Monday, April 16, 2007

*** Mastery by George Leonard

There are no easy answers to this ageold riddle for those who strive for mastery. Leonard will be only the latest person to break the bad news that you must focus your time and energy on your craft if you seek to master it. And if you don't enjoy such dedication, and the act of practicing, then probably you should reconsider your quest. But be careful to pick something in life, or you'll end up as a jack of all trade, master of none. Or worse, a jackass of all trades, and master of none.

The people we know as masters don’t devote themselves to their particular skill just to get better at it. The truth is, they love to practice – and because of this they do get better. And then, to complete the circle, the better they get the more they enjoy performing the basic moves over and over again. P75

Tools for Mastery
1. Maintain physical fitness
If you’re physically not healthy, its hard to do anything, let alone master it.

2. Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive
Is it possible to be too positive? Only if you deny negative factors that need correcting… Even serious blows in life can give you extra energy by knocking you off dead center, shaking you out of lethargy – but not if you deny the blows are real. Acknowledging the negative doesn’t mean sniveling; it means facing the truth and then moving on. Once you’ve dealt with the negative, you’re free to concentrate on the best in yourself. Whenever possible, avoid people who are highly critical in a negative sense by telling people what they are doing wrong while ignoring what they are doing right. When it’s your turn to teach or supervise or advise try the following approach, “Here’s what I like about what you’re doing, and here’s how you might improve it.”

3.Tell the truth
Truth telling works best when it involves revealing your own feelings, not when used to insult others and get your own way… When people start telling the truth, you see almost immediate reductions in mistakes and increases in productivity… One company reported that 1.5 hour meetings now take 20 minutes. “We just say what we want to say. We don’t spend a lot of time and energy not saying something.” Lies, secrets, and deception are poison to organizations – people’s energy is devoted deceiving and hiding and remembering who it is you don’t want to tell what to.

4. Honor but don’t indulge your dark side
Anger for instance contains a great deal of energy. If we’ve repressed it so effectively that we can’t feel it, we obviously can’t use the energy that goes along with it in any conscious, constructive way. But if we take our anger out simply to indulge it, if we let anger become a knee jerk response, we dissipate its considerable power. There are times when it is appropriate to express anger, but there’s also the possibility of taking fervid energy of indignation, even of rage, and putting it to work for positive purposes. In other words, when you feel your anger rising, you can choose to go and work furiously on a favorite project or to transmute the energy beneath your anger to fuel that you can use on your journey of mastery.

5. Set your priorites
To choose one goal is to forsake a very large number of other possible goals. Today’s consumer culture offers endless possibilities, tempting you to choose none, so you sit staring into an endless wonder. Indecision leads to inaction, low energy and depression. Ultimately, liberation comes from acceptance of limits. You can’t do or have everything, but you can have one thing. And another after that, and another after that. It is better to make a wrong choice than no choice at all.

6. Make commitments and take action.
Set deadlines. The firmer a deadline, the harder it is to break, and the more energy it confers. Tell people who are important in your life about your deadlines, making it public prevents you from backsliding.

7. Get on the path of mastery and stay on it
Practice. Regular practice not only elicits energy, but tames it. Without the firm underpinnings of practice, deadlines can produce violent swings between frantic activity and collapse.

In the 1960s, UCLA brain researchers measured the brain wave activity of astronaut candidates practicing a moon landing and also while driving on an LA freeway. As it turned out, driving on the freeway occasioned more activity. P144

During a moment of crisis, just touching yourself lightly at the physical center (a point in abdomen an inch below the navel) can significantly alter your attitude and your ability to deal with whatever situation you face. P154

Try this: stand normally and draw attention to the top of your body by tapping your forehead a couple of times. Then have a partner push you from behind at the shoulder blades just hard enough to make you lose balance and take a step forward. Now repeat this, but this time tap yourself a couple of times an inch below your navel. Have your partner push you exactly the same way and with the same force as before. Most people will find they are more stable with the attention on their centers. P154

Getting centered…
1. Stand with feet slightly farther apart than shoulders, with eyes open, knees not locked or bent, arms by your side.
2. Place right hand an inch below your navel, and press in firmly.
3. Drop right hand to your side and breath normally. Expand your abdomen with an incoming breath.
4. While breathing in a relaxed manner, lift your arms in front of you with limp wrists. Then shake your hands vigorously so that your whole body vibrates.
5. Lower your arms slowly (wrists relaxed, palms down), but as soon as they touch your legs, let them rise again in front of you as if they were buoyantly floating to the surface in warm salt water. While raising your arms, bend your knees slightly.
6. When your arms reach the horizontal, put your palms forward into the position you would use to push a large beach ball on the water’s surface. Now sweep your arms from left to right and right to left.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 again.
8. Drop your hands, leaving them by your side. Close your eyes and make sure knees are not locked. Distribute your weight evenly between your right and left feet. Now check to see if your weight is evenly distributed between the heels and balls of your feet. Now move head forward and back to find the point at which it can be balanced upright on your spine with the least muscular effort.
9. Relax your jaw, tongue, your eye muscles, scalp, neck.
10. Sharply inhale, and tighten your shoulders. As you exhale, let your shoulders drop, as if melting downward (not slumping forward). With each outgoing breath, let them melt a little farther.
11. Let that same melting feeling run down your arms to your hands. Now down your ribs, back and pelvis. And finally down your legs until it reaches and warms your feet. Feel the secure embrace of gravity as it holds you to the earth.
12. Now send a beam of awareness throughout your body seeking out any area that might be tense or rigid or numb. Focus on this area, and relax it.
13. Focus on your breathing, and with an incoming breath, open your eyes. Ask yourself if you feel different after this exercise.

Variation to practice regaining center…
After becoming balanced and centered, open your eyes and spins several times to the left and then to the right – enough to become a bit dizzy. Stop spinning, and touch your center. Return to the balanced and centered state, with increased awareness of the soles of your feet. Does the condition of being centered seem somehow more powerful after having been momentarily lost?

Ki Power
Sit in an armless, strait backed chair with your arms on your knees. Try rising to a standing position several times, noting just how you do it. Now have a partner put his hands on your shoulders and push down. Have your partner push down, making it difficult, but possible, for you to stand up.

Now, get relaxed and centered. Place the palm of your left hand on your abdomen and imagine a ball of energy the size of grapefruit in the center of your abdomen. Imagine that it expands and contracts with each breath. Make this ball the center of your attention while moving your hand back to your knee. Have your partner place his hands on your shoulders again, and place the same amount of pressure on them. Don’t pay attention to pressure on your shoulders, focus on the ball of energy knowing that it will give you the power you need. While focusing, rise to a standing position. Notice the difference.

More Ki Power
Stand and extend one arm to a horizontal position directly in front of you, with fingers spread and the thumb pointing up. Have a partner bend your arm at the elbow pressing up at your wrist and down at your elbow. Don’t bend the arm at shoulder. Do this first w/o any resistance on your part. Now repeat this, but you resist the bending. This shouldn’t become contest in strength, just enough resistance that you must exert yourself a bit to prevent your arm from bending. Now, repeat this again, but this time visualize a beam of energy that extends out past your fingertips, through walls and across the horizon to the ends of the universe. This beam is larger than your arm, and your arm is an integral part of it. Your arm is not rigid, it’s quite relaxed – not limp. If anyone tried to bend your arm, the energy beam would become more powerful and without effort so would your arm. Now have your partner apply the same force as before and see how you feel.

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