Sportspersons must learn to use the Mind as an instrument. Like using any instrument, such as a tennis racquet, cricket bat, golf club or your hands to throw a touchdown or legs to kick a football or your body to do gymnastics.
So the instrument could be a racquet, or a bat or a golf club, which the hands use to perform an action, or the hands themselves which are used to throw a touch down pass or the legs to kick a ball or the body which is used to perform intricate gymnastic routines.
All of these instruments are used to improve the skills related to them. Each is used differently, yet it is the skill with which you use them, that determines how skill full you are. The more skill full you are, the better your performance as a sportsperson.
The Vedas teach us “The skill of using the mind as our instrument”. The Vedas say : The mind is not an independent and free entity; but my mind is my instrument.
The instrument should never have freedom of its own. Thus, as regards to the mind, I must have control. When I say ‘’I”, I mean my intellect. The intellect is my thinking capacity, my rational capacity, my capacity to objectively see this world. However, when I look at my mind, I will notice that my mind has a mind of it’s own. It seems not to be under MY control.
All the activities of the mind are in the form of thoughts only. These thoughts could be of happiness, joy, fear, anxiety, worry or anything. The mind continues to have 1000’s of types of thoughts, which if left uncontrolled cause various types of emotional disturbances. All the emotional disturbances cause problems for the sportsperson. Even too much happiness can become a distraction, which leads to errors while playing any sport.
Till the match is over, even at match point, at the last putt to win the green jacket, or with a second to go before the race is over, if the emotional disturbances in the forms of thoughts distract you, then the result can be defeat instead of victory.
It is meaningless to tell someone not to entertain particular type of thoughts. The more the person tries not to have such thoughts, the more he or she will have them. In fact, it may even become an obsession, a fixation.
Another incorrect view that is held as regards thoughts, is to work upon yourself in such a way so as to become thoughtless or to have no thoughts. That’s not possible. Though a lot of people seem to advise such a method. I however would not like to indulge it that discussion, but thought it important to mention that it’s avoidable to work towards thoughtlessness.
Then, the question would be:
What can I do about my thoughts? Especially those that disturb me?
Luckily, we all have Free Will. The Free will is not to determine what you should or should not think, but how you should go along with or not go along with or deal with the thoughts that keep on arising in your mind.
Hence all sportspersons should learn the skill to replace any thought by another thought of their choice. All mind disturbances are thoughts only.
We have work upon ourselves and introduce a thought that we want and allow the thought that is currently there to leave, the mind can only have one thought at a time. The thought we had a moment ago which we replaced, may come back. However, we should attempt to bring the mind back to the thought I want and not the thought that the mind is independently generating.
This is a skill which we have to gain. It is never natural or instinctive. This skill we have to work to gain. For gaining the skill, the method is meditation.
What is meditation? How does meditation work?
“Meditation is a mental exercise in which I do not allow the mind to do what it wants, but make it do what I want”.
In meditation, I have to ask the mind to drop all its fancied activities. Because, all the time the mind is involved in its own pre-occupation. As I said the mind has got its own, way of thinking, why me, why me, why me or why not me , why not me or. It is endless gibberish.
Before meditation, during meditation and after meditation, I should be able to request my mind to stop talking. talking ,talking, talking, gibberish, gibberish…. Nah nah nah, blah, blah, blah…..
Let’s take the example of a grad slam tennis match. During the 2 weeks, huge crowds come to enjoy the rallies and the tennis skills these tennis players display. The crowd will be shouting, encouraging, booing and having a fun time.
After a long rally or an intense point , or set point or match point, when the player is ready for the next serve, still there are disturbances in the crowd. The rustling and bustling has not settled down.
Then the chair umpire will say: “Quiet, please”, “Quiet, please”. Then, we observe that the entire stadium falls silent. There will be absolute silence! Like that, when I sit in meditation and tell my mind , ‘OK, Mind, NO MORE , rustling and bustling, you have to settled down. Say “Quiet, please”. Then introduce a mantra for the mind to meditate upon.
It can be any form of meditation. The simplest form of meditation is mental chanting of any mantrā ( A mantra is a meaningful word, or a sentence. Preferably from the Veda’s (ancient texts). In meditation, the mind should drop its preoccupation one hundred percent. Just by practicing 10- 20 minutes or so of meditation every day, if I can command the mind to do concentrate upon the mantra and if the mind does that, then I am developing mental strength. The mind will go back to it unnecessary chatter, my job in meditation is to bring it back to the mantra. The more I can bring it back and the less it wanders, the stronger my mental strength becomes.
Later, as one progresses you may extend the time to 30 minutes and beyond, also you can learn to bring the mind back to what is required to be done at any place, and finally under any condition (like when the crowd is shouting and you are nervous.). At will, if I can displace the pre-occupational thoughts and replace it with what ever thought I choose then, I am developing mental strength.
Success will not come initially. This mental strength skill will come gradually, like any other skill we have to work for it and through repeated efforts we can achieve it. Vacating the mind of emotional disturbances at will is mental liberation.
So go ahead and learn the skill of using the mind as your best instrument. Go ahead and become a Champion!