bones, Zen muscles, Zen Mind
we continue our inquiry into mindfulness in dice influencing, regard for the ageless
traditions of the East seems inevitable. Eastern
philosophy is deeply rooted in discipline in both mind and action, and in both person and
community. If dice influencers feel an
affinity, it could derive, in part, from this.
popular misunderstanding, however, is that Eastern philosophy, and Zen in particular,
involve the invocation of some kind of trance-like state of consciousness. To the best of my understanding, getting into a
trance is neither the object nor result of living (or shooting) mindfully, nor is it the
object of the most common forms of meditation practice, the martial arts, Zen study, or
the Eastern ways. If anything,
the point is often made that the only trance to be concerned with may be the one we suffer
because of our over-thinking minds; a trance from which we may awaken. Ultimately,
this may simply involve seeing more deeply and more consciously, without strain.
would appear to be utility in this for dice influencers, not as a ticket to some
mystifying trance-like shooting zone, but as a context for our efforts to achieve a
consistent, well-grounded, mindful attitude toward our dice-influencing pursuits.
had not contemplated we head to our local Zen center for sitting meditation and Dharma
talks, or that we visit ascetic monks in Tibet, or even that we take up Yoga,
Transcendental Meditation, Tai Chi, Aikido or any other particular discipline as an
adjunct to our dice-influencing efforts.
focus is going to stay right where it belongson
our work with the dice. As we become more
deeply involved, opportunities for enriching our mind-set will abound.
time, we began investigating the topic of intensity, anticipating an effortless
calm at its core. Well return to
the interplay between intensity and calm, in due course.
it should be helpful to reacquaint ourselves with our old friend, muscle
memory. Well more easily discover
calm skies if we stop floundering in the tricky currents of a muscle-memory mental storm
impeding the view.
what I can discern, the term muscle memory first
entered the popular vernacular in the context of weight training and muscle building. Some of you probably have first-hand experience
with this. After a layoff, weight lifters are
usually more efficient at rebuilding muscle mass and re-sculpting their shape in
course, its the familiar movements and progressive resistance levels, careful
monitoring of muscle burn, and even diet and nutrition, that a body builder
uses to bring his muscles back into condition. Weight
lifters must understand this, but that apparently hasnt stopped the idea from taking
root in popular thinking that muscles themselves are capable of memory, which of course
they are not, nor need they be.
everyone really knows that muscles dont have a memory, Im not sure.
any event, labels (such as muscle memory) are powerful agents in determining
how we think, and, uh . . . how we THINK has a lot to do with how we SHOOT. Remember?
what are we thinking when we think about
muscle memory in dice? And, by the way, has
anybody ever established that its really helpful
to be thinking in terms of muscle memory? Maybe
the ideas we hold dear about it make it harder to
hone our skills, not easier.
not making a case for black or for white in this, at least not just yet. I pose the matter because there really is a lot we
dont understand in this area. We rely
on an idea of muscle memory without really
knowing what weve gotten ourselves into.
its not in our muscles, where is it?
neurological process most responsible for what we call muscle memory is proprioception. Its
a catch-all term that includes a number of different central nervous system pathways that
control our muscles (including even the muscles attached to our eyes) and monitor our
physical orientation and movements, as well as providing equilibrium, a sense of gravity,
and as well see, much more. Proprioception
is considered the real sixth sense
by the guys in the lab coats, after touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Its a profoundly complex, multi-layered and
inter-connected system of conscious and unconscious mental and physical processes and
itself, even apart from its role in proprioception, is also complex, of course. It has captivated philosophers, scientists,
artists, poets, and probably anyone who has
given it a moments thought. Its
now known that memory involves changes in neurological connections in the brain in a
yet-to-be-completely-understood chemically and electrically driven process called neural plasticity.
processes of our sixth sense, proprioception, combined with neural plasticity
in the brain; this may be the best explanation weve got for the time being for how
muscle memory works, or at least where it works.
the idea that muscles themselves have memory is simply beguiling. Muscles dont have the capacity for memory
any more than our brains can do curls.
