Practice and Training
Climbing to our goals is a short definition of practice. Training implies there is something we are training for, ie a goal. In Yoga, they use the Sanskrit word Abhyasa. There are many translations of it. The grammatical reduction of the term we will use here. Abhi is to face towards something (a goal). As or as-a here is to sit, apply oneself, to sit here in the body, in the mind, etc. So we are practicing only when we are sitting (not necessarily physically) or focusing our selves, our bodies, our breath, our minds, our attention towards that which is the object of our goal, our focus, that which we are doing or sensing.
As soon as our focus comes away from the point at which we were holding it, then no longer are we practicing!
10,000 hours of practice = Mastery
You know I’ve been practicing yoga (fill in your practice here) for ten years. Well whoever said that may not have closely examined what they were doing. You know, I sit for meditation for one hour. During that practice, I am not meditating for one hour. My mind has slipped from it’s focus and is no longer facing towards that point of concentration. So when do we practice. Really our practices could be strengthened by strengthening our capacity to focus the mind. This means being able to concentrate.
This practice could be as simple as our workouts physically. If we wander around the weight room or track, our practice is diminished. If the activities that we are doing get interrupted by a constantly changing focus, we lose valuable time and effectiveness of our work.
The grosser our practice is the easier it is to maintain focus. The more subtle the practice is, especially if only using the mind, the more difficult is it for many. This is not always true for everyone. Some find unfamiliar activities to be difficult to keep a focus, whether they are mental or physical.
Choose any goal and look at your practice. Look at the above definition of practicing. It is not easy to train in such a way. It takes effort and perspiration to keep oneself doing the mundane, day in and day routine of practicing. (Remember, mindlessly doing is not training–it’s just goofing off–which is certainly easier, I know this well)
Also look if we are practicing when in reality we need to be doing our real tasks in life first. We all have duties and responsibilities. Well maybe not everyone. But look to see whether we are using our practices to avoid our living of life. Are we following a workout because some imaginary polishing of our ego or beliefs. Do spend an inordinate amount of time in the gym because we are working on our physical health. (Maybe we spend a lot of time not in the gym–not talking about this problem here).
Often people go through stages in training. (This includes this author) At the beginning, we end up reaching for some lofty goal. Our minds are focused not on our goal but on what we create in our imagination as this wonderful thing. Soon withing weeks, months (and possible years), our enamored infatuation with our thoughts and feelings begins to dwindle. We no longer are able to maintain this pin point focus. Our attention wanders and we often loose interest. We then stop the practice and say that it (IT) doesn’t really work. It never really provided that feeling I first had. I’m changing my mind. It just doesn’t work.
Sorry for shouting. This pattern is historically memorable of the past. Maybe some of you have not noticed this lack of skillful practice. But it is is worth shouting about just to clear out the ole pipes (pipe dreams).
Now Yoga has a pretty nifty take on this concept of training. Not only does it focus on defining practice, but it talks about the attributes that will make ones practice bear the fruit of ones effort.
All great performers, athletes, workers and craftsmen have followed that same sage advice and training protocol:
- Practice for a long time
- Practice without interruption
- Practice in the right way
- Practice thoroughly and completely
Then no longer will you be disturbed by all these other distractions. Your mind, breath and actions will all lead you towards that which you have focused your mind onto. Your practice will then take you directly to your goal.
OK, now just go do it. Easy to say and as we all know–not so easy to do. Practice-Practice-Practice.