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Mindful Living, Mindful Shooting ─ Part V

By Jeffrey47

 

Each of us plays the mental game by our own rules, depending on deep-seated ways of thinking and living.  Accordingly, some will be more drawn to exploring the mental side of DI than others.

 

Whether we change our mind in any particular way while perfecting our DI skills, how we might go about it,

and what it means, are personal things we discover for ourselves.

 

Toward an Ecology of the DI Mindset

 

Developing an appropriate, practically oriented DI mindset requires effective stewardship not only figuratively “between our ears,” but quite literally beneath our skin.  In Parts III and IV we’ve seen how proprioceptive awareness plays a critical role in our DI skills because it bears on what we know about how we move, feel,

and think.  We simply can’t escape always being under the influence of our own awareness, or any lack thereof.  Our self-image making mind is sometimes referred to as the motoric ego―mind and body

combined to make us who we are. 

 

The mental and physical demands of advantage craps vary substantially from one moment to the next.  Most notably, we’re “within” delivering the toss one second, and then we’re back “out” implementing our game strategy the next.  In a future installment, I’ll be talking more about how our physical skill actually benefits

from this continual process of repetitively modulating the focus of our attention.  But for now, let’s just bear

in mind that the ease with which we shift gears among these different mental behaviors affects the quality with which we accomplish each of them, and vice versa.

 

Motoric Understanding:  A Brief Moment of Truth

 

Our sense of our mechanics and our observation of the dice remain paramount, of course.  The feedback

from each shot is critical and it is most vivid only for a very brief instant while it’s fresh in our mind.

 

The clarity we’ve talked about achieving is secured incrementally―one shot at a time―through intermittent short bursts of “motoric understanding.”  We not only come to know how we toss, but we begin to sense it, too, without thinking about it as much.

 

In the face of an iron-clad guarantee that each of our turns with the dice always hastens its own eventual demise, that recurring brief moment of understanding derived from our toss fortifies our skill with the information and the inspiration to survive for one more roll. But our attention on tossing is inevitably interrupted with other concerns.  There may be commotion and noise distracting us.  And even in the best

of circumstances we have to attend to our wagers.  Through it all, we have to stay in touch with what we’re learning in the course of our turn with the dice and we always have to navigate our emotions.

 

It’s That Balanced Attitude Thing Again

 

Thus, we’ve got to have a relaxed enough overall attitude to keep from getting uptight about the resistance

we inevitably run into.  We’ve got to keep our cool.  But we’ve got to keep the fires burning at the same time―we want easy access to that molten intensity we rely on for executing each toss.

 

Thus, for a relaxed attitude to support precision performance, it must remain informed by the intensity of our engagement.  Without intensity to draw on, relaxation too easily degrades into a mere failure of full attention.

 

By the same token, intensity without that feeling of effortlessness can quickly become rigid and exhausting; we can find ourselves trying too hard.

 

Like a biological eco-system sustained by the organisms competing for survival within it, the DI mindset doesn’t long survive if any of its constituent parts is allowed to commandeer an upper hand over the rest.

 

Spurious Thoughts When Shooting the Dice

 

Among the obstacles we encounter, self-imposed distraction is one of the biggest, of course.  In Maddog’s excellent nine-part DI chronicles, Maddog’s Journey, the problem was succinctly noted.  Maddog wrote:  “I’m convinced that the quickest way for a DI to lose control of his toss mechanics is to start thinking about his bets.”  And then he concluded, “These spurious thoughts are extremely disruptive.


Maddog has identified something we need to be intimately familiar with: Those disruptive thoughts of ours.

 

But the solution is not as easy as shrugging and trying to look the other way.  There’s always another distracting thought lurking in the other direction.  If we want to manage our distracting thoughts, we’ve first got to know the beasts we’re trying to appease.  You’ve heard the sage advice about facing our own demons.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to characterize my thoughts as demonic, they sure seem to have a helluva lot to do with “the devil” popping up sometimes.

 

So let’s examine a little further the problem of disruptive thoughts.  Let’s see what other kinds of thoughts and emotions―in addition to worrying about our wagers―might be messing with our concentration, maybe

without our even knowing it.

 

Smile!  It’s a Wonderfully Complex Undersea World of Barely Conscious

Thought Creatures

 

Sometimes as I’m preparing to shoot, I’ll realize that my mind has wandered and grabbed hold of some pretty ridiculous “ideas.”  I usually kind of smile inside because upon realizing I’m distracting myself it’s fairly easy to just gently regain focus.  Realizing what’s going on serves as a kind of anchoring point―a perfect reminder

to relax and get down to business.

 

Other times, however, getting focused can be more of a struggle.  Thoughts sometimes seem to be swimming along without particular form.  I can’t dispense with these thoughts as easily, because I’m not fully aware of them.  Instead, I can just sense that I’m not completely settled in.  And then, once I realize I’ve been half-following a barely conscious, but definitely distracting thought constellation, it seizes the opportunity to suddenly come into full relief and spin itself out of control, taking me along for the ride.  Of course I don’t make quality tosses with such a diffused, distracted, and tentative non-presence of mind.

