Having recently written a book on Mindfulness, I often get asked, ‘so what is the relevance to your Systema training?’ and conversely by non martial artists, ‘so what is the relevance of Systema to Mindfulness?’.
Mindfulness is defined in many different ways. This one is from mindful.org:
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
The basic principles behind Systema include: being relaxed, focusing on what’s happening in the now, breathing with awareness, having fluid movement with spacial awareness, accepting rather than reacting, and maintaining structure and composure under all stress conditions. These map onto the mindful.org definition of Mindfulness pretty well.
Our instructors often say just move, pay attention to yourself and go with the flow, accepting other peoples moves to blend with them rather than conflict with them – and breathe! That’s like being mindful while moving.
The real differences seem to be the way in which Mindfulness is attained and in it’s application: with Systema, the movement instils Mindfulness that can then be applied. The strike/ defence opportunities come out of such movement rather than being created or applying a specific technique.
With many forms of Mindfulness, the mental focus on breathing is the carrier to creating the Mindful experience, and the state of being mindful is the goal. Just being.
Systema trains you to maintain a default state of being mindful because you learn how to apply it. i.e you can handle interrupts and still stay mindful. Indeed the better you get at Systema the more interrupts you can handle.
There are two take-ways from Systema here: creating a state of Mindfulness through fluid, whole body movement and awareness; and using the ensuing state of mindfulness to work with any situation you may find yourself in.
The take-away from normal Mindfulness practice for Systema is to get mindful first before you try and apply it.
And, I wonder how many Mindfulness practitioners would love to keep mindful when interrupted and stressed?
With the Mindfully Connected approach, I have borrowed from both normal Mindfulness and Systema. I have used the concept of creating body awareness through micro-movements (essentially isometric movements) that intimately link with breathing and mind awareness. Once you have that calm body awareness (analogous to Neutral Buoyancy in swimming), adding body movement slowly and incrementally, yet still maintaining the calm body awareness, gives moving Mindfulness (analogous to swimming in air). If the increments or interrupts are too large to maintain moving calmness, then, at the earliest opportunity, you can fall back to the last calm point and to build up from it again.