I'd mentioned to my wife how
I felt the whole concept of getting glimpses of our own next level, on a
continually receding horizon of improvement, could apply to just about
everything in life. Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied I was probably
correct, but that the only thing she’s glimpsed receding lately…is my
Paradox in a pair of
Dice influencing is imbued
with paradox. For example, we want to shoot with near-automatic
precision; yet to accomplish that, we have to be vigilant against getting into a
mindless shooting rut. We want to learn to be consistent; yet we
need to be flexible and adaptable in the way we achieve, exploit
and expand on that consistency. We want to play, as near as possible, our
best game all the time; but we’re called on to do it under widely varying
circumstances and conditions. We want a quiet mind; but achieving it means
recognizing distraction and that it’s always a product of our own making.
Is it any wonder it can seem
downright marvelous when we’ve achieved any modicum of success?
Shooting in the Here
and Now : Neither a Remembrance of Things Past, Nor a Trip Back to the Future
Looking back over the trails
we blaze, we’ll see any number of surprising turns, difficult detours, and
lessons learned along the way. Among the important lessons we should
learn, is that our efforts are always best expended—because our rewards will
always be found—“right here” and “right now.”
Over time, as a result of our
own dice-influencing experiences, those mere words begin to take on more
concrete meaning. Just as our skills are best learned when we’re paying
sufficient attention in the present, so too, they can only be executed when
we’re similarly focused in the moment.
executing and improving our skills requires consideration of our ability to keep
finding our way . . . back to the present.
Whether we’re shooting with
an eye to living up to past achievements or to improving on past
disappointments, either way, those concerns always displace our full
attention on just tossing.
Probably even more
problematic than memories of past events in maintaining our perspective on the
present, is our tendency also to anticipate future results. Anticipation is
aggressive in its ability to take us out of the moment, and diminish our
A familiar example of the
depleting effect anticipation has on our toss is how, from the heights of
seeming near perfection, we’ll sometimes see our skill all but disappear just
two or three days before departing on a long-anticipated trip to the casinos.
Anticipation can be a real skill and confidence killer if we’ve not learned to
maintain our secure, present-minded perspective, in the face of its challenging
Most precision shooters seem
to intuitively understand this. But putting our intuitive understanding into
routine practice—learning to focus exclusively on the task at hand more easily,
over and over—is where the going seems to get tougher.
Here today, quantum
Today I offer a technique
that you might find helpful in developing a more present-minded focus when
tossing. I hope the context of a specific technique will show how some of the
ideas previously discussed in these articles have more than mere theoretical
merit as elements to consider in the DI skill-set.
Toward that end, but before
we begin, here’s a condensed view of some ideas we’ve discussed so far.
Relaxation and intensity go hand in hand. A
too-relaxed attitude easily degrades into a mere failure of attention. By the
same token, intensity of concentration without a feeling of effortlessness can
be rigid and exhausting.
Creating and benefiting from muscle memory
involves actively sensing how we feel, by staying engaged whenever we
practice and play.
~ Optimal performance derives
from synchrony of our physical, mental and emotional states.
~ Clarity of intention
emerges from the incremental accumulation of motoric understanding. Spurious
thoughts and distractions that interfere with clarity are signals of our
engagement in the mental game.
If anything can be concluded
from our investigation so far, it seems to me that a quiet shooter’s mind is not
something we ought to distinguish too much from simple feelings of physical and
emotional balance and just having a calm, confident presence at the rail.
With this perspective in
mind, developing a heightened sensitivity to how we feel, physically and
emotionally, while tossing, is a specific skill that might be worth working on.
“Trying” to relax
Kent Glines’ generous
release of his recorded hypnosis sessions for dice influencers resulted in one
of the most frequently viewed threads ever to appear on the dicesetter.com
message board. The popularity of Kent’s work should have come as no surprise.
For me, Kent’s hypnosis
sessions offered a terrific opportunity to experience rather directly and
without much fuss, how connected our mental, emotional, and physical states
really are. Guided-relaxation techniques seem to serve as an excellent tool for
learning steps we can take to better integrate the mental, physical and
emotional components of our shooter’s mindset more consistently.
So after I’d enjoyed Kent’s
work, I wanted to begin to further cultivate, right at the rig, that same
sense of relaxation, focus, and intensity of concentration that his tapes
succeeded in encouraging. I wanted to make that kind of practice part of
my dice-practice, but not be limited to doing it in an easy chair, listening to
Kent’s mellifluous voice. I wanted to take steps to more consciously blend
Kent’s techniques directly into the here and now of actual shooting.
Another perspective on
Just as we break our toss
down into its various physical components, I began concentrating on everything
that went on mentally while I was shooting, to see how closely it resembled that
sublime state of relaxed confidence that Kent kept encouraging us to bring with
us to the tables. Using his guided-relaxation model, I wanted to delve more
deeply into all the usual considerations I’d habitually focused on while working
with my stance, my grip, hand and arm positions and motion, targeting geometry,
release points, dice-reactions observation, and so forth.
