Reiki Melbourne

Article of the Week

The Art of ‘Deliberate’ Reiki Practice
Healing Dawn in Melbourne

Think of any three times things have been going well for you. I’m not talking times when you just got a raise, met the ‘love of your life’ or whatever. I’m talking about things going well in general, not because a specific piece of good fortune fell in your lap.

Do these times have anything in common?

Now think about any three times when things haven’t been going well for you. Again, I’m not talking about times following a misfortune. I’m talking general times. Nothing dramatic has happened to you, but even so, you’re just feeling down.

What do these times have in common?

What you’ll most likely find is that when things were going well for you, you were consistently doing certain things that nurtured you.

What’s more – and here I’m speaking to people of a spiritually-minded bent – you’ll typically find that when things were going amazingly well, you will have been engaging in some sort of group or class activity.

Back when I used to see private clients, I’d regularly encounter this phenomenon. Clients would come in to see me when things weren’t going well for them. They would explain how only six months ago, life was great, tell me how back then their energy was high and their health excellent, but now, for some reason, things just weren’t the same.

Curious, I’d ask them what they were doing six months ago?

“Oh, I was doing yoga three times a week. I was meditating, eating healthy food, exercising, going for walks in nature. Things were just going so well!”

“And now?” I’d ask. “How are you looking after yourself?”

To this, they would mumble that it was a difficult time, that they hadn’t really been in the right headspace to do their practice!

So on the whole, it isn’t rocket science. To feel good, you have to take care of yourself.

Of course, knowing this – and you already know it! – why would you ever stop doing the things you know make you feel great?

The obvious answer is that life gets in the way. It gets busy. It gets hectic. Shiitake happens – and we just get caught up in the hurly-burly of everyday life and forget to take care of ourselves.

The second less obvious reason is that sometimes even when we have been doing the inner work, our results still aren’t spectacular, and as a result, we lose heart and end up stopping our practices.

But how is it that we can work hard for poor results? It doesn’t make sense.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect. Perfect Practice...

You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.’

My high school tennis coach used to love to me that, and it’s true.  If you practice something badly time and time again, you’re most likely only going to make things worse for yourself.

Run really hard in the opposite direction to where you want to go, and for all of your efforts, you’ll end up further away from your goal than when you started.

All this, of course, begs the question: What is ‘perfect practice’?

In their excellent book ‘Peak’, Robert Pool and Anders Ericsson discuss a concept they call ‘deliberate practice’. Deliberate practice is strategic practice. It is practice that aims to incrementally build core skills in whatever field you are working in.

For instance, if you are a musician, you can try playing a challenging new piece straight through from first note to last note, and keep playing it time and time again, hoping that if you persist like this, you’ll eventually get it right.

Or you can be ‘deliberate’ about it.

Instead of doing the ‘natural’ thing, you might focus on practicing the difficult sections of the piece in isolation. You might practice certain musical scales to give your fingers the speed and dexterity needed to play the hardest parts of the piece. You might work with your teacher to improve the way you hold your bow or any number of other more subtle technical issues.

The point is that you aren’t randomly going about things. There is a method, and it is strategic.

If you still think that sheer volume of hours practiced will get you ‘there’, here are two cautionary tales.

The first one was a study reported in ‘Peak’ where they found that medical doctors who have been working professionally for two to three years tend to be better practitioners than those who have been working for twenty years!

Sounds crazy, right? But it turns out that a doctor’s skill level can easily stagnate, and two to three-odd years after getting their degree and starting work can be a kind of sweet spot. These doctors have now had plenty of hands-on experience, but are not too far removed from the latest best medical practices which they learnt for their degree.

The second example is of a friend of mine. Let’s call him Bob. Bob is an avid chess fan, and he has been playing as long as I have been alive. As a junior, he was pretty strong (in chess terms, he was rated about 1400). Now, forty-something years later, after practicing daily and competing in hundreds of tournaments,  guess what his rating is?

Yep, about 1400.

Interestingly, one of Bob’s peers, who as a junior started out with more or less the same rating, went on to become a Grand Master.

Now, the Grand Master most likely practiced harder than Bob. But even so, from the amount Bob played, surely his rating should have risen to, say, at least 2300 (a Grand Master is 2500+).

Unfortunately, Bob highlights the point that it isn’t about the hours practiced, but how and what you practice in those hours.

As the saying might go: “It isn’t how many hours you practise, but what you put into those hours.”

(Note that research has dramatically downplayed the role of ‘natural talent’, even if it will, of course, also play its part.)

