Throughout our lives if we take the time to master each new idea that comes powerfully in our lives, each new habit or way of thinking or art or endeavor that we are inspired towards, then with diligent practice, we will grow magnificently. All that is required is a new perspective of life, and of learning.
Lao Tzu elucidated this concept clearly in the 41st Verse of the Tao Te Ching:
When the best seeker hears of the Tao
he strives with great effort to know it.
When an average seeker hears of the Tao
he thinks of it now and again.
When the poorest seeker hears of the Tao
he laughs out loud.
(Jonathan Star translation)
A great scholar hears of the Tao
and begins diligent practice.
A middling scholar hears of the Tao
and retains some and loses some.
An inferior scholar hears of the Tao
and roars with ridicule.
(Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life)
I believe that each one of us have the potential to be in alignment with the best seekers, and with the greatest scholars, and according to Lao Tzu, the major difference is diligent practice.
How often do we unwittingly roar with ridicule and balk, if only in our thoughts, at some new concept or idea for no reason other than because it is different from what we currently know and understand? Moreover, how often do we hear information or ideas that we resonate with, but which slip from our minds mere moments later only to appear on occasion in flashes of insight which lead to nothing?
If we want to truly experience the universe (Tao) as Lao Tzu is suggesting, or experience the benefits of any practice or new idea directly, then we must begin diligent practice. This is the only way.
If you hear of the benefits of meditation for example, the only way to experience them is through diligent practice because practice alone will change you dramatically and help you to directly experience your chosen art and the new aspects and potential within you which studying an art will invariably release. And it is impossible to comprehend how you will change beforehand.
This is true with every single pursuit.
Each and every one of us are completely unique. Our lives are different, we have different goals and aspirations, and we have different passions and mediums of self-expression. Yet this concept of diligent practice applies directly to each and every one of us. For in no person would diligent practice be detrimental, and it is the only path to mastery which is a universal desire, whether it is acknowledged or not.
Diligent practice means simply to apply ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever we are learning, and to hone our talent, understanding, or skill down to a point through sheer repetition and practice until it is subconscious; until it becomes a part of who we are.
With diligent practice of our art or of a skill over time, the beauty is that we become what we are practicing. Therefore all internal boundaries begin to fall away one by one so that we can achieve a state of fluidity where our self-expression is unhindered and where we express the absolute truth of who we are and what is inside of us.
Only through diligent practice can we achieve this beautifully open state because the aspect of ourselves which we overcome through the self-discipline, commitment, and sheer effort of diligent practice is all of the internal obstacles between us and our creative source.
By overcoming the internal obstacles to achieve fluid self-expression in one art, we overcome our limitations of self-expression in general and thus can apply that knowledge and experience to any art and any endeavor. We can go from learning an instrument, to dancing the tango, but the principles of learning and mastery are the same in both instances of which diligent practice is an essential component.
This is the new perspective of life and of mastery that I am talking about. It truly isn’t new, but for some of us, especially for today’s youth (and at 22 years old myself I feel I have particular insight into the state of youth today) it is a new way to look at our lives, a new attitude, way of being, and a way to live in more depth.
From my own personal experience and from observation I feel that true diligent practice in general is an attitude that is missing from the world today, and it very well could be the reason why our society is so superficial in (the mainstream expression of) our art and in our materialism, and why we are under the spell of instant gratification.
For through diligent practice we truly master ourselves because we develop the ability to focus and maintain attention on whatever we are learning, and whatever we desire, thus we develop the ability to become skillful at anything and to truly becomeanything. But the real benefit is self-knowledge.
When we diligently practice something, we go beneath the surface of what we are practicing and of ourselves. We find things within that we did not know where there, from talent, to creativity, to knowledge pure and true. And in our art we discover fundamental principles which are inherent within everything in nature.
We are all extensions of source, therefore everything, every art and every being, must be a path back to source and must also be governed by the same fundamental principles. These fundamental principles is precisely what Lao Tzu meant by the wordTao which literally translates to ‘path’ or ‘way’, but which implies the way of the universe, nature, and the divine. And by travelling that path we cultivate knowledge directly from the universe which is universal wisdom, which is something we need more of and are definitely seeing more of in the world, particularly in the last 100 years or so.
Every time we notice something about ourselves or in our lives that we desire to change, or to learn, or to experience, instead of just thinking about it, we should all follow Lao Tzu’s advice and “begin diligent practice”.
Begin diligent practice and become who you desire to be, and do what you desire to do. And by living in this way you will transform by degrees and your life will become the greatest source of knowledge through direct experience you could ever imagine. As new ideas and endeavors come into your life give yourself fully to the diligent practice and application of them and you will grow in exactly the way you need to in order to become the best version of yourself. It is all divinely orchestrated.
Diligent practice is the path to knowledge.
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.
– Bruce Lee