about muscle memory in dice influencing
the precision-shooting context, muscle memory is usually mentioned as something we
lock in during practice in order to groove in later; with lots of
variations on this theme that were all familiar with.
the glossary here on Irishs site, muscle memory is defined as the process of
training your body to repeat your precision shooting throwing mechanics by rote
adds: Once we narrow down the elements
of the Precision-Shooting toss that works best and most consistently for US, then we can
turn our focus towards building muscle-memory. Muscle-memory
is how we train our bodies to do things almost automatically
we train our bodies to
do something so repetitively, that it becomes like second-nature to us, and our actions
become virtually automatic. (More Gain & Less
Pain, Part 3, Tip 23)
in his book, Dice Control for Casino Craps, Yuri doesnt mention muscle
memory at all; instead, he talks about paying attention to our toss, and about
coordinating our body movements. Stanford
Wong, in his book, Wong on Dice, makes no mention of muscle memory, either. He does warn we need to monitor our skill
on the other hand, talks quite a bit about muscle memory.
In Get the Edge at Craps, he includes an entire section called
Creating Muscle Memory in Three Weeks, and provides his thumbnail explanation
about how he believes it works in a section he calls Delivery Style.
even with all these references, and many more throughout the DI literature, my obsessive
need to understand muscle memory was not satisfied. If
Im not satisfied, even with Mad Professors direction, I really begin to worry. I found myself desperately seeking clarity on the
subject. After looking into it a little
further, hopefully with an open mind, I have come to believe that some of the ways we
might be thinking (or not thinking) about muscle memory may be about as useful for skilled
shooting as the hardways set is for seven-avoidance.
me tell you what Ive come up with, and maybe youll be re-evaluating the way
you think about muscle memory a little bit, too.
else are the guys in lab coats saying?
terms used in psychology for muscle memory include among others, procedural memory, skill memory, and implicit motor learning. Its beyond the scope of this article to run
it all down, of course. But psychologists
seem to like it that skills can be acquired through physical practice without our even
knowing it. The learning is considered implicit, or unconscious. Prime examples are learning to walk or to ride a
bicycle. We dont really know how it happens, while it happens, it just does, and
thats that. Implicit motor learning. Mysterious, almost magical. Psychologists love it.
dice influencing, however, a more useful concept of muscle memory than the
unconscious-learning model psychologists favor, comes from the field of kinesiology. Kinesiology is the study of the interrelationship
of human physiology and anatomy with respect to movement.
In kinesiology, muscle memory is said to involve a finely tuned sense of our physical orientation,
leaving us free to concentrate (on other things).
Wow! I think we may be getting somewhere!
this standpoint, muscle memory is not as concerned with recording memory as it
is with sensing what were doing. It involves our maintaining awareness rather than
depending on something to be locked mysteriously away.
my view, thinking about a process of continually monitoring ourselves provides a more
dynamic framework for maintaining and improving our skill than thinking about a mere
background function somehow recording our efforts for later automatic play-back from the
recesses of our unconscious. Were
actively engaged whenever we play, rather than passively hoping muscle memory will kick in
and do the job for us.
me put it this way:
memory is only as good as our active proprioceptive skills will allow.
this way, if we do well we can congratulate ourselves for our achievement, and if we
dont do so well we know were responsible for the results in the present. Were confident well quickly find a
way to fix the problem because thats exactly what weve trained ourselves to do
through our finely tuned proprioceptive sense.
we wont have is the lame excuse in the
back of our mind that our muscle memory wasnt locked in right. We wont be guarding ourselves from taking
immediate responsibility for failure while scolding ourselves at the same time for
apparently ineffective practice habits. (With
this kind of thinking, maybe a shrink would be more helpful than more practice.)
heard it before: muscle memory can lock in bad habits.
