Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Recently The Independent published an article on sport psychology - stating that the recent winner of the The Open Championship was won by Oosthuizen thanks to a little red dot. Yes, not so much due to talent, skill and fortune (which, according to Sport psychologist Tim Rees, make little difference when you are at professional level and at the top of your league) but due to a small mark placed strategically on his glove. The idea behind this being that whenever the mind of the champion began to wander, waver and succumb to the incredible pressure these sports professionals are under, he would see the red dot and bring his mind back to what he was doing, on his shot - rather than on what he had just done or on what he would just about to fail to do.

Other sports mental-training techniques include archiving negative thoughts in a hypothetical black box to be taken out if necessary after the game, match or shot in question. This to encourage sports men and women to move on rather than dwell on mistakes made, leading to sharpened concentration at critical moments.

What I found interesting about the dot theory is the not the red mark in itself but what it represents - remembering. We all know that all we need to do is to stay calm and focused - many of us also know how to do that. The problem seems to be for many us - remembering to do so. In times of stress we have adrenalin surging through our bodies making staying still and calm difficult, we also have our critical mind admonishing us for our pitiful and disastrous (or what seems so at the time) mistakes, and this is a recipe for forgetfulness as well as nerves.

At home in our hallway to the surprise of many guests and distress of some of the younger visitors we have a particularly scary fierce looking buddhist mask hanging in the hallway facing the front door (I am not a buddhist - I only have buddhist tendencies- I don't go all the way). Personally I doubt he is there to scare away evil spirits (or toddlers - although that would be nice sometimes) , just as I don't believe a crucifix is there to remind us of our sins, nor that muslim's obligatory daily prayer times are implemented to honor allah, or the sound of a church bells a pleasant way of telling the time, but that these are all instruments to help us to remember. In the religious camp to help us to remember how (at the very least) to behave. Karen Armstrong a winner of the prestigious TED prize points out that belief is a relatively recent concept in religion. Originally it was about behavior about treating others as you would wish yourself to be treated - rather than about who has the "biggest and best imaginary friend" as I once heard God being described as.

Rituals and religious icons also help to bring us back to earth - to the here and now. Just as the red dot helped bring focus to a golf player I think a statue of buddha could be used to do the same. A visual alarm bell telling us to be awake, receptive focused and present. But as Dr. Rees has just proven you can be inventive, if you don't share my buddhist tendencies choose something different.

For homework this week I invite you to invent yourself a ritual or icon to use to remind yourself of BEING (rather than living in and torturing yourself about the future and or past, delete where appropriate).

Possible rituals do not have to be offerings to buddha, they could include mental focus every time you walk to and from the bus stop, every time you bring a glass of water to your lips, or you could set an alarm (on your devise of choice) to go off every hour to give yourselves an audial "keep awake keep present" instrument . If you are more of the kinesthetic type and don't give stuff about aesthetics, keep an elastic band around your wrist and ping it every hour. Use your imagination.

Icons or red dot substitutes could include something from nature as a wonderful visual visceral way to keep focused, which is why I presume everyone wants a house by and with a view of the sea (or lake, mountain, forest or at least tree, which are just as effective). If a house by the sea is out of your budget and a walk to it geographically and logistically impossible, a beautiful picture on show at your home could be an alternative -splash out - buy something you love that offers nothing more than pure beauty so every time your gaze washes over the masterpiece (photo, painting, print) you come alive. This is priceless! A plant and a fireplace would serve as both icon and ritual - Icon; aesthetic pleasure combined with the ritual of watering or lighting a fire (it appears that looking after a plant can extend your life) even better, a vegetable garden. For more portable icons the choice is yours.

I would dissuade you from tattoos on the forehead however.


andrea.claudia.69 said...

"Non è la calma assoluta la legge del mare" - Gandhi.
A me Gandhi piace.
E mi piace, se mi è concesso, potermi pensare come ad un mare.
Come il mare essere di profondità diverse pure mutevoli in virtù del clima. Come il mare essere di condizioni climatiche diverse, contemporaneamente: arrabbiato su una sponda, calmo su un'altra.
Come il mare influenzare il colore del cielo con quanto celo sotto la superficie. Mi piace impregnare la terra del mio rumore e del mio umore come lasciare affiorare tracce di tesori nascosti. Prendo tutto del mio essere senza rinnegarne una goccia: piuttosto continuo a suonare quella nota stonata fintantoché non sento il suono che mi piace. Eccolo il mio punto: i miei suoni interiori. E' là che vado quando devo ritrovarmi.
Poi ho anche una statuetta di Shiva Nataraja sul comodino (e la Fortuna al mio fianco).

Tess Privett said...

I too have different little staues and offering bowls dotted around the house - I'm not a buddhist but a buddhist sympathizer and if a statue of Buddha can sometimes help me to be patient and not threaten to throw all my kids toys over the baclony if they don't sop pulling each other's hair out immediately, then I'm a happy bunny. I can't say the statues are a potent makers of peacebut but....sometimes as a reminder they help. Packing my bags and moving to Buenos Aires might be a bit more more effective though.

channel said...

Hello Tess, I'm french and I follow a yoga training to become a teacher, I really enjoy your blog, your thoughts and photos. Have a nice day

Tess Privett said...

Hi Channel!
How is your teacher training course coming on? I hope well! Thanks so much for your comment - much appreciated! If you are ever over here in Milan please feel free to come to one of my classes - seeing other people teach is a great way to learn.