Humans have believed in what we call “magic” for a very long time. Some think that our caveman ancestors painted animals on cave walls because they believed that it helped in the success of their hunting efforts.
While we “civilized” humans now know that sacrificing humans to the gods won’t improve the chances of rainfall, there is some evidence that supports the idea that a symbolic action can have a significant and very real impact on the psychological state of a person.
In some martial arts you find the use of “Mudra“. Wikipedia states:
Mudrās are arm, hand and body positions used in the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The historic Buddha knew the use of mudrās and is often depicted using these ritual gestures. Various Kung Fu forms contain positions identical to these mudrās.
One of the more curious things that I encountered in my martial arts training was the use of mudra in combative arts. Mudra (Japanese: in), for those who aren’t familiar with them, are these weird hand gestures that are derived from esoteric Buddhism (mikkyo), particularly the Tendai and Shingon sects. These gestures are supposed to generate spiritual focus and power which then are manifested in some way externally.
To summarize; this means the artist, through the symbolic manipulation of his hands/fingers, can alter his state of mind and level of concentration. In lay terms it “psyches him up”. This phenomenon is similar to mnemonic’s, where physical associations aid in the recollection of information, or in this case “mindset”.
While it may not have been an intentional “use” of this “magical thinking“, I can easily think of some things that seem to have an almost immediate impact on my frame of mind and “attitude”. I am unsure of the cause, perhaps it’s an association with past memories, some of it is probably a symbolic “putting on” of a role…maybe it’s just “wishful thinking”, but the following things seem to have had a “magical” effect on me.
- Putting on an Obi (martial arts belt): Somehow, the support of a firmly tied belt gives me a feeling of “rootedness” or “solidity”. It’s difficult to explain.
- A fresh haircut: I seem to get a noticeable and immediate shift in “attitude” when I walk out of the barbershop with a fresh “high and tight”. Maybe it’s simply an association with military memories, but when my hair gets too long I seem to feel….”less disciplined” is the best definition I can give it. Sort of a “Reverse Sampson Syndrome”.
- Gloves/Boots: When I get out of my squad with a good pair of patrol gloves on there is a feeling of “I can handle this”. The same thing when I lace up a pair of combat boots.
- The Uniform: This is an easy one. The symbolic changing of roles and behavior is as old as cavemen putting on animal skins. The things that are expected of you and the way people interact with you almost immediately changes with a simple change of clothing. A sharp, clean and pressed uniform is a LE/Military necessity for a reason. Leaders figured out long ago that when Warriors thought they looked “sharp” they acted “sharp”.
- The Gunbelt: Another easy one. The gun, being a symbol of power and authority, has a tangible impact on your frame of mind. It’s very important that this “mindset” is in aligment with the realities of the weapons capabilities as well as your common sense, good training and solid ethical foundation.
- Body Armor: While I well know that armor doesn’t make me “Superman”. I notice a definite change in my state of mind when I have to go “into the shit” when I have it on….which is always.
Ceremony, lucky talismans/behaviors, routines and protocols have the power to help you align your attitude with your goals. I think that if you can identify the things that have a positive impact on your state of mind, you can harness them to your benefit. They can aid in maintaining your self-discipline, change your attitude and help “keep your head in the game”.
What symbolic/physical actions have the ability to effect YOUR state of mind?