But the worst consequence is not so much the inconsistent shooting that rote
practice can bring; its our habit of thinking in terms of an unconscious, automatic
process taking place beyond our apprehension, over which we have no apparent present-tense
control. By giving in to this thinking, we
dilute our skill rather than support it because were sacrificing the depth and full
integration of our conscious and unconscious motivations and single-minded involvement
every time we pick up the dice.
add to that, the proprioceptive tract that monitors and directs our movements also
contains neural circuitry that detects and expresses our emotions, including our feelings and attitude about
our passion for the game. These systems
actively share information, so that our emotions continuously affect our body, and our
body continuously affects our emotions. Insufficient
attention to our proprioceptive awareness can thus wreak havoc not only with our physical
skills directly, but it also opens the door for inattention to the all-important emotional
frame of our efforts. So how we think about
muscle memory affects not only how we throw the dice, but also how we feel about ourselves
as we practice and shoot. The potential for a
vicious cycle of flagging passion and fading skill should be obvious.
might be in for a difficult struggle moving our skill forward relying on any process we
think of as implicit and therefore so veiled from our present awareness that
we may feel virtually helpless to affect any current control over its unfolding. Whenever I hear about grooving in muscle
memory, I think of a mind that may be getting progressively more insulated from the
active role required of it if were to maximize our present potential as skilled
our thinking about muscle memory
need to be vigilant against letting the idea of muscle memory denude our toss of its
dynamic vitality. Lets not disconnect
from the full spectrum of information in the moment-to-moment flow of our senses as we
shoot, based on loosely formulated, popular thinking about muscle memory.
instead of relying on the tenuous idea of implicitly acquired skills, we mindfully engage
our skill of applied proprioception to become
and to remain intimately familiar with our toss, to thoroughly understand its dynamics,
and to actively sculpt it in the present tense, I think we will have taken a big step in
the evolution of our DI consciousness.
we bring that kind of intensity to the execution of each toss, we learn a deeper-reaching
awareness where conditions and processes we may have believed were inaccessible to us
begin to emerge to enrich our skill-set. Newly
acquired insights can begin to become more automatic as we learn them, sure, but without
sacrificing a moments opportunity for continued new insight and without risk of
slipping backward from having let our proprioceptive guard-dogs go on break. As I said before, our muscle memory will only be
as useful to us as our active proprioceptive skills will allow.
so were paying attention . . . to what again?
focus here has been on developing a greater awareness of how it feels as we shoot, so that we can most skillfully
repeat a successful toss or implement the very subtle changes that become necessary to
correct mistakes or dial in. Its one
thing observing the dice in the air and as they land, but its quite another to feel
our toss mechanics internally through our proprioceptive sense. In precision shooting, we need to be noticing not
only what the dice to after we toss them; we also need to tune it to what were doing to get the dice to do what theyre doing.
we really dont know exactly how each toss feels from our feet to our fingertips, we
may be unwittingly squandering the benefits we should derive from carefully observing the
reactions of the dice. Without a high degree
of self-awareness, well be less able to sense and then execute the subtle, precision
modifications of our base toss suggested by the reactions of the dice in order to dial in
a table, take advantage of our current skill, and continue rolling the dice.
said that, its important to realize that enhancing our proprioceptive sense also
primes the cerebral pump for our skill of observing the reactions of the dice. By the concentration weve already achieved
paying close attention as we toss, were better attuned to the reactions of the dice
as well. All that information, first from the
feel of our toss, and then from the reactions of the dice, combines into a comprehensive
and integrated whole, resulting in a more immediate experience of clarity as we prepare
for each successive shot.
progressive acquisition of increasingly enhanced awareness, especially during a
successful, longer sequence of rolls, is worth investigating as a likely source of what
some skilled shooters refer to as getting in the zone. Im looking forward to devoting attention to
this interesting area later on in this series of articles.
In later installments, well also discuss some things
we can do to deepen our proprioceptive awareness and raise the level of our concentration. Well look into how we can enlist our
emotions as allies rather than possible enemies as we develop our skill. And there will be opportunities to further
investigate the whereabouts of those calm mental seas were hoping to discover as we
continue our efforts to find a consistent dice-influencing mind-set, hopefully free at
last of any unsettled feelings we might have had about our old friend muscle
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