Developing Present Moment Awareness/Single Pointed Focus

If you’ve read any of my other posts then you know how important it is for hitters to be completely present during their at-bats. Anxieties over the future or frustrations of the past take hitters out of the present moment and create the resistance that prevents them from performing at their highest capacity. In my previous posts I’ve always recommended meditation as an amazing tool to help us not only develop our ability to become present but also as a means to sustain that presence over a period of time.

While meditation is a fantastic tool and in my opinion is the best way to develop our ability to become present it’s important to understand that it’s not a magic pill. Simply spending 20 minutes in meditation each day won’t allow a hitter to maximize their performance on the field if they don’t translate that presence into their daily lives.

Recently I read a fantastic quote by author Dan Millman. While he was the gymnastics coach at Stanford University he was asked by another coach if his athletes meditated before competition. To which Dan replied, “No, they meditate during competition.”  It’s important to understand that “meditation” is nothing more than the act of being completely one with the present moment. And for that reason we can practice meditation and improve our ability to become present at any moment of the day. A hitter doesn’t necessarily have to sit in quiet meditation to improve their ability to become present and eliminate the resistance that inhibits performance. By simply becoming present with whatever they might be engaged in, be it homework, washing the dishes, or talking to a friend they are practicing the skill that will allow them to maximize their performance on the field.

In today’s society it’s become increasingly more difficult for athletes to become present and to sustain that presence over a period of time. With today’s technological advances athletes today are watching tv, working on their laptops, and texting all at the same time. Their ability to “multi-task” not only increases stress but also doesn’t allow them to be 100% focused on the task at hand. Their minds are constantly jumping from one task to another and as a result they are rarely thinking in the present. While they are texting a friend their thinking about the next task that needs to be accomplished. This then translates out onto the field in the form of thoughts and emotions that don’t allow for maximum performance and maximum enjoyment out of playing. Their minds are trained to focus on the future or the past and as a result they have a difficult time letting go of past results and a greater tendency to worry about the future.

The exciting thing is that athletes have the ability to work on present moment awareness at any moment of the day. How?

  1. Whatever You Are Doing… Do Just That– The first step is to become present in every activity you are engaged in. When you are texting be 100% present while texting. Put everything else aside and focus all of your energy on that task alone. Don’t text while trying to have a conversation with someone else. If you’re talking to someone, turn the phone off and be 100% present in that conversation. You can respond to texts later. As rarely there isn’t anything that can’t wait. When you’re eating dinner be there, only focused on eating, when at work be at work, turn off everything that might be a distraction and focus all of your energy and attention on the task at hand.
  2. Recognize When Your Thoughts Are Taking You Out of the Present Moment- Inevitably your thoughts will begin to drift outside the present moment. You’ll begin to plan things for the future or think about the past. Especially if you’re engaged in an activity that you don’t particularly enjoy. It’s important to recognize when you’re thoughts are drifting outside the present moment. You don’t have to enjoy what it is you might be currently doing but wishing you were doing something else only increases your displeasure of the task at hand and increases resistance. If you’re doing something you’re not particularly excited about just remind yourself that by staying present you’re increasing you’re ability as a hitter. Look at it as a mental training drill that will allow you to perform at a higher capacity when you get in the batter’s box. Believe me, a time will come in a game where there are things going on that you won’t like but yet you’ll have to find a way to stay present. If you can do that while, say… washing the dishes then you’re increasing the liklihood of staying present when the umpire makes a bad call on you or when you’re really hearing it from the fans.
  3. Return to The Present Moment- Once you recognize that you’re thoughts have drifted simply return your attention to the present moment. At first you may be doing this a lot and it may become a little exhausting. Over time however your ability to become present and sustain that presence will improve and it will become much easier.

Finally, I also recommend taking steps to help improve your ability to be focused on whatever it is you’re doing. If you sit down to watch tv at night turn your phone or computer off. Don’t merely silence it but turn it completely off. That way you won’t be tempted to answer or even check your phone or Facebook while you’re watching tv. Rarely is there any call or text that you miss that needs to be attended to immediately. Remember, the human race made it a LONG time without cell phones, texts, or instant messaging and whatever the message might be can certainly wait until you decide to devote your entire attention to returning calls or texts. Lately I’ve been doing this very thing and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my own ability to stay present.

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