Thursday, April 9, 2015

ART of AWE

For me ART is a the metaphor for living life.  A for me is about Acknowledging all my blessings and all things especially the mystery.  R for is me is about Respect, treating everything as divine or sacred.  People, places and things all have a unique and special place and role.  Finally T is about Transform, or how I best use those things that are here and now.

There are so many forms of ART and ways to be an artist. Expressing my gratitude is my ultimate form of motivation to apply my creativity to show my thanks. Acknowledging what is true, Respecting this truth and Transforming this truth to be of greater service. 

Rumi once acknowledged, “there are hundreds of ways to kneel down and kiss the ground.” This for me is a natural remedy for my “dis-being-at-ease” or mental disease. I sometimes visualize a vibrant white light with mystical power mending my broken heart. Accepting this truth is my first step toward liberation. The power of healing spirit surrounds us if only we can skillfully perform a sort of heart surgery. Since all our “issues are in the tissues” what about the ongoing involuntary circulatory pump that symbolizes not just our compassion but also the source of courage. Acknowledging what is truly happening gives me new possibility toward greater freedom.

Respecting life is truly showing up.  We are at critical time where the spirit of earth is knocking at our individual and collective doors. Can we show our respect and allow it in? I wish to liberate myself by opening my heart to a greater reverence for life. How I respect what is deep in my soul is a fearless act.

When I transform my attitude toward things I become gentle with myself  This transformation of kindness is the final artful step.  Our very earth and body are screaming out to be seen, heard, healed and prayed for and we can transform the here and now by listening .

Quieting my mind and listening to my heart is how I have been transforming my stress to see the opportunities it creates. If I can show up with the good and bad while treating them as equals. Showing up to what transforms my heartbeat I can learn how to manage it and reverse the damage stress and worry can cause. I believe the all wise and enlightened being have found peace this way. If I can transform my consciousness to find my heart, the more grace and inner peace I can cultivate.

Wise teachers from the beginning of time have learned about the power of  ART allowing us to mend our broken hearts. Just acknowledging positive feelings such as appreciation, care, or compassion, I can create dramatic changes in my heart rhythms. Exercising respect lessens my stress and anger and leads to my greater well-being. This then transforms a chain of biological changes including lessening blood pressure and stress hormone levels. I can increase my immune system activity, and anti-aging hormones by simply focusing on my heart energy.

ART engage my heart, body, and mind into balance. Quieting my mind and acknowledging my heart widens my sense of respect and transforms my worst shadows.  ART provides me with the courage to be present to even the greatest things that haunt me. Whether things are a blessing or a curse, Rumi writes about ART when he said;

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.


May we all awaken with this exercise of Acknowledging truth, Respecting life and Transforming our hearts!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Initiation Song from the Finders' Lodge


Please bring strange things. 
Please come bringing new things. 
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us, 
be always coming home.

- Ursula LeGuinInitiation Song from the Finders' Lodge

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Teaching Tennis and Meditation

Four-plus decades of teaching tennis has been a form of meditation for me I call “PRO focus zone.” There is emerging medical evidence documenting how mindfulness improves stress management and other facets of well-being.

Teaching tennis has allowed me to reach greater “presence.” The acronym PRO – Pause, Relax and Open – can help expand the student’s focus zone, arriving fully in the present

Getting my students to “pause” between points and slow down – becoming more responsive and less reactive – increases their concentration during play. Next, getting my students to “relax” and focus on mentally showing up can both lessen errors and increase my students’ accuracy. Finally, I coach my pupils to “open” themselves to play to their full potential. 

Teaching “PRO focus zone” is the practice of imparting grace to the entire body/mind experience of learning this game. The mind becomes quiet and the body listens, observes and responds to how a student can have fun as a better tennis player. Both meditation and tennis share what is most critical: fine tuning when you make exact contact with the ball. Focusing on this specific contact point of racquet on the ball is a lesson in meditation. 

I teach my novices how to catch the ball on the strings with a simplified overhead stroke. I point out the vibrant popping sound when the ball precisely hits the middle of their racquet strings. It is fundamental for my students to diminish their errors and improve consistency. Exaggerating my students’ errors creates fun learning. I get them to hit two to 10 balls in a row. I urge them to place their shots away from me. I run them and make them realize how better it is to move instead of being moved. I do many drills around these two lessons of consistency and placement. 

