Saturday 2011-03-12

Zen in the Art of Archery

In the book that spawed the meme "Zen and the art of *", Herrigel uses all the no-mind jargon, detailing his five years of archery study in under a hundred small pages. While some use clear, concise language to open eyes, Herrigel seems to think otherwise. Only occasionally does insight surface readily...

A great Master must also be a great teacher. With us the two things go hand in hand. had he begun the lessons with breathing exercises, he would never have been able to convince you that you owe them anything decisive. You had to suffer shipwreck through your own efforts before you were ready to seize the lifebelt he threw you.

Herrigel spent over three years firing arrows almost daily into a swatch of hay that was three meters away. Only when he mastered form was he taught accuracy.

From an h++ perspective, he repeated a task so often, his brain optimized for it and pushed the task from his prefrontal cortex down closer to his basal ganglia. Errors caught early on therefore have the least cost to remedy. Except that with beginners, there are just so many.

What mechanics do our daily tasks use? When I write reports or code, I have to have a facility with the language, with typing, with my editor, and with the content. Reducing the mental costs associated with any of these actions allows me to redeploy that brain power elsewhere.

I keep in mind that despite the importance of mechanics, this is but one ring of five ( BookOfFiveRings ).

One does not have to wait long for results. The more one concentrates on breathing, the more the external stimuli fade into the background. They sink away in a kind of muffled roar which one hears with only half an ear at first, and in the end one finds it no more distrubing than the distant roar of the sea, which, once one has grown accustomed to it, is no longer perceived.