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 Mental/Emotional Fitness & Peak Performance: The Power of Awareness 

It is important to understand and account for this internal resistance to awareness so that you can avoid the discouragement and frustration that has caused some athletes to quit a sport just when they are beginning to become proficient because they imagine that they are "getting worse."

Whole-Body Awareness
Most athletes have the courage to see and overcome physical errors, so that one aspect of themselves is developed. The way of the inner athlete, however, is to increase awareness of weaknesses in body, mind, and emotions. To do so we have to be willing to lose face, to see ourselves momentarily in a light that is less flattering than we would wish. We all have mental and emotional as well as physical traits from childhood that are maladaptive, immature, and downright silly. In most people these traits remain hidden from their own awareness, only to surface momentarily in times of upset, pressure, or crisis. Awareness is like sunlight over a dark well. We don't see the little demons lurking there until the light of awareness shines directly overhead; then we notice all these undeveloped qualities in ourselves and gain both humility and compassion.

If we resist seeing physical weaknesses a little, we resist awareness of mental and emotional weaknesses a lot. There are two very good reasons for this: First, it's easier to see physical errors. The results are on a gross level, right in front of us. If we're missing the baseball, for example, it's pretty obvious that we're making an error. Emotional and mental weaknesses are more subtle, harder to discern. Second, we identify more with our minds and emotions than we do with our bodies. What we identify with, we tend to defend. We defend our self-image, our loved ones, our values much more ferociously than we defend those things we consider separate from ourselves.

I once saw in a magazine a cartoon showing a man push in a small cart with frozen ice cream inside. He stood listening to a speaker on a platform who was sermonizing to a small crowd. The ice-cream vendor's face showed increasing interest and agreement as the speaker said, "Down with Fascism! . . . Down with Communism! . . . down with big government! Down with politicians!" Suddenly the vendor's face grew sour, and he walked off, offended, muttering under his breath. It seems the speaker had added, "Down with ice cream!"

You may doubt the fact that we identify with (and defend more intensely) our minds and emotions than our bodies, but do you notice how people feel less awkward talking about their physical illnesses than about an emotional or mental problem? If you tell an athlete he looks clumsy on a particular occasion, he might be a little upset, but if you tell him he appears to be stupid or immature (displaying mental or emotional weaknesses), he's far more likely to be upset or defensive. This defensiveness is the primary mechanism of resisting awareness of errors. The natural athlete cannot allow himself such defensiveness; it's too heavy a burden to carry if he is to become light and free.

If you are to become the natural athlete, aligned with the natural laws, you must bring nonresistance to awareness. Acute observation will detect the weaknesses, cut through illusion, and transform your errors into whole-body awareness . . . and power. Hidden weaknesses surface in the heat of competition and training, so the athletic arena has tremendous potential for whole-body development.

(Excerpted from The Inner Athlete ISBN: 0913299979)
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 About The Author
Dan Millman Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan's teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior's......more
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