I start off each morning by sitting in a tranquil, still way with relaxed attention. When I become more gentle and friendly, I can then observe more clearly the nature of my mental, emotional and physical activities. The “PRO focus zone” certainly applies to teaching tennis and dealing with my clients in similar fashion. 

Clarity comes when I observe more and foster observance of the nature of “being.” The key in both teaching and meditation is to observe rather than judge, otherwise we become hindered by such identification. 

As a PRO, I “pause” calming my mind and body. Pausing lessens my stress in whatever tennis instructional activity. Relaxing allows me to arrive in the present instead of wandering off in the past or future. This also lessens my student’s tension. The more I “relax,” the more my student “opens” to whatever I may suggest. When I become more “open” I discover what is most important for my student’s learning. Instructing tennis reveals various points of concentration that enable one to expand moment-to-moment attention and improves play. 

As I instruct from a response mode, I model “mindfulness.” When I pause, relax and open to the “PRO focus zone” both my student and I arrive at a common contact point. We celebrate pausing, relaxing and opening. Teaching the volley is an excellent example of learning responsive grace. 

Instructing tennis is a form of meditation since my focus allows me to teach awareness in the here and now. Just as a camera lens clicks, I develop a shot-by-shot process to be with and listen to my tennis sense or a clearer focus and understanding of my student’s shot possibilities. Countless hours of exploring how my students can tap into their bodies’ sensations can best direct their attention to sharpening their game 

Teaching “PRO focus zone” is the practice of imparting grace to the entire body/mind experience of learning this game and expanding their technique. When I get my students to find greater alertness and relaxed play, I guide them to their “PRO focus zone.” 

The more I can facilitate my students to find their “PRO focus zone,” the more they can direct the destination of their shots. I prompt my lesson to “arrive,” with placing the ball in a high percentage area (e.g. the service line T) that troubles future opponents. 

As I plant seeds of specific intentions, I also alert my students’ attention to find their own “PRO focus zone.” By simply directing my pupil to hit the ball at the bull’s eye instead of just the larger target, they increase their chance for the ball to arrive there. 

Many of my students hold their breath when following through on their shot. Reminding them to inhale on back swing and exhale on follow-through has assisted many of my students to improve performance. Getting my students to exhale with a calming “aaaaahhhhhh” sound or saying yes is another skillful tip.
Mindful tennis is how I get my students to pay greater attention to their “PRO focus zone.” I like the metaphor of rock climbing to understand this mindset of moment-to-moment awareness. It is a process of being alert and awake to how each moment unfolds. Greater attention comes to my teaching tennis when I constantly center my students’ numerous mind/body awareness skills. Visual cues are critical for me in skillful instruction since improved hand/eye coordination requires specific reference points in space to increase tennis shot execution, thus enhancing “PRO focus zone.” 

When teaching large clinics or camps, I become the eye of the hurricane where there is calm consciousness surrounded by the flurry of tennis activity. If I have to teach the entire day, then I focus on effortlessness, and when I remember to lessen my resistance I benefit more.

My “PRO focus zone” is about enjoying teaching and the fun exercise that results. I challenge you to find any great superstar that does not have some sort of “PRO focus zone.” I illustrate shots with a sense of effortlessness. I guide my student to enter the “PRO contact zone:” a flow state to improve their tempo of effortless effort (knees, hips and shoulders working in unity). Work is transformed into a ballet of play. 

I extend the “PRO focus zone” into positive stroke visualizations of how to gracefully hit the shot. Using exact mental images of championship form is how Olympians prepare for their gold medals. Imitating the pros creates a positive visual. This lessens distractions, doubt and other counter-productive thoughts. 

“PRO focus zone” cultivates skillful mental exercising. Pausing, relaxing and opening my students with this alertness creates a heightened state of play, and a focus on awareness. In turn, concentration can resolve aspects of your game that feel stuck, creating new flow. Increased awakening from moment-to-moment tennis play allows me to excel. 

