by Othon Molina, Ph.d.c, LMT, PhD.
The experts say we barely use 10% of our minds. I wouldn’t be so sure about that or very proud of it either. What an unexplored area of the body. How many other functions does it do that we are not aware of. What about the mind as a muscle, athletes, businessmen, people of all types are looking into many areas of training – the mind. The latest research shows that the old fallacey of loosing mental powers doesen’t have to happen with age. Now they say you can still build new neurons even into what we call old age. It is also discovered that by using the mind just like a muscle we can make it stronger. There are several ways in sports; using imagery, relaxation and mental clarity excercises. Ther are other ways to strengthen it as well; reading, is great for the mind, do cross word puzzules, learn a new language, play music and learn to play an instrument. Stop watching so much TV it’s what I use to call mindless meditation, well it is and mindless is what you get. So as long as we work on the body and mind, we will get the best of both worlds. We will look into all the parts of holistic training which includes; mind, body, nutrition and spirit.
Lets start with the understanding of the brain. It’s the bio-computer of the body. It’s the organ that controls all the bodily functions, muscles, organs, glands, speech, systems, imagination thoughts etc. Well it controls more than we are concious of that’s for sure.
So where do we start to fully use this most incredible computer for improvement in health, performance and happiness. We need need to learn how to use it. It just makes sense. However, it takes training practice, observation and understanding, to be able to use it with control. Some people can just do anything, others of us need to try them a few hundred times before we get it. It’s also critical to have someone that can really teach you tools to be able to get control of it yourself. Tools, time, teacher, thinking, trying, transendance are all needed to get to the point where we can harnece the power of the mind.
Mind training for athletic competition and excellence; The first principles are attitude and heart. Athletic endever is a way to tap into the most deepest parts of our unknown mind and bodies. This can be a great learning experience, but unfortunatly we got lost on the way to the park. We made winning more important than cooperation, friendship, heck peace of mind or just plain fun. We take ourselves way too seriously. We need to look at the attitude with which we approach the sport. Do we love to compete for competition or do we get upset and stressed if we lose. We know that the most powerful mind space for athletic performance is to be able to get in the “ZONE”. That means into that deep state of mind/body where thoughts, trivial emotions, or problems don’t exist. In technical terms the state of Alpha. Many people experience this “ZONE” the problem is many times we don’t have control of when or where we can experience it.
On the other hand we want to be the best and we train. In joy, we compete hard and when you lose its ok. You set your goals and you follow them. You don’t drag the last competition around in your head, you get free of negative thoughts and focus and imagine a perfect outcome. Imagery is one of the most widly used tools in sports. The coach use to say, just imagine clearing the bar. Close your eyes and visualize making the basket. This was way back in the fifties and sixties, we hardly knew what it meant but we knew it worked. The reasearch has been out forever we just need to keep it simple, and put it to use.
Our self image in competition has a lot to do with our ability when the chips are down. When you are in the heat of competition, is where the most powerful feelings and emotions will surface. This is when the practice and mental training will matter most. We are affected by past emotional occurrences that keep us from attaining self mastery. At every level and starting with the most basic level outlook. Knowing who you are is critical.
Our outlook on the world, positive or negative affects our personal power to create our own destiny. Ultimately we are the masters of our reality, we have to realize that we need to take responsibility for all our outcomes. We create our results and must be willing to accept this fact to be able to master our minds to create other positive things. If you cannot change who you are, you have to change the things you want!
Concentration – the Zen of mind training( in all athletic and life activities, is an important factor in performance of the mind). Learning to quiet the mind for pin-pointed efficiency has been practiced for centuries, there are many paths to these great arts. Here are a few to start with.
Meditation; Yes! athletes need to be able to completely relax for top performance. Why? Because any tension, not only in the muscles but in thought can cause constriction, loss of coordination or even pain!
There are several meditative types of activities to quiet the mind. The difference between Zen and other forms of meditation, is Zen is the art of nothingness. In other words some teachers say to focus on a black velvet picture and then take away the frame. Other forms such as Hindu, or Tibetan give you mantras which are chants or yantras which are visual tools to focus on. These still non-moving techniques where you focus on breathing, visual or vocal exercises, for focus and concentration are dificult without proper training. Us westerners like the ones with goals or some sort of focus. We have to drive towards something, to be in touch with the mind-body communication
There is also tai-chi, which I highly recommend for athletes and all people alike, for the power and softness it teaches. Slow movement for learning total body balance and awareness. Most of all, learning the unseen and sometimes untapped inner power called chi, or mana. In ancient times the athletes were like warriors, saints, or heroes, for they worked with a mighty force. This is what ultra performance is about the high all athleletes are adicted to. It’s amazing sometimes we forget our mind and follow the body around and do silly stuff because of the intensity of this energy. The women could say it’s our testosteron, but I know female atheletes who are even more intense than men. To be able to call on this inner source of power, beyond the physical when you hit the wall is the name of the game.
Yoga for flexibility and quieting the mind. A body that is soft pliable, movable, and still strong will allow the mind to perform much better. I’m also talking about a flexible mind. If we are a type A athlete, it’s stressful enough to just train and live on this planet. If you’re obsessed, pushing the body and mind only leads to breakdown at some point in time. Patience is a great tool for athletes, and this is acheived through the intergration of MIND/BODY. Once the balance is there, we can ignight the flame of spirit. The other part of the equasion, not necessaraly religion, or anything so misterious, just our own form of spiritual feeling. Whatever gets us in the “ZONE”, that is the key.
We must train our wills, scientifically and spiritually we have the best of all worlds. We have the most up-to-date information available to us, as well as all the ancient ways for ultimate balance. All the sports psychology, sports programs, doctors, magazines and not to mention races, marathons, triathalons, bike races, basketball, you name it, we are going nuts with sports. Sports training, mind training, health foods, there is an explosion of information these days take advantage of it. Great! what a blast we are having. It must be working right! if not, what it all boils down to; If you can’t apply the tools to achieving your results, change the tools, or change your mind. The key is you have to plan to get anywhere. Bucky said it’s 75% planning and 25% doing.
So just a brief summary;
1. Set your our goals (for you mind training) short term and long term. Write it as if it’s already happened.
2. Purpose-what you want to get out of it, very clearly stated. The nut’s and bolts
3. Priorities a list of all the steps you need to take -if you have been doing the same thing and getting the same results you need to do different things. It may look like this:
My attitude needs to change with affirmations of positive statements (being concious every second of the day is incredibly difficult, yet very simple). Relaxation exercises starting with 3 times a week working to every day at least 1/2 hr. Try laying down and starting with your feet and working up to the head. Very detailed, very focused. New attitude to competition or someting you want to do different. Changeing some attitude that you think that you can do without. Taking a class or several seminars in yoga, martial arts something different and following through. Work on your music and art, take a dance class.
4. The material needed, tapes, books, personal trainer or counseling. Do your reasearch, you can try out a couple of different programs before you commint. BUT COMMIT.
5. What are your rewards for your perseverance and dedication to yourself? This is the most beautifl part of getting serious about anything in your life. Part of our mind training overlaps into body training of course, but spirit is the prize. Later you find nutrition is very important to mind training as well, see story on nutrition or read any well known good book on basics Dr. Andrew Weil. Suffice to say that what you eat too, is what you think. With patience and perseverance in your mind training will be as important as your sport, physical training program will add to the quality of your life and will keep you healthy in body, mind and spirit.
For any questions please call:
Othon Molina Ph.D. c LMT