Human experience is so exciting, because we can make changes at any time that we like. We have free will and we can decide. And it doesn’t require that we do anything drastic in order to make meaningful changes in our life. There are small things, small adjustments that we can make to make a huge difference.
One of the changes, is to embrace incremental improvement. Everyone starts at a certain level and we all have our capacity. So, if we accept our capacity rather than comparing ourselves to others and say ”what can I do with what I have now to improve?, then we are ready for incremental improvement.
So, incremental improvement means, do what you can now, with what you have and it’s enough. If you start with something small, and you make a tiny little change, even one molecule of change, will begin the process of improvement in your life.
One other analogies that I like to give is the wedge. A wedge has a small end and a big end. Now, you try to put the big end first, it won’t go. But, if you put the small end, and the tiniest little crack that you have in your life. For instance, if you want to start a spiritual practice, you may say I am so busy, I can’t do anything. I don’t have time. So, put in the smallest little practice that you can possibly imagine and then everyday apply just a tiny little bit of pressure. What happens is it begins to open for you; a space where you have your own spiritual practice, where you can take time to nourish your soul.
It’s very helpful to know that we all start as being unconsciously incompetent. That means I do not know that I am bad, I do not even know that there is something I should be doing. We get good outside influence; someone tells us, hey, here is a practice you can do to improve your life. That can wake us up and we can think oh actually I am incompetent in a particular area. Does not mean that we are bad people, but it just means we were not aware of it. But, once I become aware of it and I begin my practice, the next thing that happens, is I become consciously incompetent.
In other words, it’s a good thing to realize that you are bad at something because then you can make improvement and through practicing it and making mistakes and being very aware that those mistakes are valuable, then you come to the next level, gradually, and that is that you become consciously competent.
Now that requires doing the activity but doing it in a concentrated way. You’re deliberately doing it, but the next level is mastery and that’s called unconscious competence, and that means that the muscle memory is there; its there within your very being, it becomes part of you and all practice including spiritual practices like that. If you take your time to go through these various stages and let the process work for you, you will come to the highest level.
One of the concepts I love is “Mini Habits”. So, it’s very easy to get caught by inertia in this world. Means to be held down to inaction. For instance, you may be sitting in your room and think I have to clean my room but it’s too big of a job, So, what do i do, pick up one pencil, start with something, In the same way we can start a habit by starting something very small. Like if you want to start an exercise program, Don’t try to run a marathon the next week; you will die, but just try to walk till the end of the block and come back. And when you start to put yourselves in motion you break out of inertia and everything else becomes possible.
In the same way, in spiritual practice, there are essential practices that we can take up each day. For instance, the chanting of our mantras or reading of wisdom literature that fills our minds and helps to develop our intelligence on a higher level. These practices, even if done for a few minutes, will begin to infiltrate the rest of our life and give us some fortification.
Become aware of the fact that you can change. Then you can look for practical ways in which to apply this every day. Start somewhere and see and you will notice that you are a remarkable being. Every human being has this power to improve himself, to get better through incremental practice. So, just try and see what happens. You will be encouraged because you will see when you do something deliberately and you try to improve yourselves, many other forces that you were not expecting will come to being if you are just a little bit brave about it. So, go for it.
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