Do you think if you want to take your first baby steps in the direction of spirituality? How would you go about it? Spirituality is about understanding your inner self and to start connecting with your inner self the first step is to Focus on yourself and restrain your mind from thinking about anything else sounds too simple but is not as easy as it sounds. It’s all about Focus. I would say if you need some lessons on the art of focusing its better to learn the art from a decorated sportsmen than a Spiritual teacher as a first step.
Have you ever paid close attention to the sports of Archery? I assume no. If you look at the scorecards of the archers who compete in the Olympics there is almost nothing which separates the best from the rest. It’s a sport which awards precision and the amount of focus required to finish on the podium is at the best not quantifiable. I quoted the sport Archery as the art of an arrow hitting the target is a testament to the Archers immense focus. As a matter of fact any sportsman who reaches the highest echelons of his sport is a reward for his unwavering Focus. As I started this article discussing Archery one name comes to the Mind not a modern day Olympic archer but the archer for all times the great Indian Pandava Prince Arjuna. He was the undisputed greatest archer who has ever lived and will ever live. Having quoted Arjuna I better share a story which immortalizes his ability to Focus.
In a great challenge, Droṇa Arjuna’s Teacher set up a wooden bird upon a tree, and from across the adjacent river, asked the princes to shoot it down by striking its eye. When prince Yudiṣṭhira Arjunas brother tried first, Droṇa asked him what he saw. Yudiṣṭhira replied that he saw Droṇa, his brothers, the river, the forest, the tree and the bird. Droṇa replied that Yudiṣṭhira would fail and asks another prince to step forward. The others, even Ashwatthama ( Drona’s son) gave similar replies, and Droṇāwas disappointed with all. But when Arjuna stepped forth, he could only see the eye of the bird and nothing else. Droṇa asked him to shoot, and Arjuna did strike the bird down in the eye. This story makes FOCUS synonymous with Arjuna.
Focus is key for any successful pursuit in any profession. However when we look at sportsperson their ability to focus under the glare of public expectation puts them in a different league when compared to successful people from other professions. How else could you explain a player either a soccer player or a cricket player performing in front of vociferous crowds with such focus not distracted by the immediate externalities?
After a great performance, athletes have described a feeling of being “in the zone.” In this state, they feel invincible, as if the game slowed down, the crowd noise fell silent and they achieved an incredible focus on their mission. What is this Superman-like state and how can players enter it when they most need it? Like the feeling of being moved down a river by the current, this positive groove has been described as a flow. In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields, though has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions. Achieving flow is often referred to as being in the zone.
Two Authors Michael Murphy and Rhea White in their book in the zone took it a step further and Drawing on more than 4500 stories from both professional and amateur athletes, examined sportsmen and sportswomen’s experiences of transcendence while participating in sporting activities. They include tales of ESP, out-of-body experiences and fits of strength. Murphy and White uncover this hidden dimension of sport and draw parallels between these uncanny experiences and the fabled powers of mystics and yogis.
Now if you are a student of spirituality and taking the first steps towards the practice of meditation where the idea is to focus and attain a state of Dhyana and a deeper awareness of the self it certainly wouldn’t hurt to read some biographies of some famous sportsmen or watch them perform under great pressure and understand how they experience the feeling of being in the Zone. Sportsmen experience the feeling of being in the Zone and produce performances of sheer genius as they cut themselves off from all the externalities and look at the task at hand through a tunnel vision and the same applies in the state of Dhyana where the aim is to Focus inwards and work slowly towards self-realization. No wonder the first known martial artists who practiced Judo and Taekwondo modern Olympic sports were Shaolin Monks from China around the 5th century. Very spiritual men who chose to live a spiritually guided life.