Practice Portable Skills

Dear Matthew,

The best kind of practice is practice you can do constantly! You know this about meditation. Nothing like doing some quick practice while sitting in the subway. You are in luck, because a lot of these practices build off of the foundation you've lain with meditation.

1. Internal sense of time

Here's how you practice. Think what time you think it is. Check your watch. Record how much you were off by. Keep doing this until you are very accurate. Here's to knowing what time it is without looking! When would this be useful? Well, it can be rude to check your watch during a conversation. Instead, just know when you have to leave!

2. Internal sense of direction

Think about where you think north is. Check where north is. Record how much you were off by. Keep doing this until you are very accurate. This is actually very easy to do using the military time system. Always keep track of rotations on the clock. Why would this be useful? Because having to glance down at a smart phone to navigate is silly. Also hard to do while sprinting. Much better to just always know where you are headed.

3. Sight

Yes, seeing is a skill. A more and more neglected one, too, as people tend to spend all their time staring into screens. Practice being aware of the entire field of vision at once. Especially concentrate on getting both edges of the peripheral vision at once. A great place to practice this is on the subway, when sitting sideways in the middle of the car. Try to see every movement everyone makes on both sides. This way you will notice more. Being able to see "sideways" also lets you covertly observe people when doing intense people watching for character studies. There's never a need to stare at someone unless you want their attention. Whenever you are reading, push the text slightly out of your optimal range and let your eyes strain slightly to refocus. This is training the eyes to see further. It's a gradual process, just like ruining your eyes by training them to see shorter was.

4. Hearing

Hearing too is a skill. Listen to music on the lowest volume setting possible. Practice hearing all 360 degrees around you, and at every distance you are able. Try to extend the edge of your hearing radius. The quieter you are, the better you can hear, as there is no signal interference. You've mastered the silent breath and sitting still through meditation, now see how far you can extend the hearing radius when you really focus on it.

5. Feeling

To master ninjitsu and other physical skills it is necessary to maintain full body awareness. Seek out muscles, internal organs, and patches of skin that are normally tuned out and integrate them into normal awareness. When you make any movement you should feel every part of the body as the movement happens. You are already pretty good at pinpointing and maintaining body awareness through meditation, now you have to make it the default state. You should always feel your clothing and hair on you, until they feel like extensions of your body. That's what hair is, sensory extension cables that happens to pick up very fine vibrations. Feel variations of air pressure on the skin.

6. Smelling

Unfortunately for humans our olfactory nerve bundle is very limited, but you probably haven't been practicing how to smell very effectively. You actually have a pretty sensitive nose, which is why you spend most of the time ignoring smells. That's a waste, though, you are just throwing away information. You've been told a lot of things smell bad, when they really don't. They just smell unusual. People are a prime example. People don't smell bad, they all just smell unusual. In fact, scent is a prime signal of sexual compatibility. You want to be with someone who smells good to you. Most people don't realize this, but you will continue to as you use your nose: people smell different depending on their emotional state. Happy, confident, relaxed smells good, whereas stressed and angry do not smell good. Smells also tell you a lot about what a person eats, though you have a lot more experimentation to do before you can start to draw conclusions here.

7. Integration

When you first started out, you could really only engage one sense fully at a time. Now you have progressed to the point where you can perform panoramic vision and hearing at once. This gives you great situational awareness. However, the goal is really to integrate every sense, and make that the default state of awareness. This way if three people attacked you (one from behind) due to the combination of seeing and hearing you would have a model of where each was (unless the one from behind walked very quietly) and, because you have maintained body awareness during this, can respond effectively.

8. Doing things silently

Everything can be done stealthily. Noise is lost mechanical energy due to inefficiency. You should practice doing everything you do as quietly as possible, because not only will you be stealthy, you'll save yourself effort by doing it the most efficient way. You love to minimize waste, and every sound you make with a footstep is wasted energy. Walking in absolute silence is amazing, because it is a full body work out. That's why it is hard at first, a lot of your muscles had been neglected and underused from doing things the inefficient way. Think about how strong your psoas, arch, and calves have gotten since you started walking silently.

9. Feeling X for no reason

You don't need a reason to feel happy. You can feel happy just because you want to. Since discovering meditation, you've got to wonder, why should you need a reason to be happy? Just be happy all the time. You are getting pretty good at this when you remember to do it, but you've got to practice until it is a default. You know how to trigger the brain into happiness.

You should make joy into a default. And make confidence a default. And make relaxation a default. And make curiosity a default. Really, just make yourself into a maelstrom of magnanimity, a pulsar of positivity. There's no reason not to.

10. Shifting perspectives

In the course of observing something if you can find how it is tragic, how it is humorous, how it is mundane, how it is extraordinary.

Whenever you meet someone, try to enter their mind as best you can. Observe their posture, manner and mirror it. Listen to them. There is so much information in a person's voice. Listen to the modulation, the timbre, the volume, the pitch, the rhythm, the phrasing, the style, the usage. A person can tell you so much more than they think they can. Match your communication. People love it when you are ‘on their wave length’ so to speak. This is excellent practice for play acting, pretending, mimicry, identity swapping, and other fun games that can be played with our ‘personalities’ or masks.

All of this allows you to view a situation from many perspectives, a generally useful cognitive ability. Sometimes the solution is obvious with the right view point. Sometimes you need to understand something from a friend’s perspective so you can comfort them appropriately.

11. Memory

Memory palaces, peg systems, mnemonic systems. These all exist in your head, so of course you can practice them anywhere.

12. Strength & Balance

Yeah, strength is a skill. These are super easy to train. Take every opportunity to stand on one bent leg. Opportunities to practice strength are very plentiful. You can do a pistol or one armed push-up anywhere.