There are many psychology paths an athlete can take to improve their game, all roads lead to the same place, a more rational sense of self.
An organic, unrefined athlete who feeds on truth and the raw power of the self.
I’m often asked what sports psychology books can be read. Personally I’ve yet to find one that stacks up against the pure psychology based greats. We tend to sugarcoat it or beat it up in sport to make it palatable, but the lesson loses its punch.
The journey of self discovery is an uncomfortable process, not for the faint hearted. A big heart you will most certainly need and an unquenchable thirst for knowing your own truth. What better quest could there ever be?
It’s a journey worth taking. Joseph Campbell, a famous mythologist wrote the book “The hero’s journey”, where he uses mythology to paint the picture of the hero’s return journey through crisis and challenge, back to his own sense of self, and the potential unlimited power that resides there.
Another book that I found to be a practical athletes almanac is “The Power of Now” brilliantly written by Eckart Tolle. I read this book many years ago and scribbled coaching notes from it as I was astounded by the parallels that were hidden in the pages of his book to sport and athletes. It triggered something very deep in me that I recognised, but could not put my finger on at the time.
The book certainly resonated with the athlete in me and the human being at the same time. Perhaps no surprise really when you consider that an athletes life is a realm of self imposed challenge, discomfort and pain.
Later on, in my own personal self exploration I found great questions in the non duality teaching. I loved the fact that the responsibility was with me, and that there was no ideology, methodology or religion attached to it, and only me to find the answers. I realised that in order to scale the mountain I had to let go of the rope.
The thing that struck me most about this teaching is the rational grounded nature of it. It turned me inwards to look at the truth, and I was astounded to find there a human life that had completely forgotten itself.
Once again in my own exploration I found a treasure trove of athletic applications. The biggest of those being that we can actually choose our mode of operation, the pure non judgemental rationale of awareness, or the filtered and conditioned realm of mind and ego.
For me it’s an easy choice, I choose rationale over confusion. This doesn’t mean my conditioned mind wont speak, it is as it does! My choice then is to listen or ignore. I try to ignore my minds disfunction where I find it.
Now for anyone who wants to climb the ladder of performance to your personal zenith, you’d better be prepared to ignore the egos nonsense. You can forget the beat ups. There is no more powerful realm than awareness meeting reality.
One of the non dual greats writes a few simple paragraphs from his classic book “I am that” below that applies to life and performance. The writing is so straight forward and yet so completely life changing if you can follow the prescription.
Give up all questions but one: Who am I? After all, the only thing you can be sure of is that you are. The sense of “I am” is certain. The idea “I am this” is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality.
Discover all that you are not: body, feelings, thoughts, time, space, this or that; nothing concrete or abstract, which you can perceive can be you. The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive.
~Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
To me the most exciting thing about this realisation is the lack of boundary, the lack of limitation, an endless field of possibility is in fact a life’s definition.
In this exploration an athlete, or anyone wanting to know the true power of the self, can find out directly in their own experience that all of the limitation is built and interwoven into the conditioned fabric of the mind ego, which once again started in earnest at age 5.
I think we can all recall an innocence and a purity prior to the school age in ourselves. The truth prior to the polarisation and brainwashing of societies limitation. Not that it’s wrong or right, rather just that it is a fact.
Nisargadatta’s nondual teaching points us directly back to our own experience, it’s not something you have to take his word for, you can directly check it out and experience it. The interesting thing is that you can recall it, that you can think to yourself, “yes I have been here before”.
It’s the first taste of the truth, that hooks you, and you know deeply that it won’t be easy, years of conditioning can only be undone by the willing.
But like all things in sport and life – “You gotta want it”!
To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not!
This is the most difficult step of any true psychological transformation. All the things you have attached yourself to, or identified yourself with, will crumble under the weight of this inner exploration.
Many turn back or simply don’t won’t to go there, it’s just too uncomfortable for many, this is what Campbell is referring to when he writes of “The Hero’s Journey”.
But if you have lined yourself up as wanting the best from yourself, you first have to uncover who you actually are, not who you think you are, those are two very different entity’s, one is make believe and the other is reality in its purest form.
Reality is the hero’s journey that takes the human on a full circle that has him arrive back at himself, where he started.
Back to the being that knew itself as pure awareness prior to the teaching of limitation, lack and fear that begins in earnest at 5 years of age.
Arriving back at pure awareness takes you directly out of judgment, awareness doesn’t care about the conditions in your life, it is life itself, it’s the “only” real deal.
Doesn’t take a genius to figure out the application for sports performance.
The process and the self? Or, the process, the mind ego and the self. Which one weighs less?
Realise deeply that in order to cross the road it takes life to deliver you, you don’t need the mind and it’s judgments to cross the road.
Now try crossing the road with only your mind but without life! Where are you now? When was the last time you considered it?
You are life, you picked up the mind, had it programmed by others and now live your life by its perimeters. You live life within the confines of its corridors, like a bad dream the corridors keep shifting, sometimes every few minutes. It is not original to you.
Our likes, dislikes, bigotry’s, fears, doubts, hatreds, aversions and all manner of systematic disfunction occur in the corridors of the mind, as we try negotiate what we think is life and living.
We can’t have a big mind, it’s an oxymoron when we talk about someone’s else’s small mindedness. All minds are small, some are programmed more effectively or more in line with society’s standards than others, but in the end a mind is a mind.
Accept that mind cannot understand the depth of its own source and you begin to peel back the limitation, you begin expanding the horizon of possibility and you start the journey of aligning yourself with the truth of the hero’s journey.
All paths lead to the one place they came from, the only place they can leave and return to, you, awareness!
An athlete armed with that knowledge is a very dangerous one indeed!