You’ve all heard a lot of gurus say empty your mind in meditation, clear yourself of thoughts and don’t think anything. Well I’m not trying to peddle a belief system here, just trying to help you achieve greater life fulfilment by knowing the peak performance your body is capable of. In reality ‘no thoughts’ is impossible, the alive brain is a transmitter of electrical signals and it’s always going to have signals pulsing through it.
Rather than trying to not think, in mindfulness training you can focus on a single thing intensely increasing your ability to concentrate your thought. Now what is a desirable subject for focus?
A common focus of meditation is breath, body and senses, this gives the meditation an inward focus. When the breath is conscious and connected long enough the brainwaves slow down and you experience pleasure, its like oxygen sex. Knowing the intersection of your mind and body this way is a good start to learning to master your environment.
Our brainwaves function in Gamma state, which is hyper mode, reactive, often the fight and flight state can lead to anxiety, Beta where we spend most of the day alert and thinking, Alpha state where we slow down, less thinking more sensing like after a pleasurable experience, sex or yoga for example. Theta state where meditation begins, our mind is more visual and we begin to move into a deep state of awareness, more intuitive and have a capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving, I refer this stage to coaching space. And the Delta state which experienced meditators can reach in an alert state after decades of practice but most of us reach this final stage during deep, dreamless sleep.
We can also take our meditative concentration and focus on something external either in a restful state or during activity. The focus of todays blog is about the meditative brain on focus during activity.
When you focus your mind on an object or activity externally, you begin to really experience yourself concentrated externally, in fact it is a more selfless experience.
During sport being in the zone could be likened to a deep meditative state of flow. Flow is experienced when we become immersed in our environment and activity, a zen like state of becoming. Doing so with the intention to harness your emotion in service of the performance and learning channels the emotion into the task at hand. The hallmark of flow is often spontaneous rapture, joy and completeness while performing the activity. Thats why it is often pursued and the motivation to do so is high!
A quote by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who researched and coined the psychological state of “flow.”
“Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work is dissipated. We create ourselves by how we use this energy. Memories, thoughts and feelings are all shaped by how use it. And it is an energy under control, to do with as we please; hence attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
My father is an archer and when I had talks with him about my own practice and first ever transcendent experiences he referred to feeling similar during archery competitions when his focus was so concentrated that the bow, arrow and target became one with him and lost all sense of time. I recall him speaking of such experiences with great enthusiasm and childlike energy. Of course in this state a bullseye is inevitable and Dad, who at one stage of his sporting career won the Australian Nationals and now coaches younger athletes, some at Olympic level knows this is the key to being a champion.
Archery is a great sport to develop your focus through the mastery of an activity, I grew up at archery fields, can even shoot a straight arrow and was affectionatly named Maid Marion, it’s true! I don’t get to practice archery too often these days as my father would have like but apply these teachings to everyday activity with the same rewards. Im not seeking gold medals but rather effective coaching and personal developmental space.
Focus during the zen state can be developed for any activity, you just need to persist, find your own way and not get frustrated if you don’t notice immediately. It’s great to develop a sitting mindfulness practice first and then apply your learning whilst simultaneously doing an activity. The lower you brainwave frequency goes the more creativity you can experience and applying this ‘gear’ to your waking activity can be a truly rapturous experience! Imagine a world of enthusiastic people going about their business….
Give some attention to your activity today and become immersed and aware of the differences to how it will make you feel and the quality of your experiences. Approaching mindfulness with an open mind and playfulness will allow you to remain motivated long enough to explore the wonders of controlling your focus to experience life richly.
I’d love to hear some feedback, share your experiences of flojo or similar experiences benefits with us all!