A big challenge with mental training is not getting lost in over-thinking. Even when we’re moving the body, part of our attention can still be focused on thinking, interpreting and deciding what to do. This interferes with action.
Thinking in the midst of action causes us to live in a virtual world. We allow the mind to judge what the body is doing. This is mental interference.
Don Juan emphasized this point in A Separate Reality, admonishing Carlos Castaneda.
“You think about yourself too much and that gives you a strange fatigue that makes you shut off the world around you and cling to your arguments.”
Carlos’ attention is lost in the virtual reality of his mind. Instead, he should focus it on actions that reveal an accurate reality.
Don’t Diminish Your Experience – Live by Acting
We know something when we experience it, not before. If our attention is lost in the mind, then our experience, and therefore our knowledge, is diminished.
Finding ways to take action more completely helps us gain knowledge.
Don Juan emphasized this to Carlos, saying:
“A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.”
Thinking is certainly important for gathering information so we can make appropriate risk decisions. However, we “live by acting” thru engaging our attention in the body. Our attention isn’t in the mind, thinking about what we’re doing, nor is it worrying about what we’ll think about the outcome; attention is in the body so it can be focused directly on the situation itself.
The challenge is figuring out how to keep our attention completely in the body.
It’s simple to do, but difficult to maintain. It’s simple because we focus our attention on the somatic activities of breathing, moving, and relaxing. It’s difficult because our attention will shift to thinking, distracting it from action. This is a natural tendency, so we shouldn’t get frustrated by it. Rather, notice attention shift into thinking, and redirect it to the body.
Focusing attention in the body helps us live as warriors. We “live by acting” not by “thinking about acting” nor by “thinking about what we’ll think when we’re finished acting.” Focus on the activity itself, without letting the thinking mind distract. Doing this gives you direct knowledge of reality.
Practice Tip: A Drill to Focus Attention in the Body
It is difficult to keep your attention focused in the body if you think about keeping attention in the body. Rather, focus on feeling what the body is doing. Feelings are sensations that have nothing to do with thinking.
Here is how. Stand while focusing attention in the body:
- Posture: Push the feet slightly into the ground while sightly elevating the head. Doing this stretches the body in two directions to maintain proper posture.
- Breathing: Feel the sensations of your belly expanding throughout the entire inhale and exhale.
- Relaxing: Scan for tensions and relax them.
Now, walk around, focusing your attention on breathing, relaxing, and maintaining proper posture.
No thinking is necessary. Rather, feel your body.