Here’s a short excerpt from my e-book ‘Zen Mind, Sports Mind’.
Keep reading to find out how to get your free copy; it’s my special Christmas gift to you!
“We must create our lives, free ourselves, become detached, simply attentive to here and now: everything lies in that”. Taisen Deshimura, The Zen Way to the Martial Arts
What have a Buddhist monk practising meditation and a sports-person exhibiting peak performance got in common?
- Alpha brainwave activity!
It is common knowledge in sporting and scientific circles that athletes performing at the very peak of their abilities can experience an increased level of this type of brain activity – a phenomena which is usually only associated with deep relaxation, such as during meditation.
The brain is an electrochemical organ which uses EM energies to function.
Electrical activity emanating from the brain is displayed in the form of brainwaves.
BETA: 13-30 cycles per second - awaking awareness, extroversion, concentration, logical thinking, and active conversation. A teacher or a person making a speech would both be in beta when they are engaged in their work.
ALPHA: 7-13 cycles per second - relaxation times, non-arousal, meditation, hypnosis.
THETA: 4-7 cycles per second - day dreaming, dreaming, creativity, paranormal phenomena, ESP.
DELTA: 1.5 or less cycles per second – deep, dreamless sleep.
There are four categories of these brainwaves. They range from the high amplitude, low frequency Delta to the low amplitude, high frequency Beta.
Men, women and children of all ages and cultures experience the same characteristic brainwaves.
During meditation, brainwaves alter from the normal waking consciousness Beta waves to the slower Alpha waves, promoting in the person a state of relaxed yet alert concentration and calm acceptance, where there is little or no internal chatter.
This zone or flow state is experienced in sport as a realm of optimal performance, where everything goes right, clicks into place and the athlete seems to function on auto-pilot.
The experience of the zone usually takes the player by surprise, as it comes at a moment of intense physical effort and mental concentration. It is almost as though athletes who push themselves to the edge of endurance often experience something like a transcendent state which some refer to as mystical or otherworldly – a state achieved by those who meditate on a regular basis, as Samadhi or ‘enlightenment’.
The attainment of this state makes possible superior or peak performances that seem effortless, in which the player allows his or her mind and body to do what they have been trained to do. A state of absorbed concentration is achieved, so focused that it amounts to absolute immersion in the sporting activity without any conscious interference, in the way of self-doubt, loss of confidence, nerves or stress.
Research shows these moments of spontaneous excellence (which are also experienced by artists, dancers, musicians, entertainers and even computer game-players) usually occur when a person’s mind and body are stretched to the limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something athletes, and indeed anyone engaged in intense mental and/or physical effort can make happen.
Through a combination of hard work, an untiring dedication to practice and an understanding of how the mind can be trained to gain the optimum conditions necessary for accessing the zone, an athlete can regularly and effortlessly exhibit peak performance and prepare the ground to experience moments of sheer perfection.
The 90% Factor – why sport is a mind game
It’s a well known fact that the athlete or team with the superior mental focus and resilience is the one that wins, regardless of their levels of skill and fitness. This goes for champions and relatively unknowns and it holds true for the worlds of tennis, golf, snooker, marathon running and motor-sport.
Take the case of the Wimbledon champion playing with the crowd on his or her side - they have just as much if not more psychological pressure on them than the relatively unknown and un-seeded player coming to the championship for the fist time.
Take also the challenger to the world snooker title, playing up against the unbeaten champ. Only by unswerving mental resilience can the challenge hope to defeat the defending champion and if he doesn’t believe in his mind that he can do it – if he can’t visualize himself winning - he will simply give away any advantage points he’s gained on account of not being tough enough mentally.
In the martial arts and boxing, it’s well-known that the fight is won or lost even before the first punch is thrown.
Each fighter exhibits confidence or lack of it, by the look in their eye, their body language and their mind-set, even as they walk into the ring.
Another case in point is the golfer who tries to tell himself not to hit the ball into the trees down the left hand side of the fairway, and proceeds to do just that! The list goes on and on.
In marathon running, at least 90% of the effort expended is psychological. Sure, the athlete has to train hard and be in great shape physically, but to believe in yourself and seeing yourself winning and getting through the hard times and ‘the wall’ counts for more than endless hours on the treadmill. It’s the mind that quits first, then the body.
Finally, take rugby and the poor fly-half who has the job of winning an extra two-point conversion after his team scores a try. If he misses a goal kick or two his confidence levels goes right down and he begins to doubt his ability. Once he doubts his ability to score, he is bound to miss.
Attention control, effective thinking, goal setting, stress management and visualization (the 5 pointed model that drives the pursuit of peak performance in sports psychology) – are as vital to athletic excellence as physical fitness, technical skill and passion.
Understanding how to use the mind effectively has long been the pursuit of traditional sports psychology, and this is what we’ll look at now…
To get your free copy of my e-book ‘Zen Mind, Sports Mind’ just send me an email, telling me a little about the highs and lows of competing in your particular sport.
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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all the best for 2017