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Whole Earth Review

Mastery. – book reviews

Mastery. – book reviews

Charlotte Hatch

This small book packs a big wallop. it helps you realize that the failures and frustrations inherent in leading a life of action are really only steps along the way to mastery of a chosen skill. You don’t lose unless you quit. In fact Leonard proposes that it’s during the times when you’re making the least progress that you’re learning the most.

Goals and contingencies, as I’ve said, are important. But they exist in the future and the past, beyond the pale of the sensory realm. Practice, the path of mastery, exists only in the present. You can see it, hear it, smell it, feel it To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them. To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life.

Life is filled with opportunities for practicing the inexorable, unhurried rhythm of mastery, which focuses on process rather than product, yet which, paradoxically, often ends up creating more and better products in shorter time than does the hurried, excessively goal-oriented rhythm that has become standard in our society. Making this rhythm habitual makes practice. The canister vacuum cleaner is a particularly fiendish teacher in the quest of mastery of the commonplace. The snakelike vacuum tube and long power cord seem specifically designed to snag on every available object in the room. The canister seems obstinately determined either to bump into or get hung up on every piece of furniture. The attachment connected to the vacuum tube invariably seems the wrong one for the next task at hand. The power cord reaches its limit and has to be replugged at the most inconvenient moments.

Those of you who have managed to avoid vacuuming don’t know what you’re missing: an onerous chore, yes, but also a fine opportunity – no less taxing than balancing your books or getting the footnotes straight on your dissertation or working out a kink in your golf swing – for practicing some of the skills you’ll need on the path. The person who can vacuum an entire house without once losing his or her composure, staying balanced, centered, and focused on the process rather than pressing impatiently for completion, is a person who knows something about mastery.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Point Foundation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group