Archive for practice

The Connected Feeling Part 1

The Connected Feeling
Part 1

Introduction

 

The preparation and program design for meditation is revisited here.  Favorite and popular methods can be mis-represented by both the current crop of teachers and students.

Meditation spoken of here is not just the casual quieting of our “monkey minds”.  It is not about becoming some great ego-centered teacher or accomplished practitioner of some arcane esoteric science.  Meditation starts with proper preparation that slowly and gradually leads to a laser like focused mind that moves deeper inwards to these states of absolute silence and absorption.  The beginning of meditation starts in that state.  Everything else is preparation.

Meditation seems to have it’s popular times and localities and experts.  Suddenly people in fitness are jumping on the bandwagon of “meditating” and finding wonderful success.  The East from India to Asia has the market cornered.  Buddhist teachers advise Yoga (meaning asana) practitioners to learn to meditate from them and then “do” Yoga.  In the USA, mindfulness meditation has taken the academic and general population’s fancy.

There is veracity in many of these above mentioned approaches and view points.  But what is needed to begin preparation for meditation?

Timing for Meditation

We all need many things in life.  Food/water and shelter can be a good start.  Maybe having a job or life purpose could be good.  How about a personal relationship that helps us understand ourselves beyond what we think at the moment.  Traditionally this meant getting married and raising a family.

There are all these basic needs that connect us to the world outside and the world inside.  Meeting these basic needs and stabilizing them are often a first step in the preparation for mediation.

If one’s lifestyle is too chaotic and unstable, relaxing and breath awareness is a good alternative.  Hey just eating better and exercising can be worth much more than forcing yourself to sit for long periods of meditation hoping someday to become enlightened.

Always re-evaluate your program to see if you are moving towards your goals in life.  But do not under value the power of proper lifestyle management.  Make it practical and doable first.  Then when your life allows, come into a proper practice regimen.

The Rush to Success

Is it not uncommon to want NOW what we want.  We want to be slimmer by tomorrow.  We expect our chronic problems to be better after just a few days of effort.  We wonder why have not met our “soul mate”.  We have been looking for years.  When asked what a person is doing to meet people they actually have only talked to their friends and not anyone much else out of their normal circle of relationships.

The actual methods we use are woefully insufficient to reap the benefits we are envisioning.  We do this with our 10 minute a day fitness routine for our 6-pack abs!  The proper preparation over the appropriate time is missing in many of our programs.

Often we don’t even have a progressive program.  We bite off way too much or way too little.  Our expectations exceed our efforts.  It is not for lack of trying for many of us.  It is just such poor program design and follow through that we end up not noticing much progress.

The most impactful and important things of our life that we want to achieve take time and good programming.  Mediation is no different.

Preliminary Steps for Meditation

First we have to realize that the mediation we are talking about here is that which leads to silence and absorption.  It is a very high goal.  So the first steps are basically getting ones life in order.  Check out your lifestyle and examine our thinking.  Are we over worked, over fed, under exercised and literally starving for love and affection.

Really take time to live life properly.  Establish a lifestyle that supports this interior journey of discovery.  If life is constantly taking our focus outward to deal with major stresses surrounding us, then address them first.  The power of life lived well will take us deeper than any artificial practice of meditating or whatever it might be.  This one sentence/thought needs to be considered more deeply than just a casual reading of it will give to us.

Examine not only what we are doing in life, but also what are we thinking and feeling in life.  This is not to prescribe a particular world view or provide some great psycho-therapeutic insight.  It is just important to examine where our thoughts take us.  Do we have a ton of negative thoughts that we are controlled by?

All the wisdom traditions and many religions have their commandments and guidelines for “right/good” thinking and actions.  Do not rush over the examination of what preoccupies our minds and hearts.  Do consider what is our philosophy and what guides our thinking and action.  In today’s world many have no philosophy of life that is lived—it is only thought of—and then only on Sunday or what ever rare occasion is which it is superficially and poorly addressed.  This topic is expanded greatly by others and will not be detailed here.

