My Struggle with Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice forces me to hold a mirror to my practice. It requires some form of feedback, whether from a teacher or by way of measureable results.

I find I don’t like being measured. And I don’t have a teacher; at least not one I meet with regularly that observes my practice.

It’s easy to get comfortable with practice; to go through the motions without paying attention to them. At that point it’s probably safe to say we’re not getting better at whatever it is we are practicing. Our practice is not without benefit, but is without improvement.

I’m at that point with what I call my “maintenance practices,” practices where my goal is just to do them.

How do you measure meditation? How do you measure the Five Tibetans? You either do them, or you don’t, right?

I read a fascinating post by Noa Kageyama, PhD on deliberate practice; maybe the best I’ve read. Let me see if I can apply some of his lessons to my own practice.

Suppose I’m doing the Five Tibetans tomorrow morning, and that I’ve done them every morning for the past five years. I’ve got the radio going, thinking about what I need to do the rest of the day, while my body goes through the motions of the exercises. Let’s call this practicing mindlessly.

Now suppose I’m doing those same exercises without any kind of background distractions, like music, an audio book, or television. I focus my awareness on my breath, my body, on counting the repetitions. I’m aware of my posture, balance, and form as I perform each repetition of the exercise. Finally I record the experience of my performance in a practice notebook. Let’s call this practicing mindfully.

See the difference? Even a maintenance practice can lead to improvement if we learn to practice mindfully.

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