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Mindful Living, Mindful Shooting - Part II of a series
By Jeffrey47

The deeper you go . . .

Paraphrasing that pop-culture notion from a bygone era, the more deeply engaged in our practice we become, the higher our dice-influencing skills can evolve.   At the same time, the higher our skills evolve, the more deeply engaged we will be.

No matter what level of skill we achieve, we’re involved in an ongoing quest to reach a continually receding horizon of further improvement.  

Knowing our mind

It’s often said, and correctly, that it’s all about the toss.  We want it to be on-axis, and we want those primary-face outcomes.  It’s also about knowing the wagers that maximize our own advantage.  And it’s about leveraging our advantage further by acting on our current results, picking up the familiar sweet scent of our own skill-based trail at the present moment.  And its about discipline, and the qualities of character needed to overcome the primal drives threatening to turn all that skill into the mere wreckage of lost opportunity.

Ultimately, developing and executing our skills, no matter which ones, depends on just how well we know our mind, and how we use it.  Mad Professor recently put it to us this way: How we THINK has a direct and dramatic effect on how we SHOOT. 

We can’t escape the fact that our mindset is always a factor.   It’s especially true where our mental efforts are directed at accomplishing everything more effortlessly, without interference from between the ears.

But too commonly, I think, we relegate the mental processes involved to second-class accommodations as we navigate our paths, giving artificial preference to everything else instead.  If we’re going to be putting our mind to these tasks, it would seem foolhardy to minimize its role, whatever it may be.

We’re not discounting any of the myriad skills we’re so diligently involved with, by looking just as deeply into the mental side.  Optimum performance derives from a synchronous blend among all the fine-tuned elements we bring with us to the table.  Mindfulness might best be thought of as a framework for our efforts, geared toward maximizing the whole process.

Learning an appropriate precision-shooting mindset

I think most would agree that monitoring our thoughts and attending to our state of mind are abilities which, like any other, can be enhanced.  We can learn to become more consciously aware of what’s going on inside our heads as we develop our precision-shooting skills. 

Ultimately, we can learn to be more attentive, inquisitive and focused in everything we do.  In fact, our experiences in everyday life provide the perfect laboratory for finding an appropriate mindset that will assist us in reaching our precision-shooting goals. 

As we learn to more deeply engage in our everyday experiences, we’ll become better situated to excel in all our more esoteric endeavors.  Our enjoyment in meeting challenges, and the depth of our life’s passions; these are the source-pools for our inspiration in everything we do, including dice.

The party is just beginning

If you haven’t yet turned on your heels yelling “Run away!” like King Arthur’s knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I want to thank you right here and now for exploring with me some of the insights that the challenge of writing these articles is providing. 

So I do hope you’ll continue, because the party is just beginning. 

If consistency of our toss is the sine qua non of dice influencing, it should be obvious that consistency in our mindset will play a role.   So not only are we looking for the right mindset—we’ll also want to be looking for ways to maintain it more consistently, once something suitable has been unearthed.  Certainly, we’ll no longer want to be taking chances that an ambiguous mindset might somehow be working at cross purposes with all our efforts to take the gamble out of our game. 

Close Encounters of a Mental Kind: 

            The problem of Temporary Intensity —

            the feeling that we’ve got it all figured out

I want to begin with some examples of how an inconsistent mindset can lead to inconsistent precision-shooting results.  A good place to start is with the crucial and much-heralded mental factor of intensity.  

Mad Professor wisely alerts us that precision shooting depends on having a PASSION for making each roll as near perfect as it can possibly be.  Gratification from each of our newfound successes fuels our intensity.

Observation and emotion 

Notwithstanding our tireless efforts, though, our encounters with near-perfection can be rationed in such ridiculously fleeting episodes that it may seem impossible to maintain much “success-fueled” intensity.  We can be head-over-heels excited one day and then things might seem almost bleak the next.   It’s why such extensive practice and continued patient experimentation are a must.

Astute observation is fundamental in these endeavors.  Our vigilance to be on the constant lookout for any semblance of success is vital.  But maintaining precision and persistence in the process is itself a skill that takes a real commitment of time and energy to develop.[1] And unless our efforts are infused as well with the appropriate emotional capital—the right attitude—we’ll not likely be sustaining them long enough to achieve the results we intend.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise that maintaining the right observational mindset requires a commitment of emotional energy.  We’ve already noted there has to be passion behind our every roll.  Our resolve to succeed is buoyed by any successes in our current results while the increasing acuity of our observations helps fuel anticipation of further progress.  Only with a synergistic commitment of all this emotional and mental energy will we be taking full advantage of the efforts involved.

A balanced attitude

Yet, as Irishsetter has observed we instead tend to reduce our concentration and intensity after having some success, because we wrongly begin to feel as if we’ve finally gotten things “all figured out.”  MP adds that it’s because we’re no longer working on learning and perfecting something new and fresh.  And as our intensity lags, of course, our skills become less consistent again.

