I’m rereading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. I’m finding it refreshing in many ways. Suzuki has a helpful perspective on practice that I think aligns with The Warrior’s Way® method. He says:
“After you have practiced for a while, you will realize that it is not possible to make rapid, extraordinary progress. Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. It is not like going out in a shower in which you know when you get wet. In a fog, you do not know you are getting wet, but as you keep walking you get wet little by little. When you get wet in a fog it is very difficult to dry yourself. So there is no need to worry about progress. Just to be sincere and make our full effort in each moment is enough.” (page 46)
I draw out many important points from this.
First, progress truly is in small steps, so it’s helpful to embrace that. I like the metaphor of getting wet. Go out into a rainstorm and you know you’re wet. But, go out into a fog, and keep walking, and you will eventually get wet. You’ll need to stay in the fog for quite a long time to get wet though. It’s similar with regards to practice. It’ll take quite a long time to master climbing, to get wet through and through with it, so that you embody the practice.
Second, since it does take a long time to master something, you should enjoy the little steps you take. The best mindset for this is to do the practice for its own sake. This mindset will help maintain your motivation, to take those small steps, to continue walking.
Third, Suzuki points out in the first sentence that you won’t make rapid, extraordinary progress. There’s a concept in Zen that puts this into a helpful perspective: seek the extraordinary in the ordinary. We can find something extraordinary in the ordinary small steps we take as we walk through the fog getting saturated over time. Seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary helps us value the practice and the small steps for their own sake. It also helps us find joy today as we walk, taking those small steps.
Practice truly is a long journey. There’s no need to rush it. Actually, there’s no way to rush it. Mastering any skill will unfold over time, as we put in the effort. Thus, Suzuki says “…there is no need to worry about progress. Just to be sincere and make our full effort in each moment is enough.” Well said Suzuki!