The art of slowing down


EDWARD YU shares his insights on the intrinsic joy of learning and growing.

My background in movement and fitness training gave me what might be considered a naïve realization of how joyful movement can be for everybody.

Another part of it is learning. There is an intrinsic joy in learning and improving. That is something a discipline can bring about. For example, if you are learning tennis or Tai Chi or swing dancing, wanting to learn helps if you want to improve, because you keep learning more.

It is an intrinsic human quality, part of curiosity. It is going into the unknown. And there is a high probability that this process of learning is going to be pleasurable. There are elements that may seem tedious at first or maybe difficult, especially in something strenuous like boxing or competitive Judo. But even then, there is a learning about yourself – that you are able to do something you didn’t realize you could do before.

I grew up with this tired phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” I prefer to say, “Practice makes neurotic.” It is not entirely true, but most people’s interpretation of practice makes perfect, from my observation, is repetition, just repeating things over and over. This is the opposite of mindfulness.

The more acutely you can tune in to your sense-abilities,
the more of the outside world
you can attend to and learn about,
and draw in and process.

Look at the great Judo legend, Trevor Leggett, one of the highest-ranking judoka in the West in the ’40s and ’50s – what was interesting about him was that he never did the same thing twice. That was his philosophy; that you don’t try to overpower anybody. Leggett even said in a public lecture that once he got really good at a technique, his sensei, his teacher, would not allow him to use it again.

When I think about that I get goose bumps. It is so simple and brilliant. It means you have to do something else. So the masters, whether in Judo, or landscape painting or mathematics, are constantly searching. Einstein was purportedly writing equations on his deathbed. It tells you something about the man and why he was so great.

There is a wonderful video on YouTube of Mike Tyson training with Kevin Rooney, who was his trainer at the time. You can see Rooney stops him and says something.

And you can see Mike Tyson slowing down and doing something before he speeds up again, because he is trying to process some new information. Everyone has to do that. You can be this year’s Nobel Prize winner, but if you are going to get into something new, you have to slow down.

If you attend to your breathing, for example, and start to pay attention to how you are breathing – if you do that right now, by attending to yourself, you can then attend more to the outside world.
Your own sense-abilities, your own ability to sense and feel, are the interface with yourself and the outside world.

The more acutely you can tune in to your sense-abilities, the more of the outside world you can attend to and learn about, and draw in and process.

Article by EDWARD YU

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