 

What is it that is so different about the thoughts we can just smile about and forget, compared with the thoughts that succeed in unsettling our concentration?

 

To me, thoughts of every kind seem to be routinely running a very slick under-cover distraction-importing operation.  They want to hijack our concentration but  avoid detection in order to ensure their own survival in spite of our intentions to clear our mind.  And when we resist paying them the attention they seek, they’ll fight for it harder, cloaking themselves with a ferocious quality of absolute urgency and importance.  Naturally, we either accord them our attention at that point, rather than staying focused solely on our toss,

as we’d hoped to do, or else we just feel frustrated knowing we’re subtly distracted.  The nerve of these guys!

 

Our clever minds manufacture all kinds of machinations perfectly suited to calling attention away from what we’re trying to do―which is just toss the dice with an uncluttered mind.  Concentration and intensity tend to “turn up the volume” of everything in the mental landscape.  Learning to navigate a smooth course through the variegated mental substrate that emerges is a challenge unto itself.  As I learned to embrace this mental dynamic more objectively rather than fight it, I began to see and invariably enjoy the irony involved.  So acknowledging pesky thoughts without getting rattled about the momentary distraction they can cause is a key step to reducing their grip, and easing ourselves back on track.  

 

I Told You There Was a Party, But Did I Mention It Was a Masquerade?

 

Here are some of the thought-creatures that emerged in surprisingly vivid and sometimes amusing contours

as I first began focusing with more intensity on every toss.  Maybe some of them will seem familiar to you.

 

  • First, there’s the Meticulous Instructor, the quintessential distracter because of the utter relevance of what he’s always talking about.  He’s got plenty of experience and lots of good ideas.  I trust his advice.  “Not too much backspin.  Don’t over correct.  Square it up.  Remember your follow through.  Lock on the target.  Visualize your trajectory.”  The problem is that while my Instructor is busy reviewing shot-making perfection, I can’t just toss.

 

  • There’s the over-eager kid, full of vim and vigor―and performance anxiety.  “I hope my shot is on. 

          Okay, think positive, I just won’t mess up.  Here goes.”   With this attitude, no wonder the Kid

          strikes out swinging on three pitches to end the inning with the bases loaded, every time.

 

  • Then there’s the Showoff, exhorting anyone within earshot to “get a load of this.”  He’s talented, and he knows it.  He’ll show us how it’s done.  “You want a hard eight, pal?  I’ll roll you a hard eight.”  How his head swells when I hit one of “his” shots.  Bravado may feel like it’s helping, but it’s a monumental distraction from where our focus needs to be.

 

  • And there’s the Banker that Maddog mentioned.  He’s all business, and has only our best interests in mind.  “What about all that dough on the outside?  Maybe we should’ve pulled back before this shot.  But then, we could really use a nice win here―to make up for last night.”  As we all know, thinking about our wagering, or bankroll, or earlier sessions can be among the most difficult of distractions to overcome.

 

  • Oops, let’s not forget mom and dad―or is it our spouse, or a teacher or some other “role model.”  Especially if we’re falling a little behind―there they are, arms folded, “Tsk, tsk!  Why do we waste our time like this?  Consorting with ne’er-do-wells, pursuing such nebulous dreams. Surely, ruin is lying

          in wait.”

 

  • Here’s a tricky one.  It’s taken a real effort to realize that even my thoughts about the mental game―and about expressing my thoughts about the mental game―are all just another clever gambit of my thinking mind, trying desperately to gain sway as I try instead to focus on shooting. If you ever thought about a trip or practice report while tossing, you know exactly what I mean.

 

  • And the Obsessive Narcissist.  This chump seems to think the world revolves only around him; every little thing gets him totally bent.  From grim-faced dealers to the antics of other players, from the color and finish of the dice to the style of the music in the lounge; he’s so focused on finding something to make excuses about, he’s never comfortable.  Just try shooting with this guy hanging around your neck.

 

Uninvited thoughts.  The ”crap” between our ears.  It’s a bit of a paradox, but I found that my initial efforts to increase my focus just on shooting ended up increasing my awareness of the very kinds of thoughts and emotions I wanted to keep from intruding on my game.  It was that increased awareness, however, that seemed to eventually open the door to more relaxed and consistent shooting.  As I became more familiar

with my own resistance, it became manageable, and my shooting improved in ways I’d earlier only hoped for.

Inconsistent physical skill is the result we should expect if spurious thoughts and their emotional charge are allowed to steal the upper hand and muddy up the ecology of our DI mindset.  It’s especially true if we’re just so laissez-faire that we don’t even realize how they’re affecting our shooting.

 

Next time around, we’ll look at a number of things some shooters have reported helping them to achieve a quiet, shooter’s mind.  I’ll describe a method or two I’ve found helpful for jump-starting the process right at the practice rig.  We’ll further consider how mental convergence leads to skill emergence.

 

In the meantime, if your dice game already has you hearing voices, don’t worry.  You might not really be losing your mind.  It may just be the storm before the calm.

 

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