Mental Representation- the art of achieving more by doing less

Mental Representation- the art of achieving more by doing less

In the words of Swami Mukundananda:

Quite a few years ago I had taken a group of devotees to my spiritual master and was introducing them to him one by one. 

One of those Satsanghis was a state-level cricket player of Orissa. Knowing that Kripalu Ji Maharaj was a cricket enthusiast and loved to follow the Indian team whenever it played in the world arena, I said to him “Maharaji so and so as a Ranji trophy player from Orissa” and he is hoping to make it to the Indian Test team in the near future.

Maharaj Ji looked at him, then he looked at me and said, “for that, you need a lot of knowledge”. That set me thinking to play of grave of cricket, what kind of knowledge do you need. My understanding of this matter came when I learnt about blindfold chess.

Let me tell you about it: this was the year 1924. A hotel room had been divided into two; on one side were 26 players and on the other side was one Russian Grand Master Alexander Alekhine. These players were all playing Alexander Alekhine together. The only difference was they all could see their pieces on their chessboards while Alekhine could see none.

Alexander Alekhine

Every time a player made a move, a runner would come up to him and inform him that on this board this piece has been moved from such and such square to such and such square.

Alexander Alekhine would write out his response and the runner would go and make that move. This display of blindfold chess went on for 12 hours at a stretch with only a short dinner break in between.

Alec Hein made no notes, he had no references, he was keeping 26 boards 832 pieces, 164 squares in his mind at the same time. When it finally ended he had won 16 of those games, lost five and drawn five in the best display of blindfold chess ever.

How did he develop this tremendous ability?

It all started when he was a school student. He would take chess problems to school. As he could not take the board, so he would write out the problem or take it in his mind and keep working on it until the day came when he could play a whole game without looking at the chessboard.

He realized he had the talent and ability to be one of the best players in the world. In 1914, alongside many other grandmasters, he was in Berlin for a tournament.

When Germany declared war on France and Russia and these chess grandmasters were arrested. To pass the time, they started playing blindfold chess with each other. Subsequently, when he was released and returned to Russia, he joined the red cross on the battleground. He was injured by the Austrian Army and he was arrested and taken by them. Since his back had been hurt, they tied him up to the bed.

What to do now? Again, he continued playing blindfold chess.

After the war was over in 1921, he emigrated to France. He needed money to take care of himself and as a way of earning he started giving demonstration games of blindfold chess playing many opponents together until the game of 1924 when he set the world record with 26 opponents.

Subsequently, from 1927 to 1946 for 20 years at a stretch with a tiny break, he reigned as the World Chess Champion and he is ranked as one of the top 10 chess players in history.

But that one game he played is regarded as the best ever because of the quality of the opponents on the other side.

How is it that chess grandmasters can keep full games in their minds?

The answer is when they play, they have the ability to refer to many many past games which they have studied, learned and mastered. That is why in the 1990s there was no supercomputer that could defeat world chess grandmasters and when scientists analyzed, they realized that these grandmasters were referencing memories of 50000 games while they were playing.

Today, of course, supercomputers are better and can defeat these grandmasters but the learning here is that experts in any field develop mental representations of their activities. 

These mental representations are sequences of thoughts, actions, relationships, rules, experiences that are stored up in their long-term memory that they can access and recall easily to their short-term memory to perform at elite levels.

Let me read to you a little about the mental representation of a sculptor from my latest book “Seven divine laws to awaken your best self

Ramkinker Baij was a famous indian sculptor of the last century. He lived in Shanti Niketan, the famous school for fine arts in Kolkata, West Bengal. He is credited with popularizing modern indian sculpture.

One day he unveiled a stone statue of the buddha that he had worked upon with great love. Press Reporters asked him the secret by which he made the statue so profound and buddha like.

He responded: “When I first looked at the stone block I could see the buddha in it. All I did was to remove what was not the buddha.

It was so simple. These experts in any field by virtue of their learning, practice and experience they’ve developed such tremendous representations.

So a test player for example when he plays, he knows the previous ball was a googly; the next ball, the chances are it will be this! The second highest probability is, it will be this.

When the ball drops at that point his long term memory knows there are these six ways the ball can go. These are the options of the strokes I have to play and in a fraction of a moment that player accesses the mental representations to play at levels that amazes those who are unaware of the processes that are taking place.

So in any field of human endeavor, mastery is possible by developing sufficient mental representations and these will come as a consequence of deliberate practice.

What is deliberate practice?

You know tennis players, they play for 30 years and they don’t get any better at the age of 50 compared to what they were at the age of 20. In fact, they get worse.

They are practicing but it is not deliberate practice. 

So if we wish to keep on improving the practice must be done with awareness and focus on removing our weaknesses and enhancing our strengths.

There must be a system of feedback on how well we did and an evaluation of our performance.

Whichever field you wish to improve in whether it is self-improvement or growth of divine love for god in your heart by deliberate practice you will move ahead with rapid strides.

Be motivated 

Understand the process

Move ahead to conquer and achieve.

May the blessings of lord krishna be upon you.

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