While clearly not a main-stream approach to the mental game, there has been much research into Buddhist meditation (Zen) and the many proven benefits to athletes and performers, not least of which is the fact that a ‘quiet mind’ enables fluid, powerful and accurate motion, particularly in pressure situations like competition and performance.
It’s interesting to note that a Buddhist monk practising meditation and an athlete or artist ‘in the Zone’ both exhibit alpha-brainwave activity, conducive to a state of relaxed concentration, dispelling internal distractions (such as mental interference and reflections on performance) as well as external distractions (such as the score, the audience, the weather, pressure from sponsors etc.)
The meditative state (Zen-mind/the Zone) is also proven to help individuals master bio-chemistry (nerves/adrenaline) as the effects of slow, deep, abdominal breathing soothe the brain and nervous-system and help keep mind and emotions ‘neutral’ even under the most intense pressure.
Perhaps most importantly of all though for those performing at the highest levels is the ability to stay loose and fluid, and deliver powerful yet precise motion, particularly during crucial moments when it’s necessary to perform well.
Here’s a video which explains some of the benefits of focusing on the breath and staying ‘in the present’:
Again, Zen meditation – the simple act of focusing on the breath – helps keep the mind free from mental interference and when the mind is quiet, the body is more able to produce fluid motion, as signals about the intended movement can pass directly to the motor-system rather than being captured by the pre-frontal cortex (negating the typical ‘paralysis-by-analysis’ scenario that can see world-class athletes and performers choke under pressure).
In other words, when your mind is quiet, your body can move with power, grace and ease, uninterrupted by the analytical part of the mind which wants to talk to you about what you’re doing!
Remember the formula for the Zone from my previous posts: Skill + Passion - Mental Interference
I’ve used this one simple technique of seated meditation (Zen) to successfully coach sports-people and performers of all ages and abilities to win contests, competitions and tournaments - from juniors to masters and from club level to Olympic and world-class.
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