Shu Ha Ri

At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.”

~ George Leonard

Every expert is once a beginner, but not every beginner will become an expert. 

There are ways to accelerate learning, but there is no shortcut to mastery.  The good news is that the path to mastery is no mystery.  It typically follows three stages.

Beginner- intermediate-advanced, learn-do-teach, imitate-assimilate-innovate, or in the tradition of Japanese martial art, shu-ha-ri (守破離).

@The_Miloist

In shu (守), we begin by learning the fundamentals, follow the instructions of the masters, imitate their form and styles, and build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills.

In ha (破), we put the knowledge and skills into diligent and deliberate practice, deepen our appreciation of underlying principles, and are ready to challenge the convention, break away from what we were taught, and improvise.

In ri (離), we transcend the form, innovate freely from the essence, and be one with the craft.

The path to mastery begins with learning the fundamentals, followed by patience, practice, and practice.

“Excellence is not an art. It is the habit of practice.”

Aristotle

Opening, Middlegame, Endgame

If life is a game of chess, how will you play?

A novice would learn the rules, how each piece moves, some tactics, and perhaps even strategies. 

A trained player would learn the three phases through which a chess game typically unfolds – the Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame.

In the Opening, one focuses on developing the pieces, ensuring the King’s safety, and controlling the centre in preparation for the Middlegame where most of the attacks and defenses would take place.  Finally, in the Endgame, when only a few pieces are left on the board after the battle, one is ready to capture the opponent’s King and end the game.   

In the chess game of life, the opponent is not out there, but lies deep within us.  There is a constant battle between the light and darkness within. Hopefully, light prevails over darkness most of the time, kindness over meanness, compassion over indifference, forgiveness over resentment, love over hate, courage over fear.

With each new day, we get to start a new game.  Let us open each day by going back to basics – develop the pieces.  Bring forth love, kindness, compassion, courage, forgiveness, etc. Let our light shine brightly and triumph over darkness so that we end each day in gratitude of a sweet victory.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”

Aristotle

Set Worthy Goals

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”

Andrew Carnegie

What is it like to set forth on a journey without a destination? Where would you go? Which direction would you head towards? How will you know if you have arrived?

What is it like to play a game without a goal? What will you aim to accomplish? How will you know if you have won or lost?

Going through life without goals is like drifting in the ocean, surrendering to its ebbs and flows. 

Without goals, there is no places to go, no impetus to do anything.  Nothing to work towards to. No obstacles to overcome.

It’s easy and relaxing to just go with the flow – anywhere the wind blows.  No pressure or worries.

But where’s the fun in simply drifting along?   No goal, no obstacles, no fun. 

Be it small or audacious, a goal provides a context for living – a game to play. The bigger the goal, the more obstacles it presents, the more it challenges us to learn and develop ourselves to play it well.  The fun and sense of fulfilment lies in overcoming those challenges, and the reward in the growth from stretching beyond our comfort zone and becoming a better version of ourselves.

To live a worthy life, set worthy goals and pursue them with all your heart.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Be Here Now

“Doing is never enough if you neglect being.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Between DOING this and DOING that, let there be space to experience the calming peace of simply BEING – where there is nothing you need to do and nowhere else you need to be, other than right HERE, right NOW.

Savour the moment. Be here now.

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh.

Be Really There

A tribute to Thich Nhat Hanh (1926 – 2022).

@The_Miloist

My first encounter with Thay’s work is through Living Buddha, Living Christ in 1995. His wisdom has a profound and lasting influence on my worldview on faith. Here are excerpts that have touched me most deeply.

“When we are still, looking deeply, and touching the source of our true wisdom, we touch the living Buddha and the living Christ in ourselves and in each person we meet.”

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When our mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. If you love someone but rarely make yourself available to him or her, that is not true love. When your beloved is suffering, you need to recognize her suffering, anxiety, and worries, and just by doing that, you already offer some relief.  Mindfulness relieves suffering because it is filled with understanding and compassion.”

“When you are really there, showing your loving-kindness and understanding, the energy of the Holy Spirit is in you.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Be the Cause

“Cause and effect, means and end, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end pre-exists in the means, the fruit in the seed.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

For every effect, there is a cause; for every cause, there is a effect. For every action, there is a consequence.

In other words, nothing happens by chance. Something must have caused it. That’s the essence of the Universal Law of Cause and Effect.

The results we have in our lives are the consequence of our actions.  To change these results, we need to change at the level of the cause. We need to either take new actions or adopt a different mindset, or to do both.

Instead of settling for the unsatisfactory results “because of this or that,” what if we choose to BE THE CAUSE of the effect we want to create?

What effect will you cause today?

Embrace the Discomfort

There are two types of change –  change that happens to us, and change that we make happen. One is inevitable, and the other optional. 

Be it inevitable or optional, change isn’t always desirable or pleasant. It almost always involves some pain, loss, or discomfort.

We are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  Hence, it is natural to ‘resist change’ so as to avoid the discomfort it brings.   However, deep down, it’s not the change that we resist, but the imminent loss that we need to endure for change requires letting go of the old to create space for the new to emerge.

No change, no pain. And no pain, no gain.  The price we pay for avoiding pain is to forgo the possibility for growth that accompanies change.

The quicker we let go of what needed to be let go of, be it safety, familiarity, or comfort, the quicker we will embrace change and experience the new realities.

Change is essential for growth.  If we don’t change, we don’t grow.

Choose growth over comfort and step boldly forward into the change.  Embrace the discomfort. Your growth is directly proportionate to the size of your discomfort and your speed of letting go.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

~Andre Gide

Inspiration, Motivation, Dedication

Inspiration gets me excited.

Motivation gets me started.

Whenever I feel ‘meh’ – uninspired and unmotivated, it’s dedication that keeps me going.

@the_miloist

“Dedication, absolute dedication, is what keeps one ahead. A sort of indomitable obsessive dedication and the realization that there is no end or limit to this because life is simply an ever-growing process, an ever-renewing process.”

Bruce Lee

Be Authentically You

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I am not special, just ordinary.

Many may look or act like me, but I am not the same as them.

I don’t try to be like them and I see no need to surrender to conformity.

I know I’m better at being myself than anyone possibly can.

I am not perfect, just unique – one and only.

I embrace myself fully – the good, the bad, and the ugly, without pride or apology.

I strive to be true to myself and to others, and when I fail to do so, I strive to own up to my failing.

I know that being authentic entails with being authentic about my inauthenticity.

I am who I am, not who I’m expected to be.

I’m comfortable in my own skin.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

Brene Brown

One Hour More

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

Charles Darwin

What if you workout one hour more?

What if you sleep one hour more?

What if you work one hour more?

What if you do what your love one hour more?

What if you connect with you loved ones one hour more?

What if you take actions towards your dreams one hour more?

@the_miloist

“Imagine what a difference one hour more each day would make.” ~ The Miloist