Practice and self awareness

It is a mistake to think that practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied. 
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

All of us in our lifetimes, pick up some form of work and/or art and practice. Of course, it is of varying degrees and manifests in varied formats across fields. Nonetheless, this behavior of training oneself has been an inherent trait and when one considers the trend, it has been a constant one over the generations.

So, why do we practice?

It is no secret that when one practices, they become better at it. But why this behavior of putting strenuous effort to learn a set of skills? Of course, there are monetary aspects, but there are other perks… of not being a wallflower.

Any form of practice is an act of creating self-awareness. Whenever we practice, we pick up work or art as instruments through which we can know ourselves better. Practice involves becoming aware of the medium, understanding the concept of how it works, experimentation and finally concentration.

Now it gets interesting. Developing a sound understanding of the medium isn’t independent of developing an understanding of oneself.

If you see a close up of any practice session, you’d notice that when one begins, they are as naive as their skill. The environment vibrates novelty and freshness. It offers less confidence but unmatched curiosity.

The brain lights up like a light bulb, especially when there are so many possibilities to try.

We are beings dipped inside impressions of the environment around us. Therefore, we already know a few things, may be not many. When one faces a new challenge, some times they outperform their skill levels at that point of time; that which is called a beginner’s luck!

However, mind you one is still naive at that particular time.

As one delves into practice more, one’s understanding increases gradually. To strengthen that quantum of understanding, several repetitions have to be undergone. Similarly, one becomes aware of how their mind functions during the repetition sessions. Is it distracted? Is it calm and concentrated?

Depending on the mind’s functioning, it is decided whether to continue to follow the path or detract and choose a different one.

Of course, the mind is a con artist and will sway with the wind. This concentration does not come naturally, however, we shall consider the aspect that one is able to discover the skill at which their natural inclination lies. “Found the thing they love…”

The first step has been taken.

With that enters the ability to modify the information input according to needs. For example, in music terms (since I am a musician, you’ll get to read more music references), when one learns chords and riff patterns they could apply it to a metal and hard rock genre or pop and classical styles.

This application in itself paves way to a new form of self understanding.

As mentioned earlier, we are beings dipped in the environment. Naturally, we are subjected to loads of information around us. Initially as babies, an outing becomes overwhelming for us as there is bombardment of signals left right and center. But over time, we learn to filter these signals. Take in what’s important for us and leave the others.

Often the mind does not operate within limits. Thousands of thoughts disturb the mind fabric constantly.

Practicing allows one to filter thoughts. Productive thoughts are encouraged. Negative thoughts are discarded. The mind is trained to seek relevance. The mind is trained to derive patterns out of seemingly random information.

However, there is one more level that is to be attained.

No matter how much the ability to segregate important information increases, it isn’t devoid of attachment. The labeling begins. Labeling in itself isn’t harmful, it is the emotion attached to this labeling that creates problems. Attachment to the created work gradually creeps in.

We are beings that carry within us a survival mechanism. Sometimes, it comes in handy. Other times, it makes us stupid.

Criticism to one’s creation is either not tolerated or accepted with negativity. We’ve all seen people go down as they refused to change and at the same time accept defeat further only to lose control entirely. Both of these traits are a product of attachment to the work.

Non-attachment is the only path that leads to mastery of a skill.

As one practices further, further than any other person around them, they acquire mastery. One becomes great at what they do only when they have no attachment to their work. They would accept criticism for their work and not for themselves. Their focus would be on enhancing the work. That already makes them an enhanced person.

Similarly, their minds will create space for acceptance and at the same time, the spark to strive for betterment.

This is what is called Karma-yoga. It is a form of meditation in itself. All concentration of the mind the applied to the work. An objective non-attached perspective is developed. The “successful” people around us today are all Karma-yogis.

Observe when you interact with them, they seem to radiate a magnificent aura.

They make perfect sense. It seems like they know exactly what to speak, how to behave. Nothing they do seems unnecessary. That is the self-awareness that they created for themselves.

Once they have mastery over their skills, they also have mastery over their minds.

We are beings dipped in the external environment. It is a natural tendency of ours to go inwards to seek answers. This is the reason we practice – to become self-aware.

I wish to end this article with A R Rahman’s words, the one line that epitomizes non-attachment of all forms –

“Ellaam pugazhum iraivanukke!”
(All Glories be to God!)

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