Master The Mind: Archer-Level Concentration And Happiness
After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot.
“There,” he said to the old man, “see if you can match that!”
Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old fellow’s intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit.
“Now it is your turn,” he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.
Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target.
“You have much skill with your bow,” the master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.”
Explanation Of The Wisdom
Being arrogant gets you nowhere. If you boast and brag, sooner or later someone is going to put you in your place.
There will always be people who are richer, more attractive and skilled than you. I’m not telling you this to bum you out and make you feel inferior.
There is no point in comparing yourself to other people. That only brings more misery. But when you acknowledge the fact that you are not some sort of a god, you teach yourself humility.
You can never be the first and the best in a field.
If you are the first in a field, the upcoming generations will build upon your standards and surpass you. If you are the best in a field, it is because you had masters and teachers to learn from, meaning you were not the first.
The point I want to make is to keep being a student in life. Keep learning. Keep practicing. Keep being humble.
Epictetus has a saying on this:
“You can not learn which you think you already know.”
Also, realize that any physical skill (ex. playing the piano) has a strong mental component to it. As the archer in the story, if you neglect the mindset aspect of the skill acquisition process, you can only go so far.
The student archer lacked concentration skills and panicked as he was making the shot. Whereas the master was calm and steady.
On the surface, the student was younger and physically more “able” to make the shot compared to an old master. But what actually makes someone a true master is their ability to navigate complex situations with ease. Their level of control and concentration.
Similarly, train your mind to attain that high-level mastery over your life, start a daily meditation practice and start an investigation towards enlightenment.
Theory, debates, reading, listening, talking, arguing and knowledge will only get you so far.
You must “walk the talk”.
If in doubt, remember the priceless wisdom.
“Meditate on the breath (mindfulness meditation to build concentration and awareness skills) and then self-enquire (the teachings of Ramana Maharshi) until you are free of all psychological sufferings and ego. (aka enlightenment)
Do this every day and trust in the process that eventually your mind will be healed.
Because all good things require training and patience.
Know that as long as you do the work, the results will eventually follow.”
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