Realize that life is not lived in some uni-linear progression.  Even if at the moment our life seems in order, just hang on to your hat for that next moment when it totally seems to fall apart.

There of course will be times of both good and bad.  Those that remark that life is always fine and wonderful—are either very advanced beings (which there are probably a handful in history) or under a huge illusion both of themselves and life.

So these preliminary steps that we take over the years to properly prepare, will have periods of adjustment and interruption.  All of us will have to revisit and revise our lifestyles and re-examine where we need to be practicing in life.  Initially (probably many decades for many of us) life will take us up and down.  Much later as life continues to go up and down but we don’t rise or fall as far.

Slowly with a stronger and deeper practice we can stabilize our connection to our changing lifestyles.  We develop an equanimous capacity or even tempered ability in a difficult situation.  Again this capacity takes a lot of trial and effort over a long and arduous life.  A life lived with ease is often a very sheltered and control life at the beginning.  Many people fool themselves too early on their too easily arrived at accomplishments.  Only when life has given much and then taken away do we truly test ourselves.

Getting these preliminaries in order is not just in acquiring a good life.  It is in living that life and experiencing the losses of that life and then going on to live fully once again.

Life well lived is the preliminary preparation needed for mediation practice.

Strong Back and Improved Posture

Proper Posture and Strength

You need to have sufficient strength in order to have good posture.  Many people put the cart before the horse.  Here I am referring to thinking that you just need to work on your posture.  How many times have you seen people (most of us) just try to sit better and in seconds to minutes find ourselves back to a comfortable slouch.  Ouch!  On the other end of the spectrum there are many who are really strong and their posture is abysmal.

We need to work on this from many perspectives.  Here we will start with assuming that you want to improve your ability to sit better and longer (with less pain and discomfort–looking beautiful, etc).  Alright, once you have a goal that will allow you to train this aspect, we can start.

Problems

  • We complain of back pain when sitting
  • We often do not have the muscular strength and endurance to sit properly.
  • We often over correct at the thoraco-lumbar region (the area where the rib spine meets the lower back)
  • We don’t have the proper guidance for proper sitting
  • We do not practice regularly

One of the biggest problems and complaints that I hear regularly about sitting–is the discomfort one gets from trying to maintain the proper position.  This is certainly true for those doing sitting meditations.  This group of folks usually know that proper sitting will allow them to breath properly with the diaphragm.  Good, deep diaphragmatic breaths will allow the body and mind to begin to settle down.  Good posture definitely facilitates this diaphragmatic style of  breathing.

Those not meditating can still benefit greatly by taking a very similar approach.  If the spine is erect and the shoulder and pelvic girdles and associated limbs are positioned well, it is much easier to have a sense of ease in this position.  You will find that the better that your body alignment is the better and more comfortably you can sit.

We can find out how to sit better.  There are many pictures of the ideal out there.  But sitting is a very dynamic activity.  The body that cannot sustain the activity returns back to it’s default posture of usually being slumped.  Then we often try to correct our sitting by straightening our spine from the mid to low back region.  This over activates the back extensor muscles that many complain of during their good intended corrections.

Strengthening the Upper Back

There is a video below that will go into a bit of the detail to help with strengthening this upper back area.  I often teach someone to work with a pivot prone or candelabra position or simple called the New York position.

This exercise with a mini-band is quite helpful.  The one thing that is good here, is that the mini-band can travel easily with you in a pocket, bag or purse.  Frequent use of it is helpful in retraining the movement pattern.  What I have found is that people still are way too weak in the upper back area to help in postural retraining.  The following video is another way.  I also have been using these 40 inch long and 1/2 inch wide cords for a pretty good test of the upper back.  It allows me to standardize what I expect now with most people.

In the video you will see this pulling apart motion of the band.  Watch carefully the testing protocol.  It is simple, but do not re-grab the band in a different way.  It is the wrapping of the band around the thumb and hand that really asks for a lot of external rotation and scapular stabilization.  This position is with the arms away from the body.  I am finding so many people are extremely weak in this pulling motion.  They all are so much stronger in the pulling motions that mimic a row.  Rowing strength does not seem to be a correlate for proper upper back strength in posture.  Remember the the lats are internal rotators of the arm.  If you row, you get better at rowing type movements.  Proper posture of the upper back requires external rotation of the upper arm and strong and enduring scapular stabilization.  This means the mid and lower trapezius fibers and rotator cuff must be activated in a particular manner and direction.

