While searching for the optimum mental state on the squash court I continuously return to the same theme: thinking veres awareness.
Humans are plagued with the reality of a thinking mind which chatters throughout all waking hours trying to make things the way it thinks they need to be for us to be safe and well. When things are going well our mind appears to be our friend but when they are not it shouts ever louder in an attempt to get things back to ‘normal’.
The reality is there will always be times when things are not going well, especially on a squash court in the heat of the battle. During these difficult times we need clarity, not mental noise, panic and negative thoughts. It is for this reason that we must learn to separate our mind from ourselves and understand who we really are is not our mind and it’s external chatter but rather a self watching which sits behind the mind watching quietly and releases its true power when the mind is quiet. Many of you may have heard of ‘flow state’ a period of optimum performance where everything flows at its best and the mind is quiet and the self takes over with its intuitive understanding of exactly what to do in the moment.
There are numerous ways to learn to distance the mind from the self, many of which are rooted in mindfulness and breathing practices. There are many good apps like headspace and calm as well as great YouTube channels (I recommend Michael Bjiker) and start practicing watching your thoughts and feelings in a state of observation rather than engagement.
Awareness of what is actually happening in the moment and where the mind has gone is the key first step and takes practice. A great place to start practicing this on a squash court is before the serve or return. Whatever the result of the previous rally it is time to focus on what needs to be done right now and in the following moment (the next two shots). Spend time off court developing the techniques described and then test them on court and let us know how it goes!
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