A while ago I had an excellent meditation session that combined what I’ve learned about intention and about deliberate practice with what I had learned about meditation.
It was the best session yet.
And then my practice fell apart.
Today I got it back together at least for a day.
So here are some dots that I have connected to help me understand what I am doing.
Achieving mastery takes deliberate practice. Not just practice. Deliberate practice. Mindful practice. Practice with attention and awareness.
Ten thousand hours of merely repetitive practice won’t get you to mastery.
Deliberate practice might.
So practice needs to be deliberate.
To achieve mastery is to become unconsciously competent.
The progression to mastery is:
Unconscious incompetence: you are incompetent and don’t even know it.
Conscious incompetence: you’re still incompetent, and you realize that there’s something that you need to learn.
Conscious competence: through deliberate practice you achieve competence. But takes continuous, deliberately directed attention to exhibit anything approaching mastery. Without such attention, performance fades.
Unconscious competence: now deliberate attention is no longer needed. Performance is competent without conscious attention. Unconscious competence is probably a misnomer that tries to capture the idea of effortlessness.
Intention and competence
We don’t know how to do anything. It’s all due to intention and magic.
If you’ve learned to catch a ball, you set an intention to catch it, and when a ball comes in your direction, you catch it.
How? Nobody knows.
But first, you’ve got to learn how to catch a ball. And how do you do that?
You intend to learn to catch. Someone throws balls in your direction. You try to catch it. You alternately fail and succeed. And then one day, you’ve learned that you can do it.
How? Nobody knows.
When you practice without intention, you’re going through the motions. Little changes.
When you do the same thing while intending that your practice becomes masterful, you move toward mastery.
You intend to reach the next performance goal. You keep your attention focused on what are you doing while you perform. You maintain your inention and to pay attention throughout your practice. And you get better.
Once you achieve your goal with deliberate attention, you can set an intention for the next goal and go again. Maybe the next goal is to do the same thing again and ensure that your performance has stabilized. Maybe it’s to do it faster, or more efficiently. Maybe it’s to add complexity or constraint.
If you maintain intention and attention then if possible, your brain will adjust so that you can do better next time. If you didn’t get the result that you wanted you can examine what you did and determine precisely when what you did started to produce the wrong outcome. Since you were paying careful attention, you’re likely to know. Then you intentionally make adjustments.
If you didn’t maintain attention, you’ve got a harder job. You were not paying attention, so you don’t remember what you did wrong, so you can’t correct your performance. Your job is to control your attention, not just do what you are trying to learn.
Consider what you can do to maintain intention and attention. That’s more important than correcting your performance.
Deliberate meditation practice
My meditation practice that morning was deliberate.
I had a clear goal: I wanted to focus attention on the sensation of breathing at my nose, and I to keep my attention as wide as possible. I expected that I would be distracted. I intended to limit my distraction and to correct it quickly.
I set my intention before I started.
Then I started my sit.
Forty minutes later the bell rang telling me the sit was over.
I had not maintained my intention throughout, but my lapses were small, and I had quickly corrected them, as I had intended.
It felt great.
And then unraveling
After I wrote this, and before I posted it, my practices—both meditating and posting unraveled. I’ve continued my daily 10-minute guided ones, but I couldn’t do the longer ones.
I can write several posts explaining the unraveling, and the reasons why I may have recovered them (if I have) and some of the posts might even be right. We’ll see.
And the recovery?
But they only deserve to be written if the recovery lasts. And that remains to be seen.
In the meantime, I’ve gotten several posts written, and this morning I did a ten minute guided meditation, a 30 minute timed meditation that I will describe as “delightful,” then a ten-minute standing meditation.
And I’m looking forward to the next meditation session.
As soon as I get a few more posts published.