Every one seems to be seeking presence these days. Its become one of those things that every internet yogi and guru is ready to teach you. There are literally thousands of self help books and websites dedicated to teaching or assisting an individual in cultivating presence. Even I dedicate portions of the classes I lead to this capacity that all humans share. The capacity to be in the now or in the moment. To be here and with the world around you. It seems a simple thing. Focus and be here, right? Herein lies the trap. To be here for any one thing might lead an individual to lose the very capacity that we are trying to cultivate. Like the child so enthralled in their video game that they fail to see or hear the call to dinner, many people lose themselves in their own quest to be present and in the moment.
During my last Iaido practice I thought for a moment that I would expound on this idea. After the opening call to mokuso I sought out my breath and realized that as I focused on my slow inhalations and exhalations that the entire room seemed to drop away from me. The floor and walls ceased to exist. My eager students and their shuffling faded into the ether and my breath was all there was. It was at this point that I realized that despite my best intentions, I had become lost in an attachment. I was grasping at each respiration and the illusion of presence.
When we go to our practice, in my case the way of the Japanese sword, we are indeed cultivating a capacity for presence. I have spoken of it before in regards to practice with shinken, but to be only with the sword or only with the breath displaces us and takes us away from ourselves. As we think and analyze to the Nth degree we separate ourselves from all that is actually happening around us.
This is the lesson that Zanshin has to teach us. When we are in practice we are not just there to be present for the sword or our own thoughts and lessons. We need to be present for the floor as we move across it and our aching knees. We are there for the sword but also for our hands and each finger as it grips the tsuka and saya. We need to be there for our hakama and obi. For the sweat that pours down our face and for the students and class mates that participate with us. Calm and aware. We are there not just for a single aspect of any particular moment or task, but for every aspect of every action we take and for each beat of our heart and the love for this art that we share.