Improving your mental game: Nurturing Silence
Western psychology provides us with a series of tricks and gimmicks to cover-up, suppress and manage the fears and doubts that make peak athletic performance so difficult in competitive situations. Admittedly, these tricks and gimmicks will be able to provide us with some short-term relief at times (although at other times they will prove to be hopelessly inadequate), but they will not go to the root of the problem. This means that those very same fears and doubts will arise again at those critical times when we most need to be calm and centered.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not against western psychology, I just feel it does not go deep enough. It certainly has some short-term benefits that can help players, but unless we also adopt a more long-term approach to help us address the root of the problem, we will not experience the inner space both on and off the court which is the key to both peak athletic performance and ultimate peace and happiness in our lives.
Yes, ultimately the inner and outer come together in the center and one does not have to be sacrificed for the other.
In the recently released DVD, ‘The wholistic approach to achieving peak athletic performance: the mental game’, I have clearly and in detail outlined a three step program to help us deal with the root of the fear that we harbor inside. This program is designed to nurture a deep silence within us that will allow the flow state to happen to us.
Silence is not something we as a society are comfortable with. In fact, silence is avoided like the plague because it is seen as unproductive and boring. ‘Noise’ and constant activity have become our escapes from this boredom; an escape ultimately that is from ourselves.
There are two kinds of ‘noise’. The first kind springs from the modern era of technology that we are presently in the midst of: the outer noise. Music, television, cell phones, texting, computers, i pods, etc., all ensure that we are never quiet or alone. Again, please do not misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with any of these devices, in fact, quite the opposite; there is tremendous convenience in technology and it has made us much more productive and efficient both as a society and as individuals.
However, the fact remains that often these devices keep us away from ourselves. They remain escapes from restlessness, boredom and loneliness; all of which happen extremely easily to one raised in this modern era of constant stimulation. More importantly, the restlessness and boredom does not go away with these escapes, they are just covered up; and just like a drug addict, we will need to have a constant ‘fix’ of stimulation to continue to survive.
The second source of ‘noise’ is much deeper and therefore much harder to recognize. It is the inner ‘noise’ that comes from our minds. It is the constant conversation we are having with ourselves. We can have outer silence and still not have the inner silence that is so important for peak athletic performance. This inner dialogue is so much an intricate part of us that most people are not even aware that their mind is constantly chattering. In the east, the conscious mind is called the ‘monkey mind’ because of its restless and fidgety nature, which results in the need for constant activity. It is this inner dialogue which is constantly scheming for ways to fulfill its desires; and which is judging and commenting on all that comes before it.
Why is silence such an essential component of peak athletic performance? If we look carefully, we will discover that it is the constant conversation in our heads that is the chief culprit in preventing us from performing to our full athletic potential. It is this inner dialogue that fuels the emotional roller–coaster in individuals in general and athletes in particular.
It is this dialogue that is the source of the fear and doubt that arises within us and if this inner conversation disappears, so too will our fears. Obviously, when I talk of the disappearance of this dialogue I mean it has to end at its root; not just the dialogue, but the consciousness from which the dialogue arises.
Of course, western psychology believes that we can simply transform the negative dialogue that creates fear into a more positive dialogue which will nurture confidence. Unfortunately, while this may sound logical, existentially it just does not happen. Doubt and confidence are intrinsically connected and this dialogue will vacillate from positive to negative and we will have no control over it. Try it for yourself. Trust no expert; have your own experience.
Also, it is consciousness that needs to change, not dialogue. It is not about changing the mind-set, but more of transcending the mind and rising in consciousness. When there is a shift in consciousness, the inner dialogue will decrease markedly automatically, without any effort on your part.
So the next big question is how do we nurture this silence?
In reality, we cannot bring the silence because silence is the natural condition it needs no cause. It is the ‘noise’ that we are creating through our desires, expectations and fears and it is the ‘noise’ that we need to examine and explore.
As I have said the new DVD that has just been released describes the path along which we can walk so that silence can happen to us.
Briefly, the three step program involves Introspection, Conscious Living and Meditation.
The meditation is not intellectual, but existential meaning it is not simply mental gyrations or analysis, but the knowing that arises from direct experience. When the mind is silent we transcend that part of us which is conditioned and we are able to access a higher knowing and deeper understanding of things as they are.
Introspection is the processing of the direct knowing that arises through the watching that happens during meditation.
Conscious living is living mindfully by being total in all our actions; not just the ones from which we gain ego-gratification or recognition, but also the very mundane activities of everyday life.
Again, please do not misunderstand, it is not that mind is never needed or that it is somehow bad. It is not; it is a wonderful mechanism which is amazing in so many ways and it has a tremendous role on the outer, but for the inner we need to access the silence that allows us to tap into a higher intelligence; an intelligence that is extremely powerful and all knowing……..in sports, we call it the zone state and it is an illogical state. It is a state that the mind cannot grasp because it is beyond mind and that is why we as a culture in general and sports psychologists in general ignore it. This state describes what it means to be present.
The mind defines our reality so how can we even begin to understand (awareness through watching) that which is beyond mind; and yet, if we do not develop this understanding that will lead us to trust and the ability to let-go, that higher intelligence will never be experienced by us and the zone state will remain an elusive intellectual concept for most and an existential accident that happens once in a while to the very fortunate amongst us.