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When we learn to focus on and embrace the process of experiencing life, whether we’re working toward a personal aspiration or working through a difficult time, we begin to free ourselves from the stress and anxiety that are born out of our attachment to our goals, our sense that “I can’t feel happiness until I reach my goal.”
The Practicing Mind PDF Book by Thomas M. Sterner
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This “goal” always takes the form of someplace we have not yet reached, something we don’t yet have but will at some point, and then, we believe, all will be right in our life. When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering.
At times we must do several things at once, but the problem for us is that we are so used to always multitasking that when we decide we want to reel in our minds and focus ourselves on just one activity, we can’t. Our minds are so agitated, and that agitation has a tremendous amount of momentum. It doesn’t want to stop moving. It tires us out and stresses us out.
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We find we can’t sit still, and we can’t be still. However, the practicing mind is quiet. It lives in the present and has laser-like, pinpoint focus and accuracy. It obeys our precise directions, and all our energy moves through it. Because of this, we are calm and completely free of anxiety. We are where we should be at that moment, doing what we should be doing and completely aware of what we are experiencing.
There is no wasted motion, physically or mentally. They would have found the time and discipline, and even wanted to practice, had two things occurred. First, they would have needed to understand the mechanics of good practice. In other words, they would have needed to understand how proper mechanics would make their experience of the learning process efficient and free of stress and impatience.
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Second, they would have needed to experience a shift in their intended goal. We have a very unhealthy habit of making the product — our intended result — the goal, instead of the process of reaching that goal. This is evident in many activities in our everyday lives. We become fixated on our intended goal and completely miss out on the joy present in the process of achieving it.
We erroneously think that there is a magical point that we will reach and then we will be happy. We look at the process of getting there as almost a necessary nuisance we have to go through in order to get to our goal. Let’s look at both of the points mentioned above. It will become apparent that they are interrelated and that one creates the other.
First, we will look at the difference between practicing something and just learning it. To begin, let’s define what the word practice means in its simplest form. On the other hand, what choice did they have? Our culture is a bottom-line, results-oriented society. Corporations will hire a 4.0 before a 2.0 every time because they feel the 4.0 has more to offer. To them, the 4.0 is who you are and what your future potential is. The Practicing Mind PDF Book
With regard to this particular situation, if a student had instead said, “Forget the grade,” and expended all her energy on just learning as much of the material as possible, she would have had no valid way to represent what she had accomplished. Our culture does not recognize the value of being processoriented, even though we see so much evidence for it in the work produced by countries that do.
Back in the midseventies, there was a real upheaval going on in the business world of manufacturing. Everyone wanted Japanese automobiles because they were noticeably higher in quality than American ones. American auto manufacturers were scrambling to understand why this was so and how to fix it. But this wasn’t a situation limited to the auto industry.
Japanese pianos were becoming popular in this country. Some of them had names people had never heard before and couldn’t even pronounce properly, but they could see the quality difference in them regardless. The Japanese were very process-oriented in their lives and work. The Practicing Mind PDF Book
We had trouble competing with them because we couldn’t duplicate their work environment or their mindset, which was so different from ours. As when we were throwing tennis balls into a trash can, we should observe what happens, process the information without emotion, and then move on. This is how we should deal with ourselves as we work at learning something new, or when we’re changing something about ourselves that we don’t like.
This includes working on something more abstract, too, such as becoming more aware or conscious of what we are thinking, becoming more of an observer of ourselves. This disconnection from our thoughts and actions is a way of thinking that we have learned during our lives, and one that takes away all our real power. We must unlearn this approach to life. What we are really talking about here is a habit.
Everything we do is a habit, in one form or another. How we think, how we talk, how we react to criticism, which type of snack we instinctively reach for: all are habits. Even when faced with a circumstance for the first time, we respond to it from habit. Whether we observe our thoughts or they just happen in our minds is determined by habits we have learned. The Practicing Mind PDF Book
We may consider some habits good, others not so good, but all habits can be replaced at will, if you understand how they are formed. Sometimes I can’t read straight through a book because of my schedule. Instead, I might read two chapters today and another one three days from now. I have noticed that when this happens, I often can’t remember points made earlier in the book that, when I read them, I felt were very valuable.