I joke with my students by asking if they are “Re-Creation” or “Wreck-Creation.” Relaxing in the now with a sense of alertness is what I define as grace in the “PRO focus zone.” Tennis is your object of meditation. Arriving in the “PRO focus zone” happens when you teach and learn to pause, relax and open. 

For further information please refer to http://awakenedwithexercise.com and or  www.eztennistips.com.

A few helpful on court tips:

• Develop the routine between practice sessions where you Pause, Relax and Open (PRO) to provide greater renewal, concentration and continuity in teaching. 
• Create the space – I establish a special space to remember to be a mindful instructor.
• Visualize what to concentrate on – Relax and see yourself hit an ace. Focus on being fully empty and graceful, and visualize how you will go forth with your students. 
• Establish a comfortable posture of being a grounded teacher – As you instruct, stand upright, poised and balanced. Combine alertness and openness, allowing your hands to firmly yet comfortably grip your racquet. Use visual cues to be receptive contacts points such as where the exact point in space you will toss your serve.
• Visualize relaxing yourself – Before key points take a quick relaxing body scan: start at your scalp and move this mental massage gently downward, letting go and relaxing and softening each part of your body. Visualize yourself as a bowl of pure, clear, still water.
• Instruct with a loving kind mind set – Empty and clear yourself with a loving, kind presence in each moment stimulating fresh possibilities. 
• Just be as you teach – Effortless effort is go with the flow. Less identification more unification. Transform the “I” with the “eye contact.” Nothing to resist, just be in the moment. 
• Awakening to teach mind/body sensations – Use this time out to explore listening to and feeling the entire moment–to-moment experience with your senses totally open. Explore any senses.
• Focus on a specific teaching contact point – Select various contact points expanding your student’s “focus zone.” 

Just as in tennis when you make exact contact with the ball, it is the most critical element of play. Focusing on this instructing contact point deepens their mindful presence. Such contact points are: 1) Physical sensations – contact of the ball 2) Breathing – exhale on follow-through 3) Sounds of hitting the ball in middle of the strings.


Off the court helpful hints:
• Sit every day, even if it’s for a short period or several long pauses visualizing mindful tennis play. Remember your ZEN – play is work, and work is play! 
• Reflect regularly on your aspiration for improving tennis instruction. 
• Use inspiring resources to cultivate further mindfulness and awakened tennis skills.
• Remember off the court you can observe and lessen the judgement; accept what unfolds so as to awaken how you can further teach tennis. 
• Meditate with a teaching intention and instruct greater attention – awaken with exercise. 


this also appears in http://addvantageuspta.com/html/Dec2013.pdf,  page 17




Monday, November 18, 2013

Centering



Finding my center is an exercise of being aware in every moment.  Gathering and consolidating energy is much more beneficial then scattering it. Simple things like riding my bicycle or driving my car are examples as to why it is important to be mindful and centered.  

Centering requires a focused presence. As I expand this centered awareness it also welcomes a new level of happiness. Bringing a focus to my physical experience with a keen awareness on how my body feels in the “now” excels my potential. When I climb up a ladder I understand why it is important to be aware of each centered step.

Centering I better observe what is happening and judge less my present experience. This exercise discovers a deeper perspective of my greater self.  This takes me beyond my emotional stories and the concepts that imprison me. 

Centering is about listening to oneself at a core level. By becoming more focused I arrive with greater “hereness” and lessen my mind chatter. Such a simple practice of checking into my body gives me the opportunity to listen to the beat of my heart.  Center what is present at any given second gives me greater vitality. This exercise allows me to just “be”.  Getting me out of my head into my physical experience lessens distracting thoughts. 

Experiment on centering by first getting yourself in a comfortable sitting posture. Next place your attention to come into your body. Watch how your lungs fill up with air and then how you exhale. How does the air touch your nose or mouth? Feel how your bottom connects with your chair, your feet with the floor. Explore by taking a quick body-scan. Feel the heat or tingling of your skin. Notice how you can relax your muscles, mind and bones when you are more sensitive to bodily sensations. Observe what happens when you pay attention to your physical senses how they arise and fall away.

