One day I was in my yard about to construct a huge portable screened in porch. It takes hours, is no fun, and I was not in the best of moods knowing the time and effort involved. As I was about to start I looked into the yard and saw a groundhog digging a new hole. It was fully engaged in what must be a daunting task, making a hole much bigger than yourself. I thought the difference between me and him is that I am thinking of the finished project and how long it will take and he is just digging in the moment without the weight of the goal in his mind.
When undergoing any large task we are often discouraged by how daunting it is. We become overwhelmed by the difficulty and the volume of work needed and this impedes us. It could be learning kung fu, guitar or another language, whatever it is we become discouraged and often give up because we look at where we want to be rather than where we are. Here I think of one of my favorite expressions from India. “How do you eat an elephant”? Daunting isn’t it? Seems impossible? Yes. Here’s the answer though, “one bite at a time”. That is the key to all learning. We get hung up on the end result rather than dealing with the task at hand. About a year ago at a World Series of Fighting event I was talking to heavy weight champ Ray Seffo. He told me that he speaks German, Samoan and Japanese fluently along with his English. I asked how he managed to do this since I had struggled with Mandarin for such a long time. He said, “I learn key phrases then add each word as I need it, soon I can communicate and eventually I master it”. He didn’t try to learn it all in one big bite but did it one bite at a time. It inspired me to do that too and has been a huge help in my learning. So don't let the goal discourage you from the path, just stay on it. Practice without anticipation. Decades ago after I had undergone a tragedy and didn’t know how to go on or deal with it and my Zen teacher said to me, “just put one foot in front of the other..”.
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