When I was coaching tennis, I realized that a huge key to success was mastering the art of relaxed concentration.
If a player was deeply relaxed, but not focused on the ball, she might swing freely, but the ball would go all over the place and she wouldn’t win many points. On the other hand, if she were locked in on the ball, but was tense, she would be more consistent, but her strokes wouldn’t be very fluid or powerful.
People often think that there’s a trade-off between relaxation and concentration. But, through my research on the court, I found that wasn’t true. When I intensely watch the ball, there’s no room in my mind for thoughts like “Oh no, I better not miss this shot.” Without these thoughts, the body is freed up to respond naturally to the ball.
At the same time, the deeper I relax, the easier it is for me to focus. When I take a few relaxed breaths between points and let go stress from the previous point, then it’s easier for me to absorb my mind in watching the ball spin up to my racket.
I’ve consistently found that relaxed concentration leads to peak performance in a wide spectrum of other activities.
Relaxed concentration is also not only the key to success in outer activities, but also to in our inner journey.
Deeply relaxing and letting go of control and resistance is essential to finding our way home. But, if we let go without focus, we may drift into confusion or even mental illness.
Intense focus is needed on the spiritual journey. It’s essential to have deep hunger to awaken and to focus on the prize, rather than getting caught up distractions. But, focusing from a place of effort will just perpetuate our old habit and won’t get us anywhere we want to go.
The key is to let go with focus. In any moment, if we relax and let go into love/breath/God/etc., then we’re home. The more we taste the beautiful nectar of Now, the easier it gets to notice when we’re distracted and relax back into our Self.
Andrew Oser has been offering guided retreats on Mount Shasta since 1982. Through hikes to little-known sacred sites, guided meditations, spiritual life coaching, and time drinking in the silence of the mountain, he helps clients to deeply renew themselves in body, mind, and spirit and receive clear vision for their lives. Andrew also offers spiritual life coaching by phone and Skype.