As you focus on this bodily quality become curious about it, yet limit thought to a specific texture, temperature, and the quality of this body feeling (e.g. tired, restless, energetic, nervous, pulsating). What is happening now in your body? Now wait several minutes and see if what is happening is still happening in the same way. Centering always brings you back to core body sensations. Does it change much or just shift slightly? Is there a kind of easing or opening, a sense of being firmly grounded?

The power of centering comes when you shift from your head to your body. With an interested attention do you notice what is now going on with your body? Reframe what is going on by centering your physical self beyond emotions. Invite yourself to become playful and fully explore all aspects of your body. 

Bring a creative quality to this exercise. Center yourself so to observe your body like a changing weather system? Does your stomach make noises?  Have you changed your breathing? Can you open, and soften so to release any tension in your body? Does relaxing help you find a better center?

Like an eye of a hurricane relax find the stillness in the middle. Let go and relax, just observe you center.   Without resistance come to your core, whether you soften any of your muscles or release tension in from your feet, ankles, calves, knees, hamstrings, stomach, back, shoulders, throat, jaw, mouth, eyes or scalp.  Simply bring your attention back to your body. Practice awakening to finding your relaxed center. Center, be, breath and enjoy!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mindful Tennis Play

Playing tennis has been a form of meditation for me I call “PRO[1] mindful play.” Playing tennis in the brutal summer heat is the foundation for my mindfulness practice in relaxing in the “now.” Also, playing tennis presents many “mental” weather systems to learn from.  Increasing my concentration on how to play with little effort, I give my fullest intention to pay attention.

Enjoyable tennis play has allowed me to reach greater “presence.”  The acronym PRO- Pause, Relax and Open can help expand my wakeful play— arriving fully in the present.  
  
When I “pause” between points and slow down-- becoming more responsive and less reactive-- increases my concentration during play.  Next when I “relax” and focus on mentally showing up I lessen my errors and increase my accuracy.

My introduction to mindful tennis first began when I asked my first question to my own tennis guru, Pauline Betz Addie.  Forty years ago my first question when I met Pauline was, “What is the most important thing in learning tennis.”  This world champion and trail blazer for pro tennis replied, “Concentration.”  She was my Zen master: her work skillfully instructing tennis was her play.

Two years ago on Pauline’s 90th birthday, I asked Pauline’s oldest tennis friends if she knew anything about her perfect finals match.  Nancy Dillon replied that she watched the entire match.  Nancy lost the round to Catherine Wolf in the semis. Pauline in 1943 won 48 straight points - a perfect match- in the Tri-State Singles Championship.  In 1986, Pauline and I (both former Edgemoor Club Pros) won a perfect set playing doubles against a close friend and then Head Pro at Edgemoor.   

Playing in the “PRO focus zone” is a graceful body/mind experience of enjoying this game. The mind becomes quiet and the body listens, observes and responds.  Being present is and makes me a better tennis player. Both meditation and tennis share what is most critical: fine tuning when you make exact contact with the ball.  Focusing on this specific contact point of racket on the ball is a lesson in meditation.

First just catch the ball on the strings with a simplified overhead stroke and hear the popping sound when the ball precisely hits the middle of their racket strings. It is fundamental for my game to diminish my errors and improve my consistency. When I become more gentle and friendly, I can then observe more clearly the nature of my mental, emotional and physical activities.  

Clarity comes when I observe more and foster observance of the nature of “being.”  Beneath the entrance to the center court of Wimbledon there is a non-judgmental Rudyard Kipling quote, “If I can meet triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same”.  Key in excelled play is to observe rather than judge, otherwise we become hindered by such identification.  

As a PRO, I “pause” calming my mind and body.  Pausing lessens my play. Relaxing allows me to arrive in the present instead of wandering off in the past or future. The more I “relax,” the more I “open” to whatever arises. When I become more “open” I discover various points of concentration that expand my moment-to-moment attention.

When I pause, relax and open to the “PRO focus zone” I improve my contact point. The volley is an excellent example of this responsive grace.

Tennis gets me to focus in the here and now.  Just as a camera lens clicks, I develop a shot-by-shot process to be with and listen to my tennis sense, or a clearer focus and understanding of my shots.  Countless hours of exploring how I can use my body sensations has sharpened my game and expanding my technique. When I find greater alertness and relaxed play, I also find my “PRO focus zone.”

