Practice! Practice! Practice!

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Date: 16th April 2021

Do you believe that you are able to work at your optimal efficiency and maximum productivity?  If not, then you may benefit greatly by allocating a little bit of your time to sharpening your axe.  On the 16th day of the Happiness Challenge, let us discuss the price that needs to be paid for mastering the attitudes of happiness.

There was once an old but brawny woodcutter working in the forest for an employer.  The employer, to enhance the production, engaged a twenty year younger woodcutter as well.  That woodcutter was performing at a far greater rate and the boss gave him a raise.  The elder woodcutter felt deeply hurt.  He asked his boss, “Sir, I have been working for you loyally since the last twenty-five years.  This guy joined only a year ago and he is drawing more than I am.”  The employer said, “Look, I am running a profitable company not a charitable organization.  He is cutting trees at twice the speed that you are.  You increase your production and I will increase your salary as well.”

The senior woodcutter went back to work and with great determination from morning till night tried his best, exerting every muscle and sinew in his body.  But he was still not able to match the speed of the younger guy. “What do I do?” he asked his employer.  The boss said, “Why don’t you go and ask your friend?”  He then went to the younger woodcutter and said, “I am stronger than you.  How is it that you are able to cut trees at twice the speed that I am?”  The younger woodcutter responded, “After every tree that I cut, I take five minutes out to sharpen my axe.  Do you sharpen your axe?”  The old one realized, he was not allocating any of his time to sharpening his tools and that is why, his productivity was affected.

In the same way, if we wish to master the tools that we have learnt over the last fifteen days, we will have to pay the price for it.  And what is the price?  The price is practice.  Everybody first starts off something with conscious incompetence.  And through practice they reach the level of conscious competence.  And with further practice, they are able to do that task proficiently with unconscious competence.  So, the secret of expertise then is repeated practice.

Watch this interesting video by Swami Mukundananda –

This is what Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, when Arjun questioned Him, “This mind is so restless, that it seems to me, it is more difficult to control than the wind.”  Lord Krishna responded,

श्रीभगवानुवाच |
असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् |
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते || 35||

śhrī bhagavān uvācha
asanśhayaṁ mahā-bāho mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyate

O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain.  But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled.

As the verse in Hindi goes — “The rope that is thrown into the well to pull the bucket, is made of grass.  Yet, the repeated movement of that grass rope against the stonewall of the well causes a groove in it.”  Similarly, by repeated practice a dullard can become an intelligent person.  So, if we wish to master the knowledge that we have learnt over the last a few days, we will have to pay the price for it in practice.  If you wish to achieve mastery over your internal attitude, you have to pay the price through practice.

So, let us ponder over the importance of practice.  And the things in which we wish to achieve mastery—start practicing them through physical and mental practice.

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