As a young boy Mahatma Gandhi grew up scrawny, timid and extremely fearful. He was constantly attacked, picked on and bullied by his peers. He was characterized as a little boy with big eyes and gigantic ears. He was relentlessly haunted by fears of ghosts, serpents and thieves. He could not bare to even be in a room alone and later in life he even acknowledged himself as a “coward”.
Yet, what do we know as Gandhi the man today? He was a fearless leader who fought for peace and was undeniable in his pursuits for peace through nonviolence. So how did this shift occur?
The story goes that as a boy Gandhi was under the care of a family servant named Rambha. Rambha felt compassion for this timid fearful boy. Gandhi would come running to Rambha everyday after school after being bullied and pummeled by his peers from school. Rambha explained to the young Gandhi that “there is no shame in being fearful, but try this, whenever you are threatened instead of running away, stand firm and repeat these words, Rama, Rama, Rama, this will turn your fear into courage. (Rama is one of the Hindu words for God). So young Gandhi tried this and found it helpful.
He began practicing this mantra over and over and he would walk for miles repeating this mantra. It calmed his mind and his body and eventually, systematically it took on a whole- mind- body connection of it’s own that stayed with him for the rest of his life and was the mover that became his fearlessness in protesting violence.
“When done systematically, mantra has a powerful effect on the brain. It gathers and focuses the energy of the mind. It teaches the mind to focus on one point and it cultivates the steadiness that over time becomes an unshakable evenness of temper. When the mind is steadied it is not shaken by fear”. (Stephen Cope).”
The mind grabs hold of the Mantra and it becomes focused, calm, and centered and over time it becomes a more constant state of being, a focused state of being. In today’s neuroscience they refer to concepts like this as neuroplasticity. A quiet mind is a focused mind; a focused mind is a champion’s mind. Be a Champion.
Inner awareness and knowing yourself are key to dominating the mental game and reaching your MAP (maximum athletic potential). Also stated were some of the key principles in overcoming fears, resetting, establishing focus, and directing your focus.
One of the key ways of doing this is through breathing and self talk or a cue statement. These are actionable events that take place within seconds on the court and their sole purpose is to thrust you into the NOW with the intent of directing and narrowing your focus and attention on the specific goal or task at hand. If we were to take this concept a step further in order to set the tone and establish a more permeable, concrete state of mind we would train ourselves off the court mentally. This would involve the practice of dedicated and focused breathing sessions. Once we have established our breath we can now direct our mind and attention to how we want to be when we perform (on and off the court). The story of Gandhi mentioned earlier is a great example.
Competition brings out a full range of emotions and thoughts in a person: fear, confidence, anxiety, joy, pain and so on. To be dominant and successful in the moment we MUST be “IN THE MOMENT”. All sorts of variables during competition are trying to knock us off or out of our MOMENT and it is those individuals that are unshakable that dominate the mental game. They recover quickly, do not panic and are not stirred by the moment.
Having YOUR mantra, your unshakable being or voice will help you Be in the Moment and stand strong and firm despite any outcomes. Here are some ways to find your personal Mantra.
- Finding your inner voice, your inner mantra is up to you. You must take a strong hard looks at yourself.
- I have found it most help to get to my own inner voice through the help of a mentor, therapist, trainer, or trusted person.
- Play with what speaks to you the most. Sit with yourself and be your mantra, give it a voice, nourish it and let it cultivate as it did with Gandhi.
It is with confidence that I say your inner voice and mantra will take you exactly to the place you want to go and need to be. Some people’s mantra is a vision. These work interchangeably and I spoke about vision in my previous blog.
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