photo credit Amy McMullen
If there is any part of you that is on the fence about Meditative Archery or you are wondering what the big deal is, let me explain.
Maybe it's the wording that is throwing you off. You might be thinking I don't know how to meditate and meditation is intimidating or you might be thinking I HATE TO JOURNAL. The journaling I'm referring to isn't journaling at all, in fact the only relationship to this journaling and the one you may have tried (stream of consciousness) is a pen and paper. The journaling that I do in this workshop is based on simple prompts where you can be as vulnerable as you feel comfortable or you can barely scratch the surface and you will get's something beautiful that is unique to you. Don't believe me? I have done this with over 100 different people from all different backgrounds and countries POC, LGBTQIA, disabilities and everyone has gotten a nugget that is THEM!
I use the word meditation not to exclude those that don't meditate or know how to meditate but because once I learned the basics of archery I felt it was a form of meditation that fit me and my personality (actively still) - stillness, breath, stance, body, awareness, concentration, and release.
If I arrive at the archery range with a lot of frenetic energy it effects the way I shoot. This isn't bad or good it is what is going on in me and what is going on in me affects how I do archery. I often arrive at the range with pent up energy or unresolved issues I start shooting and I'm all over the place after a few rounds l become more and more aware of myself and the inner movement and I can gradually move myself to stillness.
Stillness = focus
I don't think you can have a good archer without breath or even a mediocre one. Your shot is dramatically affected by whether you breathe or don't breathe. Sometimes when I'm shooting I don't realize my mind is on everything but breathing and like stillness when I bring my attention back to breath my body relaxes and my focus shifts which typically means I have better aim.
breathing = better shooting (also less body strain)
The funny thing about archery or I would guess any sport is there is body involved and when we are aware of that if we don't perform better at least we are less likely to hurt ourselves. Awareness of the body or what we carry in our bodies is a topic that isn't much talked about (especially if you've grown up in a religious community there's is a trend that almost communicates the body is bad). But the truth is we carry everything there whether we are aware of it or not it is there. And the body has stuff to tell us...You are stronger than you think! You can take risks! It's okay not to be perfect! Vulnerability is a gift! Perfection is overrated!
Awareness of body = more power in the shot and in yourself
Awareness and body are similar but I will take it a step further. Sometimes you are shooting and there are other people around. If you are a person that has a problem taking up your space - BOOM! You will be made aware of it. Maybe your shooting minding your own business and a white guy comes up close to you, moves into your space, takes up all the room, gets on his phone talks loudly or overhears you telling your friend archery helps with the anger you feel and said man then explains (mansplains) why it's a bad idea to shoot when you're angry - BOOM! You are made aware that you can leave or, Damnit, take up your space. Or man steps in while you are trying to give a friend a lesson in archery and decides to take over teaching for you - BOOM! Take up your space! I have literally been shooting by myself minding my own business when a man comes later and starts shooting as well - On his phone walking around the targets paying no mind to the fact that I am waiting for him to come back to the line so I can shoot without killing him. Awareness came to me and the mantra in my head was - TAKE UP YOUR SPACE! I may not be other people it might be that in the stillness and breath you start thinking of things that need your attention.
Awareness = take up your space, or give up some space let what needs to be dealt with come.
Concentration in archery is the benefit of space and time to focus which in turn often bring up the things we've been looking at so far. In a practical way, it is simply the practice of focus. And when we focus sometimes it helps us center. We can have the swirl but for this moment in this space the swirl is put to the side and we concentrate of archery. We may have to do this over and over in the course of our time shooting, but isn't that what meditation is. we are teaching ourselves to center, over and over until it get's easier and we don't have to do it as much.
Concentration = centered and focused
Release! There are so many potential metaphors for this part of archery and I won't get into them, but suffice it to say it is rife with them.
Sometimes release is about the actual opening of your hand to let the arrow fly, which for those that remember your first time shooting can be a total mind fuck1 You can't get your brain to let go of the string and the arrow, something tells the brain - No! When you finally let go there is a cathartic release of energy. You are still alive!!!
There is also the spiritual or metaphorically charged release - the moments, relationships, griefs, pains, rejections, disagreements etc. take to the meditative archery moments through journaling where the actual release gives a release inside of you.
Release = freedom for the arrow and the self (couldn't resist a little metaphor)
It is hard to take a risk to do things that have the potential of freedom, strength, and power when at the same time it is vulnerability in front of another person. It is the same thing that stopped me from doing archery for most of my life - fear of looking the fool and risk. I'm glad someone listened (Todd Fadel) and helped me realize a dream, take a risk and face a fear. Let me be your Todd Fadel, the person that helps you access something you always wanted access to. It would be my pleasure.