The Three Magic Ingredients

Another concept you have probably heard of is the 10,000-hour theory of mastery. It says that to excel in any field, to be top-class, you need to put in approximately 10,000 hours of practice.

It turns out that in many fields you need to put in something more like 10,000-20,000 hours of practice (at least to be world-class), but whatever the number, you need to practice a lot.

So the first ‘magic’ ingredient if you want to do well at something is to put some time into it. I’m not saying you need to put in 10,000 hours and the like (although if enlightenment is your goal, you’ll probably need to), but even so, five minutes practice every second day is hardly going to get you great results.

The second magic ingredient is consistency.

Maybe you do put time into your practice, but instead of doing, say, thirty minutes six days a week, you do three hours every Sunday. The amount of time is the same, but the benefits will most likely be far less impressive than they would be if you did consistent, daily practice.

Think of it like a steam train. It takes a lot to get it going, but once it is in motion, it cruises along, ready to crash through any barriers that get in its way.

Another way to look at it is like a rocket taking off. Much of the fuel is used up in the first few seconds. Then, once the rocket is in outer space, it can pretty well put the fuel away and save it for the return journey.

Similarly, with spiritual practice, momentum is the key. Work hard on a technique regularly, and you’ll be surprised how deep you go. But practice it sporadically, without the consistency to build momentum, and your returns will be meager.

The third ‘magic’ ingredient is something we have already touched upon: making your practice ‘deliberate’.

Deliberate practice is focused practice, and it typically takes more effort. It is doing whatever it takes to get the maximum result, not the thing that is most enjoyable in the moment.

Typically, it also means going deeply into a few key practices, rather than doing a lot of things superficially.

The problem for humans is that we have not just evolved from monkeys, we are a lot like monkeys. That means that we are constantly drawn to the next ‘shiny’ object placed on our path.

We see one type of new meditation and we rush after it. We see another one, and we rush after that. We see a new form of healing and our eyes light up as big as Christmas cakes.

That is typically why we need some help along the way. Because unless we have incredible discipline, and unless we are willing to push ourselves far harder than the average person, it will be tough to get the most out of ourselves while working alone.

Hence the value of practicing in a group or with a teacher/coach.

With a group or teacher (or even better, both), we tend to not only focus better, but also stick to a strategic system.

Rather than jump about from one shiny, unrelated technique to the next, we stick to our core practices. And inspired by others, we practice harder and longer, even when it means doing the more ‘tedious’ things, like musical scales or, our case, less glamorous meditation techniques (like breathing into the hara).

Not surprisingly, working with others, we tend to get far better results than when working alone.

The Magic Recipe

To summarize everything I have said so far, you’ll tend to get the best results in an endeavor when you:

Regarding the final point, I’m not saying you can’t make excellent progress practicing alone. You can. But you do typically make greater gains faster when working with a teacher and a group.

If we take Reiki as an example, I’d suggest that anyone, with the right amount of effort, could connect to Reiki energy (and here I’m not just talking about connecting to any form of energy, rather Reiki energy specifically which is a lot harder).

This makes sense because that is precisely what the founder of the Reiki system we practice (Mikao Usui) did. But to get there, he meditated for years as a lay Buddhist monk, practiced martial arts, and then, to cap everything off, fasted on a mountaintop for 21-days before connecting to Reiki (at least if the stories are to be believed).

Compare this to anyone who goes to a modern course, gets attuned to Reiki, and voila! They’re good to go with the Reiki energy.

So both paths work, it’s just that one is a lot quicker and easier than the other.

So experiment with the above ideas. Work consistently and ‘deliberately’ for a meaningful amount of time with a group or teacher (‘coach’), and watch how your results blossom.

(Article Copyright, Jeremy O'Carroll 2020)

Note: If you’re looking to go deeper into your meditation, then consider coming along to my upcoming weekly classes. They not only use the above learning ‘template’, they also form a meditation program that is very ‘doable’.

The commitment is small (just one hour every Thursday night for 5 sessions and $50), but it will give you consistency, a group and a teacher. The classes also come with a video portal where weekly meditations are added to give you things to continue practicing during the week (so you can practice for a ‘meaningful amount of time’).

The classes build on each other systematically, enabling you to bit by bit go deeper into your practice in a strategic manner.

The group will give you focus, and turning up each week will create a positive habit that will help you gather more and more meditation momentum.

So join us and see how you go. To sign up, simply click here. (Or click this link to find out more.)

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