Also for you folks who do mainly asanas for your exercise, you really lack pulling strength.  There is an overabundance of forward pressure with the upper body in asanas.  There is an absolute lack of pulling strength in asanas.  (so much for balance, heh)

Of course proper mobilization of the thoracic or rib spine into extension is quite helpful.  Also evaluating for an improper head and neck position is critical.  There is much work to be done.  Remember that strengthening has to be coupled with proper retraining of ones postural habits.  Postural habits can be influence by a large number of other factors to include:  psycho-social, cultural, medical and other biomechanical issues.  Our work has just begun.

Video of Strengthening the Upper Back and Improving Posture

Conclusion

Go have some fun training this upper back area.

I have used many companies to purchase bands from–below is a listing of the three most popular ones I use:

  1. PerformBetter.com—-You should see the Superbands listed–I’d buy 1/2 and 1 inch sizes
  2. ResistanceBandTraining.com
  3. IronWoodyFitness.com

Start your training and let me know how strong you get.  Now if you practice your posture, do you find it much easier to sustain it?   Now that’s skillful training.

Best of efforts–peter

Relaxation of Effort

Proper Practice

In all training we are guided by certain principles.  The Yoga Community often places proper emphasis on proper practice.  One of the keys to skillfully practice is to relax ones effort.  Today we are often mindless doing and exercising.  Often the accumulated tensions of the day and life are held during our practices.  Therefore it would seem proper to point out this dis-stressful style.  Lets look at when you would emphasize this “relaxation of effort” in your practice.  Your practice could be Yoga asanas, Meditation or any movement endeavor/exercise or performance.

Enjoy It

When we start practicing an asana (again it could be a musical instrument or learning to run hurdles), we start doing something.  Often in the context of yoga asana, people are taught to do a form and then  learn to relax into it and enjoy it.  That sounds just fine.  In practice for most of us, it obviates the basics that need to be established primarily.

Sometimes a student is working at performing a particular asana (again think exercise or your choice or other skill).  If they have difficulty with it, they may stop working on it.  They no longer feel like they are enjoying it.  It just isn’t fun anymore.  This Yoga stuff isn’t really right for me.  I try something else.

Trying to perform something and then being unable to do it can be frustrating.  If the emphasis at the beginning is to enjoy it and relax and one doesn’t, then do you give up?  The whole act of practicing is not to perform something perfectly, nor to necessarily find it enjoyable and be so relaxed at the beginning.  (If you are a high level person that can hold a perspective truly of joy in the mind, then this article is not for you).

Practicing is about developing ways of sensing and doing that were not available at the beginning.  It is a journey filled with lots of work.  Perfecting this work/practice will give enjoyment and you will develop over time this “relaxation of effort”.

Hard work

Notice that a gymnast that is able to effortless perform a routine on the rings or balance bar does not start with trying to relax their effort as the primary practice.  It is only after much sweat, extreme focus/sacrifice and over a long time that they can look so beautiful and effortless.

Yoga Sutras

This classic text by Patanjali has 4 chapters/padas.  The second pada, 47th sutra starts out talking on how the posture is made perfect.  The first part in sutra 47 states that it is through loosening the effort or relaxing the effort, that then the posture/asana becomes perfected in it’s steadiness  and easefulness.

Note that the sutra before, that is sutra 46 states that a posture is that which is steady and easeful/comfortable.  Again this steady and comfortable is not what you do.  It is what happens as you WORK in asana.  Often people are teaching to become something at the beginning that we are not at the moment.  Once again, practice is needed which will provide these qualities as almost side effects of proper practice.

