The Inner Game of Tennis – by W. Timothy Gallwey
Date read: 5/1/18. Recommendation: 9/10.
I'm usually skeptical of anything that remotely resembles using sports as a metaphor for life, but this a tremendous read. It's less a book about tennis (although there are a few sections) and more about the art of relaxed concentration. It's a simple but profound concept that suggests the secret to performing your best is in developing a quiet confidence, and most importantly, not trying too hard. Gallwey draws a line between Self 1–the conscious teller, and Self 2–the doer. He advocates developing greater trust in Self 2, which helps to cultivate effortless concentration (flow), instead of a more tense, overly controlled approach which creates an unnecessary obstacle. Gallwey also offers an insightful perspective as he digs deeper into concepts including judgement, awareness, ego, and mindfulness, which adds another dimension to the book.
See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.
The inner game: This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation.
The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. He aims at the kind of spontaneous performance which occurs only when the mind is calm and seems at once with the body, which finds its own surprising ways to surpass its own limits again and again.
The concentrated mind has no room for thinking how well the body is doing, much less the how-to's of the doing.
The skill of mastering the art of effortless concentration is invaluable in whatever you set your mind to.
Self 1 – the conscious teller (does not trust self 2)
Self 2 – the doer, natural capabilities
It is the constant "thinking" activity of Self 1, the ego-mind, which causes the interference with the natural capabilities of Self 2. Harmony between the two selves exists when the mind is quiet and focused.
Effortlessly alert – cat stalking a bird, effortlessly alert, gathering his relaxed muscle for the spring.
Judgments are our personal, ego reactions to the sights, sounds, feelings and thoughts within our experience....it is the initial act of judgment which provokes a thinking process.
In its process of developing, our tennis game gains a great deal from errors.
Bottom line: there is no substitute for learning from experience.
*Student/teacher reciprocal relationship: I had learned and he had learned, but there was no one there to take credit.
Ending judgment means you neither add nor subtract from the facts before your eyes. Things appear as they are–undistorted. In this way, the mind becomes more calm.
Acknowledgment of and respect for one's capabilities support trust in Self 2 (*and self-confidence). Self 1's judgments, on the other hand, attempt to manipulate and undermine that trust.
Native language of Self 2 is not words, but imagery. Avoid how-to instructions.
It is as if we would like to think of ourselves more as an obedient computer than as a human being. As a consequence, we are apt to lose access to the direct pathway to the muscle memory that carries a more complete knowledge of the desired action.
In short, there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones. It is the resisting of an old habit that puts you in that trench. Starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties.
Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change.
Relaxation happens only when it is allowed, not as a result of "trying" or "making."
As one achieves focus, the mind quiets. As the mind is kept in the present, it becomes calm. Focus means keeping the mind now and here. Relaxed concentration is the supreme art because no art can be achieved without it.
The most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle...notice the exact pattern made by its seams as it spins. *Effortless and relaxed, not tense and overly controlled.
When the mind is fastened to the rhythm of breathing, it tends to become absorbed and calm. Whether on or off the court.
It is perplexing to wonder why we ever leave the here and now. Here and now are the only place and time when one ever enjoys himself or accomplishes anything. Most of our suffering takes place when we allow our minds to imagine the future or mull over the past. Nonetheless, few people are ever satisfied with what is before them at the moment.
The need to prove yourself is based on insecurity and self-doubt. Only to the extent that one is unsure about who and what he is does he need to prove himself to himself or to others.
It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.
Stability grows as I learn to accept what I cannot control and take control of what I can.