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By Michael McCluskey on January 26, 2014      mmccluskey5451@gmail.com

 

Zen and the Art of Hitting a Softball

 

Want Peak Performance?  Build CORE AWARENESS!

 

“Oh!  You mean build my core strength, right?” 

 

No.  I am talking about CORE AWARENESS!

 

Now, we all know that we should build and maintain core strength.  Core strength helps us to respond to all the demands that a response-based game like softball requires.  Core strength helps us swing the bat better, run better, bend, throw, catch, twist and turn better.  We play better when we have enough core strength to perform the actions that the game demands.  If we have more than enough core strength, all the better.

 

So we do sit-ups, crunches, planks and more so that we can arrive at the ball park with core strength.  We recognize the benefits of doing the core building work.  It’s a great FEELING to look down into that space in the middle of our bodies and to FEEL physically fit and vital in that inner place.  Squeeze your lower stomach muscles right now to find that central inner core spot.  It is within your body, behind and a bit below your belly button.  It’s the place where you have “gut” feelings.  It is your invisible energetic center. Ancient cultures recognized and honored this core place as a power center.  It is a recognized “chakra” in certain traditions; the source of “chi” in martial arts.  When you move your awareness there, it FEELS quiet, deep and still.

 

And that’s the important part.  You can move your awareness there… and hold it there… you can pay attention to the world from there… because it is not just a physical place within you, it is an intelligence center, also.  This is the place inside you where “you know you know” something… the unshakable place. This is where the beliefs live that you can’t necessarily explain in thoughts and words.  And if you look close you’ll find that your determination lives there too.   And while this is a place that defies complete description, you can definitely FEEL it within you and discern some of its attributes.  And when you look real close, you find it contains a lot of juice!

But let’s talk about hitting. 

 

Ask yourself this question.  “How do I hit the ball?”

Now run through the answers that your mind brings up right away.

“I concentrate on looking at the ball.”

“I hold my hands high.”

“I grip the bat like this.”

“I never swing at the first pitch.”

“Blah, blah, blah.”

We all have these mental key swings and none of them provide a complete answer to the question of how we hit the softball.

So… let’s jump ahead… because after you think about all this, you’ll have to finally agree with me and in conclusion you will say something like,

“I don’t know how I hit the softball.  I just do it.  Something inside me knows what to do.  I’ve practiced it a lot.  Why are you asking me this?”  LOL.

 

When we really look at and investigate the unbelievable complexity; the number of body parts, sense and mind abilities that are cooperating to perform the act of hitting a softball we have to ultimately admit that we don’t really understand much of what is happening when we swing.  We just trust something inside of us that knows what to do.  It turns out that hitting a softball is an act of faith for us.  We trust in something that we can’t really explain.

But hey, no worries.  It’s the same for all of us.  And this is not criticism.  We are exploring the possibilities of finding our authentic swings, the unique individual swings that work best for each and every one of us. 

Well ok then… what does all that have to do with core strength?  And CORE AWARENESS?

 

Here it is.

The intelligent energy that swings your swings for you resides in your core, not in your head.  Your core intelligence knows how to respond to every pitch that can be thrown.  It does it all for you.  It always has.  All you provide is an intention to swing.  That’s it.  Then you just surrender and let it happen.  It all unfolds beautifully, elegantly even…  EXCEPT!

 

We undermine the process.  We work our butts off to develop core strength; we bring that core strength to the ball park with us; then we ignore it.  Instead of swinging from our cores, we swing with our heads! 

 

We bring all sorts of ideas with us up to bat.  We bring our mental swing keys…  We bring a mental idea of how hot our bat is… we bring mental doubts about our ability rooted in the evidence of our batting average… we bring a mental idea of our place in the pecking / batting order and compare our skills with everyone else… we bring expectation born out of previous performances and experiences… and then in the midst of all that, we might even try something new that we never thought of before as the pitch comes in and our at-bat unfolds.  We bring all these ideas up to bat with us.  We are in a constant mental search for the path to our authentic swings. We know we will know it when we find it because it will be knowable, reliable and most importantly, repeatable.

 

Meanwhile there is an intelligence that lives within our non-mental core that can already perform the task we intend; and it can do it perfectly.  It can manufacture a pure authentic softball swing that is a perfect match for every unique softball pitch we face.   It has already swung all of the swings that we’ve ever swung.  But, instead of relying on this core place, we rely on the thoughts in our heads.  And it turns out, these thoughts don’t help us.  They hinder us.  They get in the way of our peak performances.

 

So what can we do?

 

Begin the enjoyable practice of developing more CORE AWARENESS!

 

Practice moving your awareness from your head to your core.  Practice holding this awareness while you are doing physical things.  Try to hold your attention in the no-thought place in your gut; right in your middle of you.  Remember.  It’s an intelligent FEELING place; a place from which you can pay attention.  Your gut is an intelligence center within you just like your head.  Its domain is intuitive while the head’s domain is conceptual.  You can hold an awareness of the feeling of your center; of that central core place inside you.  Practice holding this awareness of your core anytime you are involved in activities that you already know how to do.  Whenever you don’t need your mental capacities to solve problems, move your attention to core awareness.  Become familiar with the feeling of living from your intelligent core.  It’s a beautiful, centered, peaceful place and feeling.

 

Ok!  Ok!  What about hitting?

 

As you find your bat and move into the on deck circle, move your awareness to your core and hold it there.  Hold core awareness as you figure out what the situation is… How many outs?  Men on base?  Score?

 

Hold core awareness as you step into the batter’s box and get ready to hit.  Don’t think.  Feel and trust your gut; your core; your intelligent center.  Hold the feeling of your core as the pitch comes in and “all the way through the act of swinging”.  Don’t interfere by going back up into your head and THINKING during your swing!

 

It’s amazing how quickly we can abandon our core intelligence in favor of our mental thoughts during the swing.  And it’s strange that although we have something inside of us that will do the action for us perfectly, we have  learned habits of interfering mentally that blocks the complete manifestation of our authentic swing to come forward unobstructed and unsullied.

 

Here are the simple instructions:

1.       Establish the FEELING of core awareness in yourself before you swing.

2.       Hold the FEELING of core awareness throughout your swing. 

3.       Don’t let your attention move from your core to your head during the swing.

You won’t believe what happens to your performance when you do accomplish holding core awareness throughout your entire swing.  Get ready to be amazed!  You’ll know when you’ve done it because you will feel like a spectator, not a participant.  You’ll feel amazement at what your core center was able to do.  And, you will want more! 


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