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Mindful Living, Mindful Shooting, Part VI

by Jeffrey47


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 hairline.


Paradox in a pair of dice


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.


Certainly, acquiring, 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 shooting focus. 


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 emotional demands. 


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 tomorrow


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 “toss elements”


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 and consistently.


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 case!  


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 emergence.


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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From Dice Setter Precision Shooter's Newsletter - March 2006


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