By Jayne Storey, T’ai Chi Instructor and Specialist Coach to Elite Athletes Chi-Power SPORTS
The practice of meditation is a necessary skill for those who wish to enhance their baseline creativity and develop the intelligence, insight and intuition necessary to become a Thought-Leader. After all, outstanding minds in all fields — from the arts, to business and indeed sport — have one thing in common, and that is the ability to switch off the conscious mind, thereby gaining access into nature’s fundamental laws and the familiar “Eureka!” cry of a sudden flash of insight.
In science, art and business the big ideas often blossom instantaneously in our minds, full-blown and unbidden. Archimedes, Newton, Einstein — some of the most brilliant minds of all time uncovered nature’s secrets, not in the laboratory but getting in the bath, sitting under an apple tree and relaxing on a train respectively (Einstein formulated some of his General Theory of Relativity sitting on a slow moving train watching a faster train moving alongside, making it appear as if the carriage he was travelling in was moving backwards… J K Rowling of Harry Potter fame had a similar experience to this as she was relaxing on a train ride when the entire concept for the Harry Potter phenomena manifested instantaneously in her mind).
From scientist then to great inventors, and in particular Thomas Edison, who actively and intentionally used the meditative state to develop groundbreaking ideas. While sitting in his favourite armchair holding objects in his open palms, Edison would relax and allow himself to go into the ‘alpha-state’ of creative insight that existed in the realm between being fully awake and nodding-off, thus dropping whatever he was holding. His aim was to maintain the ‘alpha-state’ by switching off his conscious mind, thus gaining access into nature’s own intelligence.
We now know this ‘alpha-state’ used by Edison as “the zone” — a state of relaxed concentration crucial for outstanding performance in sports. I spend the majority of my working life teaching golfers, tennis-players and other elite athletes how to use meditation to get into this sporting zone, leaving them free from self-interference such as doubt and anxiety…and able to play their game instinctively and intuitively.
So how can you develop your own intuition? How can you have more creative insights and breakthroughs for innovation in design, technology, products and services? And raise your golf or tennis-game in the process? The answer is simple: start practising meditation.
So, What is Meditation?
Commonly known as Zen, this is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Ch’an — derived originally from the Sanskrit dhyana — which may be translated as meditation or contemplation. Very simply, meditation is the art of sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing.
Why Does it Work?
Research shows that meditation can actually train the mind and reshape the brain. What scientists have discovered is that with enough practise, the neurons in the brain will re-shape themselves, and many parts of the brain responsible for taking in information, actually slow down or go off-line altogether during meditation, enabling the practitioner to have a more positive experience of themselves and detach from negative thoughts and self-interference.
How to Practise
1. Sit upright on a stool or hard-backed chair — feet firmly on the ground, palms resting on your thighs. Hold the crown of your head up, as if it were held by a hook or thread. Tuck your chin under slightly and relax your shoulders. Look straight ahead, if possible at a blank wall about a metre or so in front of you.
2. Once you are comfortable, begin to focus your attention on your breathing. You can do this in a number of ways, from simply observing your breath — counting each breath from 1 to 10 - or repeating silently in your mind “I am breathing in / I am breathing out”.
3. Be aware that your mind will rebel against the stillness and will generate thoughts all the time. Simply relax, staying quietly focused on your breath and your mind will become calmer and clearer.
4. Aim to sit quietly like this for at least 20 minutes, four times per week. When you feel ready, you can lengthen the time you spend in meditation and once this practise becomes part of your weekly routine, you will find yourself much calmer in stressful situations and will have the necessary resources to detach from negative thoughts and emotions.
From my personal experience practising and teaching this ancient art for over two decades, I'm convinced that anyone practising meditation can systematically upgrade their creativity and dramatically boost their productivity. It works for individuals as well as teams, and many companies now advocate the use of a “Chill-Out” room for employees to unwind, empty their mind and thus enhance their productivity.
A soft-skill it may be, but like the soft-styled martial art of T’ai Chi which is devastating in the right hands, the benefits to be gained from meditation should not be overlooked.
Jayne Storey is Europe’s leading teacher of meditation to elite golfers, tennis-players and other athletes. She has been practising and teaching T’ai Chi (the world’s most popular martial art) for the past two decades. Her coaching helps athletes, executives and entrepreneurs achieve and maintain ‘the zone’, for superior performance under pressure. For more information, please ring UK Mobile: 07986 447 250 or visit www.chipowersports.com
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