I began slowing down
my practice-shooting routine to try to find a better match with the feelings I'd
derived from listening to Kent's hypnosis sessions.
Also, MP's spatially oriented
shooting-distance s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g technique served as an important model in
formulating these ideas. Just as we improve consistency by studying and
perfecting our toss while extending its distance an inch at a time, I
wondered if we could improve our routine by studying the mental game in smaller
bite-size chunks, too. If I wanted to speed up my pre-shot mental
routine to the point where it became almost automatic, it made sense that I
would first have to slow it w-a-y down.
I began my first effort at
this with a determination not to take a single shot at the practice rig until I
felt I’d fully considered everything I should be considering. I wanted
to be almost in one of those hypnotic states that Kent's tapes induce.
Well, it might have proved
interesting to just stand at the rig and do self hypnosis or meditate a while,
but it struck me that I would be defeating my own purpose somewhat, which was to
try to integrate that healthy slow-it-down mindset with actual shooting.
So, as my first exercise, I
decided to allow up to a full minute to just focus on the dice and get as
comfortable and relaxed as I could, for each shot.
It may not sound like much of
a big deal, but as I’ll explain, for me, it was. And in case it sounds
almost like the way some DI’s actually seem to shoot in casinos all the time . .
. I’ll just explain that my objective was to learn to execute quickly
As I carefully observed and
inhabited those first few samples of my stretched-out pre-shot mental terrain, I
quickly sensed that it wasn’t really the amount of time that mattered,
at all, in getting suitably focused. It was all about becoming familiar
with a suitable, and replicable manner of directing my attention at will, and
with more ease, to the task of becoming completely relaxed in the moment and
totally focused on the toss. It was just about improving mental habits.
With each toss “prepared” in
this slowed-down and exaggerated manner, I found I was becoming progressively
more connected, both with how I felt throughout my body, and with how
the dice felt in my hand. I’d never experienced that degree of integrated
shooting focus before. I felt as if I could naturally allow my physical,
emotional, and mental sensibilities to join forces in a common plan of
making the best shot I could. What a cool development!
I already well knew what it
felt like to have my shot “fall apart” under pressure in the casino.
Maybe this was what it feels like to have it all “come together”
instead. In a subsequent installment, I'll explain more about this exercise and
how really surprising the results were over time.
But I have to tell you, after
I'd done it in a simple way just several times, there came a point where I was
able to complete only four tosses before I had to end the session.
And it's not that there was a
problem, exactly. The technique seemed to be working so well, and so
quickly, in accomplishing what I’d hoped and intended to accomplish, that after
only the fourth toss that session, I was taken with a feeling of pure clarity in
discovery, and then became overwhelmed with laughter. I was really taken by
surprise by all that I'd found out doing this. I couldn’t possibly proceed any
further, nor did I need to.
I ended that practice session
right then with a real sense of satisfaction and achievement. I made some
notes, and it seemed I’d learned more from those few tosses than I had in weeks,
probably months of practice and playing leading up to that moment.
There was so much accumulated
DI skill waiting in my brain to be revealed and unleashed; but I’d been
constantly just rushing past it, failing to really take notice and allow it to
come through. When I changed that habit, it changed my mind.
Among the things I realized
was that if we can get suitably focused in a minute, or thirty seconds, or just
two; then we can get focused all we need, instantly. It just takes
practice to get there and stay there, of course.
There are all kinds of
variations to work with in giving this technique a try. I sometimes begin a
session with slower-frequency shooting—a slightly more contemplative approach,
focusing on one thing at a time and especially on getting comfortable—and build
up to instantaneous shooting in a “pick-em-up-and-toss-sir” mode that will
satisfy any suit, even if they’ve had a really bad day. Other times I
challenge myself to start with the quicker approach, and then sometimes
might have to slow down some and get my bearings.
I’ve not yet found the
holy-grail for improving dice-influencing mental skills. But I confess, the
possibility continues to intrigue me, and I consider it all the time, just in
But if you’ve not previously
tried this time-stretching technique for working on improving physical and
mental relaxation and skill, and nailing down a sense of your instantly
achievable, single-minded resolve, give it a try. I hope you’ll find, as I did,
that a little bit of mental convergence can lead to a ton of skill
I recommend the laughter
part, too, but that’s a whole different discussion.
Next time, I’m going to
share a little more of the fun I’ve had fine-tuning my physical and mental skills
with this pre-shot mental-routine time-stretcher technique. I also want to
share some research pertaining to those all-too-infrequently reported sightings
of “the DI shooting zone” that I suspect you might
not want to miss.
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