Now in looking at the first part of the definition of asana (in sutra 46), steadiness in Sanskrit is called sthira.  One of the first places in the Yoga Sutras that speak about sthira is in the first pada, sutra 13.  Loosely restating the Sanskrit (via Swami Veda Bharati)–…this effort towards sthiti/steadiness is called practice.

The next sutra in the first pada, sutra 14, then pretty much lists the qualities for ones practice to become solid.  (The beauty and depth of the Yoga Sutras are not being communicated here–just an introduction to some guiding principles and how they can guide this relaxation of effort in our practice).

Firm practice when:

  • Practice is done for a long time
  • Practice is done without an interruption (think long term here)
  • Practice that is done right and proper (details are 4 and beautiful, but will not be discussed here)
  • Practice is done fully, completely (not haphazard or partial)

Relaxation of Effort

So one can be guided by such a profound text like the Yoga Sutras.  In this case, one is practicing not to perform something perfectly.  One is practicing to create a steadiness and stability of their asana (again think dance performance, faster sprinter, etc).  This control of that which is not under control, is achieved through practice (only in part, see YS 1.12).

This effort to becoming steady and stable is our practice.  This steadiness is not rigidly still.  This steadiness is the absolute control of the mind and sensory motor system.  It is that which provides  the direction to correct practice.  This practice then takes time–often long hours of practice, done in the way outlined above.  It is not something that just happens without these focuses.

Then as our practice develops in these ways of becoming stable and easeful, we automatically find that there is a loosening of our effort.  Relaxation of effort is not prescribed first as a primary methodology here.  Of course practically you work and relax and repeat.  Just do not underestimate the primacy of working as outlined in the first and second padas of the Yoga Sutras.

Continuing Practice

Steady practicing leads to relaxation of effort.  It begins to flow.  (Practicing means you have a goal.  This goal is that which you focus your mind, body and effort on.)

Relaxing is always easier after working fully, completely.  There is a rhythm to relaxing.  It alternates with hard and skillful work.  Later it becomes not hard, but no less work.  One begins only later to appreciate the lessening of struggle of working FULLY.  One then moves into the  joy of “hard work.”  It is no longer an effort.  One starts noticing that they are just more relaxed.  This richness of practicing is worth the work.

Again if there is anyway I can be of service, please feel free to contact me here.

Effective Exercise

Strong Mind and Body

Do we get the best results from our exercise selections?  How do we select which exercise to perform?  Besides matching the proper exercise for the problem we have, what else is important?

Is being effective due to:

  • The proper selection of the correct exercise?  or
  • How we do that exercise/movement?

Effective Exercise

First we must congratulate ourselves because we are doing exercises.  Next we have usually identified some reason for putting down the remote and/or getting out of bed.  Now let’s move quickly on to someone who wants to perform their particular task or skilled movement better.  It could be that they want to jump higher, cut quicker on the field, get into better shape/condition or simple perform a yoga posture that is particularly challenging.  Let’s take the latter case to illustrate several of these points on how to effectively exercise.  (We are expanding the definition of exercise and bending the definition of yoga asana here to make some points, knowing that the purists may start off disagreeing too early here)

Yoga Asana–Chakrasana

This is not a complete description of how to do Chakrasana.  We are using this posture/asana as an example of some one who wishes to do an exercise or asana effectively.  (This example could be extrapolated into many of the “corrective exercises” being given and performed today.

Let’s start with looking at a typical example of someone wanting to be more flexible.  They have taken up Yoga asanas in a class.  At some point the teacher has progressed to this pose called Chakrasana or wheel.  It is fairly vigorous for many, as can be seen by the picture above.  Again this could be an example of someone wanting to jump higher and get stronger in their legs who at some point starts doing one leg squats.  It really doesn’t matter the movement activity by itself.  It is again looking at how to exercise effectively.

Truly in exercise/movements it would be best if we knew ourselves well.  (Know thyself–OK, end of philosophy).