I wanted my book to be one that you could pick up at any time and open to any page and start reading. I wanted my readers to be able to remember its few ideas without much effort and without the need to flip back through pages to find them. I wanted you to realize that we keep coming back to the same few solutions to all the problems we feel we have, and to begin to understand that life isn’t as complicated as we had thought.
Changing our experience of life is well within our grasp, but we must review and practice these few ideas again and again so that everyday life doesn’t steal them away before they become a natural part of who we are and how we operate. That is why I reiterate certain ideas throughout the book. I also wanted to bring out the interrelationship of these concepts and the interconnections of virtues we all would like to possess. The Practicing Mind PDF Book Download
In case you were never exposed to one of these cheesy keyboards, they worked like this: Usually, you pushed one key with the left hand and one with the right, and the organ played a full arrangement of the particular song you had selected. The organs came with all the popular music of the day, and oldies, too.
That music showed you which note, and I do mean each note, to push with each finger to play your favorite song. In short, the keyboard knew how to create the accompaniment for the piece based on which keys you pushed down. You played one note with the right hand, and it created the chords needed to make the song sound as if you had practiced it long and hard.
Since you needed only two fingers to play, you could have played entire arrangements with a pair of chopsticks. I have repeated these results consistently every time I have worked at being slow and deliberate. I have used this technique in everything from cleaning up the dishes after dinner to monotonous tasks of piano restoration work that I don’t particularly enjoy. The Practicing Mind PDF Book Download
The only thing that foils me is those times when I lack stamina and find myself drifting between working with slowness and succumbing to the feeling that I must get a task done quickly. You can see that these four components are all part of the same process. Each one needs and creates the other. When you work slowly, things become simpler.
If you want to simplify something, break it down into small parts and work more slowly at each part. Since all four components take effort to develop and maintain, you will have greater success if you break down the time that you apply to working on them into short intervals. You will find it much easier to stay with your effort if you do this.
Time perception is an integral part of the difference between adults and children. In general, children don’t seem to have a sense of where they are going in life. There is today, and that’s it. They live in the present moment, but not really by their own choice; it’s just how they are. There is a paradox here. The Practicing Mind PDF Book Download
What’s frustrating as an adult, with regard to teaching them to stay in the present when they are engaged in something that requires perseverance, is that kids can’t see the point. Why work at something that requires a long-term commitment, a perception of time outside the present moment? All they know is their perspective as children. They have no concept of what lies ahead.
They don’t see how discipline and effort can pay such great dividends over time, but we do. This paradox is both their and our strengths and weaknesses in the same instant. We have discussed a number of techniques to help us develop present-minded skills and to make the work that is needed to develop the present mind as easy as possible.
As you begin to use these techniques in different areas of your life, you will, no doubt, experience moments of frustration. These are, however, just the result of holding imaginary ideals of how quickly you should master any new endeavor that you undertake. We are taught this crippling mindset by almost every aspect of our culture, from the educational system, with its grades, to the marketing media, with its unreachable ideals. The Practicing Mind PDF Book Free
Everyone wants to be number one, to have the best, to be an A student. This mindset can be unlearned, though, and we must take on this challenge if we are to achieve any real happiness in life. Remember, this mindset is nothing more than a habit. Through our efforts, we can make present-mindedness into a new habit that is much more conducive to our overall well-being.
We make and reinforce habits in every moment of our lives. Our reactions to people and circumstances are nothing more than habits. When our practicing, present minds teach us this truth, we gain the power to choose which traits we will manifest in our personalities. Now is the time to begin.
That moment of realization is a good time to notice if you are repeating the process of struggling to acquire things that you are convinced will end the anguish and emptiness you feel inside. You come into this world with only your true self, and you leave in the same way. Everything that you spiritually acquire expands your true self and becomes part of you forever. The Practicing Mind PDF Book Free
We need to get off the self-destructive train that runs on the tracks of instant gratification. All things of lasting and deep value require time and nurturing and come to us only through our own effort. Most of us are aware of this fact at some level. We just get distracted from it by the contradictory flow of information that washes over us every day.
You can eliminate a certain amount of this distraction by carefully choosing what you expose yourself to in the way of media, be it TV, music, or reading material. If it doesn’t enrich you, then you don’t need it.