For example, when I focus on hitting a tennis ball in the middle of their strings and notice the sound the ball makes when it meets this sweet spot.  The more I find my “PRO focus zone,” the better I make and direct my shots.  I best “arrive,” with placing the ball in a high percentage area (e.g. the service line T) that troubles my opponents. When I hit the ball at the bull’s eye instead of just the larger target, I increase my consistency.

Sometimes I hold my breath when following through on my shot.  Reminding them to inhale on back swing and exhale on follow-through has assisted many of my students to improve performance.  Getting my students to exhale with a calming aaaaahhhhhh sound or saying yes is another skillful tip.

Mindful tennis is how I pay greater attention to my “PRO focus zone”.  I like the metaphor of rock climbing to understand this mindset of moment-to-moment awareness.  It is a process of being alert and awake to how each moment unfolds. Visual cues are critical for me in skillful play since improved hand/eye coordination requires specific reference points in space to increase tennis shot execution, thus enhancing my “PRO focus zone”. 

My “PRO focus zone” is about the fun exercise that results.  A different type of tennis “zero-love” comes when I empty myself to just be “here and now”.  I challenge you to find any great superstar that does not have some sort of “PRO focus zone.” I attempt shots with a sense of effortlessness.  I guide myself to enter the “PRO contact zone”: a flow state to improve their tempo of effortless effort (knees, hips and shoulders working in unity).  Work is transformed into a ballet of play.

I extend the “PRO focus zone” into positive stroke visualizations of how to gracefully hit the shot.  Using exact mental images of championship form is how Olympians prepare for their Gold medals.  Imitating the Pros creates a positive visual. This lessens distractions, doubt and other counter-productive thoughts

“PRO focus zone” cultivates skillful mental exercising. Pausing, relaxing and opening with an alertness helps me heightened my level of play. This practice both unfolds a greater understanding, and it shifts me to an more aware game.  In turn, concentration can resolve aspects of my game that feel stuck, creating new flow. Increased awakening from moment-to-moment tennis play allows me to excel.  Relaxing in the now with a sense of alertness is what I define as grace in the “PRO focus zone”. Tennis is my object of meditation. Arriving in the “PRO focus zone” happens when  I pause, relax and open.

(For further information please refer to http://awakenedwithexercise.com/ and http://eztennistips.com)

A few helpful on court tips:
·        Develop the routine between practice sessions where you Pause, Relax and Open (PRO) to provide greater renewal, concentration and continuity. 
·        Create the space – I establish a special space to remember to explore effortlessness.
·        Visualize what to concentrate on– relax and see yourself hit an ace. Focus on being fully empty, graceful and visualize how to hit the next shot.
·        Visualize relaxing yourself – Before key points take a quick relaxing body scan: start at your scalp and move this mental massage gently downward, letting go and relaxing and softening each part of my body.  Visualize yourself as a bowl of pure, clear, still water.
·        Play with a loving kind mind set- empty and clear yourself with a loving kind presence in each moment stimulating fresh possibilities.
·        Flow- effortless effort is go with the flow. Less identification more unification. Transform the “I” with the “Eye contact”. Nothing to resist, just be in the moment. 
·        Focus on a specific contact points –select various contact points expanding your  “focus zone.” Just as in tennis when you make exact contact with the ball it is the most critical element of play.  Focusing on your contact point deepens their mindful presence.  Such contact points are: 1) Physical sensations-contact of the ball 2) Breathing- exhale on follow-through 3) Sounds-of hitting the ball in middle of the strings.

Off the Court helpful hints:
  • Sit every day, even if it's for a short period or several long pauses visualizing mindful tennis play. Remember your ZEN-play is work and work is play!
  • Reflect regularly on your aspiration for improving tennis play.  
  • Use inspiring resources to cultivate further mindfulness and awakened tennis skills.
  • Remember off the court you can observe, and lessen the “judgment”; accept what unfolds so as to awaken how you may enjoy greater tennis fun!



[1] PRO comes from Gregory Kramer at www.metta.org