  • Where do we move well–actually where and in which directions do we have ease and dis-ease
  • What movements are strong/stable/powerful and have endurance (both in mobility and in stability)
  • Which tasks and/or skills do we prefer and which ones do we stay away from
  • Do we move smoothly and in a coordinated fashion
  • Do we breathe or frequently hold the breath with frequent efforting
  • Can we stay focused and pleasant in our mind or just the opposite

These are just some of the aspects or questions to ask in order to get to know HOW we move and therefore better know ourselves.  Knowing ourselves better will allow us to move better.  We can take full advantage then of the exercises or movements being selected.

Maybe Chakrasana (or single leg squats) are not the best exercise at the moment.  Maybe the way in which we do them is not allowing the benefits of those movements to create the tremendous results that await us.

Where (location and direction) and how do we move well (and where/how we don’t)

We need to look at large patterns of movement.  We want to see and feel how the body moves in all directions from the major areas of the body while performing a variety of movement patterns/tasks/skills.

  • Bending and reaching
  • Twisting
  • Pushing and pulling
  • Squatting and kneeling
  • Rolling and crawling
  • Sitting and standing
  • Walking, running, hopping and jumping

Where in the body do we move a lot and where are we stiffer.  Often this inquiry stops here.  It is insufficient.  The shoulders may be tight in lifting them above our head but have a lot of movement in the opposite direction.  Especially important is to notice difference from side to side and up to down.  Maybe our hips are able to extend (backward bend) well but our shoulders cannot open in that same direction.  Maybe one shoulder does more opening that the other–do you see that in Chakrasana then you would create a rotation of the trunk.

Look at the picture again and you see that the hips are opening well in backward bending.  The lower back spine is bending a lot.  The rib spine or thoracic spine is not backward bending at all in the mid to upper back.  The shoulders are also tight in this same direction.

Isn’t it interesting to note that this person is doing the general direction of this Wheel pose.  It is just HOW they are doing it that is of note here.  Therefore they will be over using hips and low back (and neck) and under using shoulders and mid-upper back (and wrists).

What if we knew where we moved and didn’t.  This might totally change what we do and how we do it.  Of course the results would be vastly different.  Our learning then and what we pay attention to would be expanded.  The changes across many different systems could be facilitated (musculoskeletal, fascial, nervous system, respiratory, immune, etc)

What movements are strong/stable/powerful

Again looking at this picture, we can ask several questions.  I know it would be better if we actually had a video.  Then truly we could appreciate the movement qualities better.  This picture and discussion will at least highlight the points of this article.

Looking at the two ends of this Wheel pose–which end, the leg or arm end, looks most stable?  You can see how the weight of the body is carried behind the arms.  Are the shoulders weak or only stiff?  or both?  Address whatever is involved with a more appropriate regression of this pose first.  Identify weakness and lack of stability of the shoulder complex with the arm above the shoulder level.  There are many ways of doing these tests/movement regressions.  We will not go into that detail here.

Looking at the middle of the body and seeing how the front of the lower back (the belly) over lengthens.  The lower back  over shortens.  How much of this over extension of the low back is a mobility problem of the thoracic spine in extension?  (or/and does it involve lack of stabilization of the anterior belly region.)

First you would have to decrease the challenge of this activity.  Take them out of trying to do this asana.  Place them on the floor and have them roll from belly to back with only the arms and head.  Do they activate their belly enough to transmit the rolling through the trunk from the arms.  Could their shoulders and thoracic spine be so stiff as to even impede this movement. Further investigation would be warranted.  This again is just to highlight a perspective of looking and asking questions.

By looking at more of these larger movement patterns, it will become clearer.

Which tasks and/or skills do we prefer and which ones do we stay away from

I wonder if this person loves to do backward bending movements where the shoulders are not flexed near their end ranges (that is over head position, above shoulder level).  So let’s make up a scenario that I see frequently in the clinic.  They would do  easily cobra or lying on their stomachs with arms by their sides.  Even Camel pose (tall kneeling and bending backwards to place hands on heels) would be available.  Any superman type position or boat pose would be done with substitution and difficulty.  They would never practice hand stand as it is too tiring.

If this lack of using the extremities over the head (in Chakrasana) causes such stress, then it may need to be regressed or made easier.

