Tai Chi-1

Audio eLesson_2014-1020

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What’s the difference between a beginner and a master? Take a look at this T’ai Chi video. Cindy, the lady in front, is the master; behind her are students who are learning to become masters. There are subtle differences between them. The beginners are doing the same moves as the master, but it doesn’t look like mastery. There’s something about how mastery looks that we recognize as mastery. What is it?

Learning any skill, whether it’s T’ai Chi or climbing, moves along a continuum from gross movements to subtle refinements. We begin by learning the big moves, like a T’ai Chi movement kata or basic climbing movement. To shift toward mastery requires a refinement to the subtle level. Refining subtleties integrates all aspects of our body-mind. Beginners move as a jumble of parts: arms, legs, head, body; masters move as one integrated body-mind. Look at the video again for that difference.

So what’s required to shift from beginner to master? First, our approach to practice demonstrates what we value. Unconscious beginners value comfort, end results, and fast progress. This approach is impatient and distracts our attention from the learning process itself.

Second, most people don’t have the patience to pay attention to subtleties. It’s not interesting enough. Go into any exercise facility and we’ll see people working out with headphones, listening to music or even watching TV. What they value is clear: ignore the stress and get the workout over with.

The amount of attention we focus in the practice process directly impacts the quality of our practice and our progress. Learning is not a fast, comfortable process. It’s a slow, stressful process. Nothing is free. Everything must be earned. We receive proportionate to what we give. If we want to become better climbers, then we need to pay for it. We need to pay for it with our attention. We need to pay attention.

The quality of practice is more important than the quantity of practice. Quantity will only lead to injuries and a body-mind that isn’t integrated. Quality points to how we practice, namely how much attention we have engaged in the practice process. The more attention we have focused in the moment, on subtleties, the more quality we bring to our practice.

We can become conscious masters by changing what we value. We need to do the opposite of what beginners do. We need to value stress, processes, and slow progress. We need to have the patience to pay attention to subtleties.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Robby Maffei

    Nice post Arno, and I needed to hear that today…sometimes things appear to be moving so slow for me, when actually my mind is always in a hurry. Does this make sense? It’s looking for that reward maybe, wanting the stress to be over. So I’ve come up with a little saying that helps me:
    “Slow down, to speed up” In other words, slow down my breathing, to slow down my fearful mind. This helps me to see the true dangers and act accordingly without the phantom fear!
    Any thoughts?

    1. Arno

      Hey Robby, yes, slow down to speed up. i’m finding that i’m getting a lot more done by slowing down and paying better attention. a

  2. Robbie

    Hey Arno, thanks for this post, it links in beautifuly with my climbing and life in general.

  3. david larimer

    An amazing reminder to the importance of what we pay attention to and how we payattention. Thank you Arno!!

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