zen

“Too Many Mind” or Why you feel flustered

I was watching “The Last Samurai” the other night on AMC with the movie notes (love that) and a scene stood out to me. At one point, Tom Cruise is getting his butt handed to him by a high-ranking Samurai and his host stops the sparring long enough to tell him:

Nobutada: Please forgive, too many mind.

Nathan Algren: Too many mind?

Nobutada: Hai. Mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind the enemy, too many mind… [pause] No mind.

Being present is the whole game. Existing right now, right here – with no other distractions is how excellence is born.

How are you going to make ends meet? What about the check engine light in your car? What are you going to do for dinner tonight? Relatives are coming in town and you haven’t cleaned the house – what are they going to think? Are these pants too tight? Is this shirt too big? Am I eating enough vegetables?

Stop.

Breathe.

Live here and now. Open your eyes. Quiet your mind. Too many minds, too much trouble, too little excellence.

My wife does this with our kids – she’s always present with them fully in her mind. Getting them ready to go, teaching them right from wrong, helping them – she’s always focused on them and nothing else. I admire that level of focus and dedication. Lord knows I have it when deep into a spreadsheet build, or when I’m working on this blog, or cooking – but not often when I’m with the kids.

We can focus on anything we want, regardless of how exciting or mundane it may seem. Folding laundry puts me in a deep zen state where all the swirling turmoil of life just dissipates into vapor. Laundry does that. I want it to be perfect, and beautiful and efficient. It’s not something I want to get over with, but something I want to master.

What part of your gig would be made better by eliminating some of your “mind” – losing the burden of worry that’s not serving you?

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You Shouldn’t Get Through This…

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The beauty of zen sand gardens is inherent for a fundamental reason: zen gardens exist, so we can exist in them. There is no other purpose than to place ourselves back in ourselves.

No one tries to get through the process to the other side. There is no other side – only ourselves and the sand. Since there’s no “Right” way to rake the sand – no great sand artists to emulate, we can create in the most original and honest way possible. Because we’re truly present in the process, beauty emerges naturally as the chaos of the sand gives way to the serenity of our peaceful, purposeful, interactions with it.

It’s a deeply satisfying metaphor for our lives and our work. Shoddy things happen when we try to get through them, as if they’re not worthy of our attention, or our time. Cutting the onions, painting the fence, raking the lawn; all great opportunities for art – great opportunities to exist in ourselves and to create something beautiful. If only we could stop ourselves from thinking they’re obstacles, that there’s really something else we’d rather be doing.

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I don’t think it’s any surprise then that those doing the best work are those having the best time – that truly love their craft, and thus exist in every moment of it. Never rushing any one part of their job in favor of another, they know it’s all connected and it all comes with the package. There are parts more exciting, sure. But even the small parts are paid attention to, the true beauty in them is found. The goal isn’t to “get through the day” but to greet the day with a smile, and gratitude in their hearts for the opportunity to do something that so compliments their nature. These are the rare people, but they can be any of us, at any time.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

― Laozi, Lao TsuTao Te Ching