This easier movement may allow the proper awareness and adjustments to overusing and underusing that is being outlined here.

Do we move smoothly and in a coordinated fashion

This examination of coordination and agility reinforces many of the above observations.  Again whatever we move well and strongly, those are things we do.  We always use what we have even when trying to do something else.

Let me digress from this example to talk more of our preferences and avoidance’s in general movement.  We use the same patterns of movements and habits even in opposite directions.  It is not unusual to see someone who is trying to sit on the floor and has a lot of left knee pain (for example–in a cross leg, sukhasana pose).  Sometimes in looking at them you see their weight shifted to their left hip, although they are leaning a bit to their right.  You find they are in right sidebending of their trunk.  When you ask them to sit on a chair and turn right and left they still have most of their weight on their left sit bone.  In other words they do their movements of rotation and still maintain their right side bending of their trunk.  Their coordination remains dysfunctional even though you would give them a movement to change it.

This latter dysfunction a very important point to discover.  Our movement habits often remain and don’t change just because we are doing some corrective asana or exercise.  The WAY we move becomes also very important.

Do we breathe or frequently hold the breath

OK, breathing is so important.  It is a barometer of our mind and nervous system.  Sure at the beginning one may fine this breath rhythm disturbed.  The habitual and repetitive nature of an interrupted breath is very detrimental to our learning and proper response to the exercise.  A jerky breath relates to a jerky focus of the mind and all the other negative effects in all systems.

Try moving only so far as the breath can flow well.  This does not mean that you can’t cause strain.  That is ridiculous.  As one continues to do repetitions or hold the pose, the breath should be noted to start to flow well.  Otherwise there is not practice.  One is just violently stimulating the system.  Of course you have some changes even with the breath always being strained.  This abnormal breath rhythm though is very limiting and over the long term is detrimental to health and well being.

Can we stay focused and pleasant in our mind

Alright, take off the music headphones.  Pay attention to what you are doing and what you are feeling.  A good barometer like the breath is to ask whether you are pleasant in your mind.  GEEZ, you mean we have to be smiling all the time.  OK, less drama here.  Just note what happens to your overall sense of tensing and effort when you notice that your mind is not pleasant.  Whenever I ask this question in class or to individuals, I never fail to see an easing of tension, even a  : o )

Also when the mind is more pleasant–often you will notice an ease in the movements.  Try it just like you would try breathing with more awareness and ease.

Whew

So now when you exercise, you can ask more questions.  Effective exercise is creating the proper effect you want and/or that is available in the stimulation of the movement done well.  Effective exercise involves BOTH the selection of the right exercise the proper way of moving–

  • The Body
  • The Breath
  • The Mind

So before and during your next exercise session, take time to pay attention.  Use the movements to create opportunities to sense and breath.  Train hard up to your capacities.  To know your capacities, you must practice a lot.  You would benefit by coaching or skilled guidance.  Try using these principles–pick one, like having a pleasant mind.  Then go find a skilled coach/teacher and get some quality feedback.

Best of luck in your effective exercise.

Feel free to comment or contact me directly for a consultation.

Remembering the Basics

The Basics of Practice

“I stand not on the shoulders of those before.  My steady stance comes from returning to the that same place those who have stood before.  Over time the work of this continuing practice exposes an ease and relaxation of effort that before was not available.  A bringing together of all postures and directions into an experience of holding only one which is all.  Then these differences of where one stands is no longer an effort of finding the right place or thing–it turns into a continuous flow of this stream of consciousness which is this form and love of ones life.”

This quote comes from the thoughts and experiences of working ones practice.  It follows the references made in the first and second pada of the Yoga Sutras.  These teachings come of course from the practices of those before.  It is only because of this connection that has been afforded to me in this Himalayan Tradition that these thoughts and experiences arise.  It is these teachings that are the teachers.  It is an expression of the work and love that is yoga.

Hari Om

Practice and Training

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.

Romantic Practices

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.

EGADS

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.

Do It

OK, now just go do it.  Easy to say and as we all know–not so easy to do.  Practice-Practice-Practice.