and notice the dishwasher needs to be emptied, then you remember the car must be booked in for a service, and you haven’t put the washing machine on yet.  Oh jeez, and then you’ve gotta reply to last night’s emails.  This was my morning.


Stressful, man.


I was being attacked by my own mind.


Driving my boy to school, I was hitting those country lanes like a rally driver, thinking I’d slow down when I’ve time to relax. 

That’s an attack, Dude. 

It’s a katana swipe to the solar plexus.  And I’m the one doing it to myself.

"And like a warrior of peace living in the turmoil of humankind..."

I'll Slow Down When All This is Done


When I returned, I saw that I’d put the wrong trash bin out and noticed I wasn’t swapping it over in a calm effortless way that my Dudeist practice advises.  I was rushing.  Stomping around, telling myself “I’ll slow down when all this is done.” – but dude, that’s a whirling arrow to the femoral artery. 


I’ll slow down when…


Yeah, like when?


If you don’t do it at this very moment, then when? 

Your life is going to be full of rushing, pandering to endless invasive thoughts, and wishing you had grabbed those 20 minutes on the yoga mat more or lay on a picnic blanket stirring up at the clouds and being a calm presence for those around you.


Stressful thoughts like this are attacks. 

They are knife thrusts to your peace.  And when you’ve got too much to do, they will surround you until you feel beat.  And to be beat here means to lose your moment because that’s where your life is.


And life is your To-Dude list.  It’s not to fill it with over-achieving crap like a To-do list.  It’s not to be doing one thing angrily because you really have too much to do right now, and this current task is in your way.  A To-Dude list is to be filled with pointless things such as today, I’ll take a 30-minute walk with no destination in mind, or, today, I’ll stare out of the window for 20 minutes with nothing to do.


Kanamaki Sensei (1686) from the One Cut School of Sword Fighting (1) wrote about the problem of Zanshin which means that the heart is lingering over a previous move and is not fully present during a duel.  He taught the importance of Ippatsu Furu, the total commitment to a single strike.


But this strike must be free of feelings and thoughts so that it is completely open to be fully present in the moment.  To respond to attacks spontaneously. 


The One Cut School claimed that when surrounded by enemy attacks, do not stop, move your feet freely.  Like a dance.  Then the sword thrusts cut into empty space. 


And like a warrior of peace living in the turmoil of humankind, give your thoughts no place to land.


The next time you feel surrounded by all the things you really must do, cut them off.  Don’t attach your mind to them and be free to enjoy what you are currently doing.  If a thought of what else you must do (an attack) comes in, sure you can notice it, but like in Dude-jitsu, the world’s laziest martial art, you simply side-step its thrust, and flip it over with a comment like, “your time will come”, “I will get to you when I’m ready”, or “it doesn’t matter, I can let this one go.”


Give your energy to what you are doing now.  Don’t sweat the other stuff.  They will either get done, or they won’t.  And that’s okay.


Pablo Picasso (2) said

“You must always work not just within, but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two.  If you can handle ten, then handle only five.  In that way, the ones you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve.”


Things will get done.  The universe will find a way.  Shield your inner peace and do your tasks calmly and without concern for the results.  Then your inner Dude will appear, and somehow, magically, you will find time to gaze up at the clouds, and you will return to living a natural simple wonderful life.


Peace Out.


Rev. Thomo


1)     from the book The Twelve Rules of the Sword by Ito Ittosai

2)     from the book The Underachievers Manifesto by Ray Bennett, Chronicle Books, San Francisco


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