Written by: Peter Straub
***Peter is a Mind Trainer and former #2 Junior in Canada Under 18, who played tennis full time for 7 years. More recently, in 2011 and 2012, he played for Canada on the Dubler Cup team over 45, in the World Team Championships.
Motivated by his passion to benefit others he has trained his mind extensively for the last 20 years. Understanding that by changing his mind in a positive way, he would be able to benefit others more. Peter has travelled, at great expense, to study with the best teachers and practitioners, including doing 16 months of silent meditation retreats.
Peter now wants to help tennis players become happier and perform better on the tennis court.
To have the ideal mental conditions to play our best tennis we have to train our mind regularly and correctly. Training our mind entails lessening and eradicating negative minds, increasing our positive minds and improving our mental capabilities like concentration. When we start getting results from this training everything in our life becomes better.
The final goal of mind training in tennis is a calm, clear, positive and stable mind, free from any disturbance. To accomplish this we need to understand our mind and how it functions. There is nothing more important to do. When we get our mind right, then the external things in our life will be right. In tennis we will make better decisions, and know more clearly: how much tennis to play; what to practice; how to practice; how much and what types of exercises to do; who to have as a coach; what therapist to see; who to rely upon for advice; how to learn; who to have in our circle of friends; our strategy in matches; and so on, in order to become the best tennis player we can be.
The goal is being calm not just looking calm or pretending to be calm. We can’t act differently from what we really believe; all we can do is fake it, while our mind stays disturbed. When we change our beliefs and views of situations it changes our reality. Our beliefs about our tennis determine our state of mind while playing.
When our mind is calm, clear and positive we are in the best position to:
- Learn from everything
- Better understand all that is going on around us
- Change to a winning strategy
- Come up with many creative solutions to any difficulties
Our main obstruction
The cause of all our problems stem from the mind of self-cherishing. Self-cherishing is a mental attitude that considers oneself to be supremely important and precious. Because of this mind when things don’t go our way we get disturbed. If we have strong self-cherishing we get very disturbed. We always have this mind to some degree so we constantly suffer from anxiety, fear, and unhappiness. For example, if we are very afraid of losing during a match, we have strong self-cherishing and our mind is very agitated. Self-cherishing is our real enemy not our opponent on the tennis court.
With self-cherishing we pay inappropriate attention and other delusions such as attachment, deluded pride and anger arise. Attachment is a mind that observes an object that appears to be pleasant and a cause of happiness and wishes to possess it. It is a delusion because happiness comes from the mind not from external objects. When we are attached to something our mind is disturbed which is the hallmark of a delusion being present. When anything gets in the way of getting what we want (like winning a tennis match) or we don’t get what we want (like losing a tennis match) we become more disturbed.
Self-cherishing has many faults and disadvantages. What you can do is look at everything that disturbs you and it can always be traced back to self-cherishing being the cause.
The solutions: from sitting quietly to playing a big match
While sitting quietly we can think of what bothers us the most when we are playing tennis? What do we wish was different when we play tennis? Let’s say it is our attachment to winning. What does this mean and how does it destroy our peace of mind and therefore our tennis game?
Wanting to win a tennis match is not a problem. Trying our hardest to win a tennis match is not a problem. What is a problem is being attached to winning a tennis match. This means we think winning a tennis match is a cause of happiness. This is a mistaken mind, a delusion that is discriminating incorrectly the cause of our happiness, which comes from our mind. The moment we make this mistake we experience an unpleasant feeling, our body tightens up, and our mind becomes focused on: not losing; not missing; and many other thoughts that disturb our mind. This turns the mind away from our primary focus. Physically we become weaker, we lose accuracy and power, and we get tired faster.
Seeing in our experience how attachment hurts our tennis game, we think about these faults of attachment and our attachment will weaken and not have the same power to harm us any more. By contemplating these faults, we will rely upon this faulty mind less and less.
An exercise we can do is to sit quietly and imagine we are playing an important match, and the score is close, in the second or third set. Or we can just remember a situation when we were afraid of losing a match. Then we watch our mind to see precisely what we are saying to ourself. From this we can see what beliefs we have about winning and see exactly what we are attached to. When we see this, it will be easy to stop the delusion, because it will be obvious to us the mistake we have been making. We can also pay attention to how our body is tightening up. The more faults of attachment we find and become familiar with, the weaker it will become.
The mind of attachment, like all delusions, is unrealistic. By becoming more realistic, our delusions will lessen. A few examples of being realistic that are beneficial include: understanding the reality that we will lose a lot of tennis matches throughout our life; we will have match points and lose some times; things will never quite go the way we want; some days we won’t play as well as others; we will lose to someone nobody would ever think we would lose to, etc. It is more important to focus on learning all the time and doing whatever we can to keep improving.
As a mind trainer, I lead people to know their own mind. For example, what beliefs and attitudes they have, and the harm the negative ones are causing, so they can stop relying upon them. We will keep relying upon something, no matter how harmful it is, until we realize it is not producing the results we want.
On the tennis court we can watch for attachment arising in different ways – we are attached to many things. If we are busy thinking about things we don’t have much awareness of what is going on around us, let alone about our mind. We must always watch for self- cherishing and see how it is screwing everything up for us and develop a strong motivation to eliminate it. Through being aware of our mind while playing, we will see what our biggest obstruction is, and deal with that one first because it will have the biggest impact on our game.
When we notice we are getting tight, this unpleasant feeling reminds us that we have a delusion in our mind. If there is a delusion in our mind, we know we are paying inappropriate attention to something. If we stop the inappropriate attention, the delusion stops, the tightness in our body stops, and we can therefore play better.
In creating all the best internal and external conditions to play our best, we also need to get rid of what doesn’t work. We need to check everything we are doing and see if it is bringing us the results we want. Important things may seem difficult at first, but then become easier with practice and through familiarity. Good luck.