“Look at what you want to hit, then hit what you’re looking at.” – Malcom Alexander
On Wednesday the 31 of July, while shooting at 70m I rediscovered something very important to being an athlete who must coach herself. That I can. I have authority over my own body and mind. I know what is best for me. There is a deep intuition programmed within me that has inherited millions of years of experience. I was reminded of the times I very successfully taught myself some very difficult skills.
When I was 19 I was absolutely in love with snowboarding. I even moved to Tahoe for a brief period. (I took home a few medals from half pipe competitions after just a few months of snowboarding). I never had a coach. I never had a proper lesson. Some guys here and there would tell me some small piece of advice but most of my progress came from discovery and spontaneity and even out of dealing patiently and gently with my fears. I ride regular foot (left foot forward). I am right handed and strongly right eyed dominate. So my left side was a huge blind spot. It felt like falling into oblivion, to have to turn left. So I never did. At first. I simply refused. Now, a good coach, would have probably forced me to, but I had no good coach, only the great one within me who said it was ok not to turn left. As a result, I would simply turn right and then turn my back foot, my right foot forward and ride that right side. With time and practice I finally overcame my fear of turning left and I had inadvertently taught myself to ride switch. Everything can be useful (even our fears and weaknesses), if we just stick with it.
In archery my “blind spots” are really just the things I’m learning to do. Let the arrow off in time, find a rhythm. I have to befriend and move past the clicker. I have to keep my shoulders down. Only think about my scapula moving toward the target and yet what’s this new thing I discovered: I also have to keep my eye on the gold. Oh what? My coach told me to see the entire bale. And yet MY inner coach says, “See the gold. See the gold until the arrow lands there and the arrow WILL land there.” Or as Malcom had said in the comment to the Texas Shootout post: “Look at what you want to hit, then hit what you’re looking at.” The doubting part of me raised an eyebrow: Oh baloney, that’s just for 18m, where you can actually see the bullseye. Well, ok, then, let’s just go out and try it at 70m? Ok, then.
At 70m, well what do you know. I haven’t shot 70m since The Texas Shootout in April and today I scored just 2 points below my personal best of 257. Not too shabby. Especially since I didn’t even shoot at all last week, while I went through a crucial period of rest, perspective, and re-comitting to my archery practice.
Only very briefly do I want to mention that last Tuesday I parted ways with the venerable archery coach, Don Rabska. I am most grateful to everything he taught me about biomechanics and getting me into alignment and for all the equipment he had lent me. I left with a great foundation for my Olympic recurve archery technique.
Now, my new coach, my inner coach, tells me that all I need to do is remain present with whatever is happening and have unconditional acceptance, love and compassion for myself no matter what and focus on the process.
I often write compassion on my wrist as a daily reminder.
And that it’s OK that sometimes my process is not conventional. At another time in my life I was teaching myself how to play the piano. I wanted to learn an absolutely gorgeous nocturne by Chopin. I did not know how to sight read but I would not let that stop me. I simply learned to play everything on the left hand until it was memorized. Then I memorized everything on the right hand and magically they knew how to play together and I could focus on the beautiful feel of the music.
I believe that working on my archery follow through is very much like my piano playing. There are two hands at work at once. And for me, perhaps, I simply had to learn one hand and then the other and put them together. And now I can focus on the feel of the shot.
Reflecting on these first 9 months of shooting FITA, I see how I was trying to do too much too soon. My impatience, however, lead to invaluable experiences that I do not regret. I see how I have a great talent that I must honor with the simple act of regularly practicing and doing the work to the best of my ability. Sometimes that means I will hate shooting, that I will face heart aching anxiety to just put the archery backpack on and head out the door, that I’ll want more than anything to give it all up with pathetic excuses like, “I can’t afford to be a top archer.” (That is why I did not end up going to the SoCal Showdown. I simply could not afford the gas, let alone the hotel). I will accept that sometimes I am miserable and that’s ok. I will shoot anyway. I will learn to sit with all the feelings and do the work no matter what.
Archery in itself is a great life teacher. Likewise Teachers like Cheri Huber’s books like “There is Nothing Wrong with You” and Brene Brown’s Ted talk on vulnerability and the art of improv and meditation and unconditional love and acceptance and being present and my /Inner Guide are great archery coaches.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, by some extraordinary project all of your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends all limitations. Your consciousness expands in every direction. You find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties, and talents come alive. You discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” – Patanjali