I’ll just add what is already well implied by those masterful observations; while we’ll always want to appreciate our dice-influencing insights as worthy rewards in and of themselves for all the time and effort required; we must simultaneously embrace them as perfect opportunities for further progress.  If we’re not maintaining our balance on this particular expanse of mental high wire, we’re simply not reaping all we should from our dice-setting pursuits.  It’s a juggling act requiring expert-level mental and emotional agility.

Seeing the future NOW

So it’s crucial to understand that our sometimes fleeting experiences with the “intensity of near perfection,” though perhaps not ideal precisely because they can be so abbreviated and unpredictable, nevertheless provide important, recurring points of renewed perspective and opportunity in our continued skill-development quest. 

It is thanks to these episodes that we are allowed our first quick glimpses of that receding horizon we’ve talked about, just when it looks to be, for a brief time anyway, right at our doorstep! 

These alluring experiences are the gentle onshore breezes from the horizon of our own next level of development. 

Making passage . . .

We’ll only be heading there, however, if we open up the storm shutters and let the fresh air in.  We must be paying extremely close attention, resolved to put our mind to the new tasks we’re continually involved with—we must maintain our intensity. 

We need to be blending a genuine feeling of appreciation for the sense of progress we’re experiencing with an unfaltering discipline of continued commitment and a mature expectation that further progress will be ours.

Only with such a balanced attitude and tuned-in state of mind will we be granted passage as each next-appearing portal of opportunity draws close. 

In later installments, we’ll explore how we might increase our sensitivity to these opportunities as they occur and allow the bloom of our passion for the process to take hold more readily and more deeply over time.  In the meantime, our attitude now is always going to be inexorably tied to the depth by which our skills will be enhanced later.

Close Encounters of another Mental Kind:

            The problem of Temporary Intensity

                        induced by impatience and frustration

There’s another temporary-intensity phenomenon that I’m nearly certain is also commonly experienced. 

How many times have you been working at the rig or a live game, and noticed that although you were warmed up and felt comfortable, the results were just repeatedly not up to your hopes and expectations?  And how many times when that has happened, have you said to yourself something like, “Okay, this is it; I’ll give it one more try,” and then you finally shoot the way you know you can.

Maybe the problem was simply having waited so long to “really get down to shooting. 

Recognizing a successful mindset

And before you respond saying, “I always shoot with the same intensity,” you have to first look very closely and honestly to ascertain the true qualities of the mind-states that prevailed during the first rolls that disappointed, and distinguish them from what went on in your mind during the successful later roll.  Doing this requires constant mindful observation of what’s going on inside our heads during both our successful and less-successful rolls. 

When we do this, we can begin to gather important additional clues for reducing the frequency of our mediocre rolls due to an ambiguous mindset, and to replicate the successes derived from properly controlled intensity more often.    

Far too often, in my estimation, shooters will go through exactly the scenario I mentioned, noticing and reporting only the mechanics—that they’d made a minor correction to their grip; or re-targeted; or changed their trajectory; or rotated the permutation of their set—but inevitably, they remember little regarding their mindset.

I’m suggesting it’s at least as likely that it was their elevated resolve to succeed and the resulting higher focus and concentration—their renewed intensity—that helped them clarify the mechanical adjustments required and then to execute them, thus bringing about the improved result. 

Yet, there is still a deficiency associated with intensity when it’s induced by our frustration with failure and our impatience to succeed.  When extra effort is required to arrive at an appropriate level of concentration and intensity, our overall effort is merely symptomatic of a still-not-yet-perfect mindset for optimal performance.  And like its earlier-discussed cousin, “temporary intensity due to spontaneous discovery;” short-term intensity as a mere antidote to frustration and impatience will be of limited service unless we ensure that it’s assisting us in our efforts to improve.

Replicating Intensity

We must, therefore, be taking appropriate steps toward replicating the same intensity in our mindset sooner, more frequently, and for longer duration, but also without requiring extra effort. 

But we can only accomplish these goals if our initial and continued insights are consciously recognized as the opportunities they are from the outset—no matter what seems to be their cause, and no matter how fleeting they may be.  

Then, we must be prepared to adroitly incorporate the fruits of our insights seamlessly into an ever-expanding precision-shooting skillset. 

Of course, all this is far more easily said than . . . begun. 

Unfortunately, the only alternative is suffering the sometimes chip-rack-purging symptoms of a malady we might appropriately call, temporary-intensity deficit disorder (TIDD).

                                                            ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I hope we’ve gained a foothold on the kinds of things we’ll continue exploring as we work to find a more consistent precision-shooting mindset.  When the feng-shui, voodoo, trance dances and mojo-oil begin to lose their powers, let’s just look inside of ourselves instead.

So we’ll be returning to the topic of intensity, balancing our assessment with attention to the effortless calm we’ll hope to find residing at its core.  And we’ll further explore why the most viable ground for cultivating a more consistent precision-shooting mindset is really just our everyday lives. 

In the meantime, please remember—in everything we do—the more deeply engaged we become, the higher the skills we will attain...  And vice versa!

 

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