THE BLOG

Kobe Bryant, Anoushka Shankar, and You -- On Mastery

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I'm not exactly card-carrying with any affiliation or membership these days. Less and less it the need to belong and be accepted showing itself around my connection with any groups. As I find more and more freedom in my Heart through self-love, I'm not interested in finding a glamorous group of some sort to accept me and white-wash over the places I haven't been willing to do the work around releasing insecurity myself. And so I'm increasingly finding myself showing up around groups of people with a hell of a lot more freedom to feel, be, do, and speak from a relaxed and open place. And a potent side-effect is that it's heightened my interest in and capacity for observing, and noticing more deeply without judgment.

Mastery...

To say that I'm fascinated with mastery would be a bit like suggesting that Winnie The Pooh doesn't really mind honey all that much. I feel like a tractor beam is leading me, drawing me to people and groups that are demonstrating mastery.

Here's my short-list from just the last couple of months:

* Anoushka Shankar (one of Ravi Shankar's daughters, the other being Norah Jones) at the Hollywood Bowl
* Pilobolus (dance troup) at the Music Center in downtown LA
* Deva Premal, Miten, and Manose (Hybrid of Devotional Music from Eastern traditions and a crisp full Western Sound)
* Elena Brower (certified Anusara Teacher and co-owner/founder of Virayoga in Soho, NYC)
* David Elliott (healer, writer, artist, visionary)
* Kobe Bryant (point guard LA Lakers)

That Kobe Bryant is on my radar, along with point guards for a handfull of other basketball teams this early in the season makes me laugh and surprises the heck out of me. Maybe I should've seen it coming.

Why a surprise?

Ah, well...as a kid I didn't know I was gay, but I did know that I wasn't good at sports. At least that's the story I told myself for a lot of years. There's this one memory of me at about age 5 or 6 in the back yard with my Dad teaching me whiffle ball, and me getting bored and frustrated at my inability to hit the ball. My Dad, on the other hand, excelled at sports of any sort. However, he had a pretty short temper back then, and wasn't high on patience for extended periods of time. So my insecurity fueled disinterest fueled his impatience, and as far as I can remember, that was the end of him trying to draw out any bit of athletic prowess lurking in my 45lb frame.

What I had no grasp of at that age, and for a long time thereafter, was discipline. So many things came easily to me that I never needed to learn to focus my energy consistently over time. I never had to crack a book, and still got straight A's all the way until middle school. When math and science became difficult, and I had teachers I didn't connect with, my grades sank faster than a lead balloon.

Cut to the last few weeks as I keep finding myself glued to the TV at the gym watching NBA games at the beginning of the season and other teams than my home city champions, the LA Lakers. And not only am I watching, I'm seeing basketball in ways I've never seen it before. Back when I'd watch the end of the odd Lakers game in the Finals, I'd always be watching the guy with the ball. Now...I find myself almost watching the game peripherally...I'm watching the whole court, and how both teams move as units through the space of the court with a single unified focus. I'm getting excited just discribing it. When any single player becomes self-conscious, he separates from the unit, and the team has a leak in its energy. When all the players let go of their self-interest in pursuit of the goal, there's so much life-force and power pulsating that they're virtually unstoppable.

This is where the mastery comes in on the heels of discipline. I've been sharing my take on discipline for a while now ~ becoming a disciple of something consistently over time, aligning thought, word, and action. This kind of sustained practice and single-minded focus purifies the disciple (or point-guard, artist, mother, writer) of thoughts, beliefs, actions, and habits that just leak energy and create distractions from his or her aim or Goal. With enough leaks, the ego can convince me that I'm terrible at whatever I'm pursuing and get me to quit...and without the awareness that I can plug the leaks myself and get on with the business of my goal. It'll try to convince me of something like, 'Oh...I'm just not that creative/skilled/smart/(insert word of choice) after all. Bullshit. Excuse my 'French'... Absolute and total bullshit.

Every single human being is highly creative. Most of us have just confused creativity with skill. Can you appreciate beauty? You're creative.

Creativity is not the ability to draw the vase of flowers on your dining room table with exacting photo-realism. That's skill. And skill comes from discipline. Hours and hours and hours of getting your hands familiar with the pencils and how each one works with your hands so that when it comes time to bring an idea through from your mind to the paper, your body is sensitive and honed to be able to follow your intentions and draw the vase of flowers. Same goes for anything really.

The difference I see between masters and amateurs is discipline over time. Discipline is not a prison sentence or some form of forced labor. It's discipleship. And with discipleship, there are very few, if any, shortcuts. And as I'm discovering, from discipline free of expectations and/or judgments, flows a nectar unlike nearly any other.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells his friend and disciple Arjuna, "You have a right to the actions, but not to the fruit of your actions." What?!? Is he saying we have to work really hard with no perks? No...

As best as I understand him, Krishna is telling Arjuna that fruits will either come or not, and by focusing solely on the fruits of the actions, attachments and expectations are formed out of dissatisfaction or insecurity; the idea that something or someone outside of me can fix me.

However, as I plunge deeper and deeper into Self-Love, I'm finding contentment. And when contentment is present, I don't feel like there's anything missing, nothing wrong to fix, no better experience to hunt down.

I'm about 100% certain that all this sharpened focus on Self-Love over six months has made it possible for me to be interested in the process of mastery rather than just being fixated on the fruits of mastery.

I'm fascinated by taking deeper care and attention with myself, my life, and my environment physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. As each of these areas is getting honed, it's getting easier to be a conduit for the Creativity we all have equal access to. This is one of the most exciting times in my life so far, and the more I focus on discipline (with a good dose of humor along the way), the more fun I'm having, and the more excited I get each morning to hop out of bed and explore the new day.