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  • Sean

Zen in the Art of Archery

If you have come here searching for a book review I'd say you are better served looking elsewhere. I truly enjoyed this book but perhaps, more importantly, I'm in the process of working through my own system of overcoming self-imposed limitations in the mind. The conversations placed throughout this book reflect this deep-seated self-talk we all carry around with us and life can be spent in simply trying to overcome it. The idea of letting go plays heavily in the idea of mastery that can be achieved in any art form; in this case, archery. We don't really know what letting go is until we've seen the entire spectrum of our own mental thoughts.

What struck me about this book is that it takes place over a time span of almost a decade. The briefness of this book could lead a reader to imagine this is a simple mental game to overcome and yet the author notes it took years of practice to find their own ability to let go of thoughts to truly find mastery.

Eugen notes early success and yet reflects on the fleeting nature of these states:

"This exquisite state of unconcerned immersion in oneself is not, unfortunately, of long duration. It is liable to be disturbed from inside. As though sprung from nowhere, moods, feelings, desires, worries and even thoughts incontinently rise up, in a meaningless jumble, and the more far-fetched and preposterous they are, and the less they have to do with that on which one has fixed one's consciousness, the more tenaciously they hang on. It is as though they wanted to avenge themselves on consciousness for having, through concentration, touched upon realms it would otherwise never reach. The only successful way of rendering this disturbance inoperative is to keep on breathing, quietly and unconcernedly, to enter into friendly relations with whatever appears on the scene, to accustom oneself to it, to look at it equably and at last grow weary of looking."

It seems like in today's day and age, it has become more difficult to find the time to set aside to truly master something. We are caught up in the need to be perfect, right away. Instant gratification leaves us all temporarily satisfied but perhaps leaves us longing for something that is generated through years of hard work and suffering. We lose sight of the time and dedication it takes to truly find mastery, or zen, in the skills that we learn and the benefits of attempting to achieve it. The skills that I'm slowly trying to master would be a combination of photography, storytelling, and writing. Yet, I can see these faults in myself in the fact that I'm quick to dismiss the idea of daily writing because the path is too long. So here we are, not truly a book review, but an attempt to look at those deep-seated self-doubts within me, and put some work into trying to work towards my own state of zen and mastery.

Great book.

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