Meditation as a Means of Sports Performance Improvement (or Sales
Improvement, or Life
Imagine a golfer who only plays on weekends, yet manages to maintain
a pretty low handicap. It happens.
Maybe not to you, and certainly not to me. But it happens. Now
imagine this golfer in a member-guest tournament. He's brought his
boss, who is not a great golfer, but he's
the boss. How do you
imagine the low handicap weekend golfer will do - in a tournament,
with his boss present? He will want to do especially well, won't he?
Think he will be emotionally attached to how well he does? Of
course, he will. Did you guess that he will tighten up and not shoot
his best game? That would be my bet, too. But, in this case, we both
lose the bet.
How could that be? Luck? Maybe. But this golfer is also a
meditator. He knows how to bring himself to a calm, stress-
free "place". He knows how to consciously get in the "zone", where
with quiet inner joy, he placidly and smilingly "watches" himself
play golf. He has learned how to be a witness to events, and to be
emotionally non-attached to the outcome. His mind stays quiet. His
muscles stay relaxed, and his swing is almost always fluid and
Yogi Berra is credited with saying, "You can't hit the ball and
think at the same time." At first read, that may be thought of as
another oxymoronic Yogi-ism. But it contains great insight. Thinking
is linear and mechanical - Tab A into Slot B. When we think, we have
an ideo-motor response. Muscles tighten in response to the real or
imagined event that is about to present itself. Whether that is a
stationary golf ball or a baseball bearing down on us at 90+ miles
We don't have to think to tie our shoes, walk, drive a car, or
perform a host of other tasks that we have so thoroughly learned
that they have been turned over to our "automatic" pilot. This is
especially apparent to those who have found themselves pulling in
their home driveway behind the wheel of their car, and not recalling
any interceding event between leaving the office and pulling in the
driveway. Who was driving?
How did the driver manage to avoid accidents and obey traffic
signals, and not hit anyone (we hope)?
When we have learned the mechanics of a sport, we can, at different
levels, stop "thinking" and just let our automatic pilot take over.
It is when the thinker gets in the way and tries to take control
that we tighten up, tense up emotionally and perform at less than
our what-have-become-natural abilities. This tension pops up
whenever we become self-conscious. You've seen the stilted self-
conscious walk and the cemented grin of insincerity that accompanies
a power handshake, right?
We are so schooled to "think" that we have been socially coerced
into a seriousness that has forgotten the freedom of intuitive
consciousness and the childlike joy of being in the flow, in the
zone. That was our natural state, but now is reserved for peak
moment, peak performance and is revered by athletes who love to tell
of the ball becoming bigger and moving in slow motion. Our "think"
side of the brain has muscled up and muscled into our identity to
the point that we think that thoughts are our only tools for
survival or accomplishment, for the most part.
Meditation, on the other hand, can muscle up our "intuitive" side
and return us to a balanced flow as a natural state, where BOTH our
thinking processes and our intuitive grace become tools for not only
survival, but great joy, and a renewed, reborn, spirit of enthusiasm
for life. Now, after years of identifying ourselves as only a
thinker, there may be a lot of fear and doubt, or at least
intellectual resistance to tapping into our intuitive side - or even
admitting to the possibility that there may be a whole new world
with a whole new perspective "our there" waiting for us. OK, before
we get too cosmic, let's get back to sports. Learn to meditate, find
a meditation teacher, like the golfer, and you may find that not
only does your golf score improve, but your entire life scorecard
may begin to improve.
Jeff Belyea, PhD
Mindgoal Goal Achievement Strategies