Simplifying My Approach
August 29, 2021
I have written in this space previously about two habits I have that seem to hold back my progress as a bowler:
- I want to understand things in order to trust them.
- Under stress, I want to control my physical movements.
I have been working a great deal in the past year on letting go of my physical movements, but instead learning to trust them. This means moving away from thinking about checklists of movements to "get right" and moving towards more-directly feeling the movements and letting them happen. I feel like this has helped me.
Recently, I recorded some video of practice, and if nothing else, my balance arm and follow through look more consistent than they used to be, even though I don't really feel that any more. This came from weeks of consistent practice, during which I tried to feel my follow through until the point where it became autonomic. This is the infamous muscle memory.
I can now trust that my balance arm and follow through will do the right things... at least until someone shows me video evidence to the contrary.
One To Go
I find it very hard to let go of the notion of understanding things before trusting them. This is deep in my psyche. To be fair, it seems perfectly rational to me: if I don't understand it, then when it goes wrong, I can't do anything to fix it. It reminds me of Alex P. Keaton describing to his tutor why he has trouble with non-Euclidean geometry. His tutor implores Alex to let go of rational thought.
Let go of rational thought?! I like rational thought.
I have a sister who let go of rational thought... she never got it back!
I do not intend to let go of rational thought---or, at least, if I manage to let go of rational thought, then it will be as an unintended result of a few more decades of meditation. I am not yet Krishnamurti. This means that I'm likely "doomed" to cling to understanding things before I can trust them. Maybe there's a way out!
Chicken/Egg, Meet Confidence/Results
It's an age-old question in sports psychology circles: which comes first, confidence or results? I try to teach our young bowlers to feel confident first and let that drive good results. I believe very strongly in that. I want them to feel obscenely confident up to just this side of becoming assholes. (It's even fine with me if they have to occasionally be assholes before they find a good balance.) It's clear to me that since confidence is an interpretation of a feeling, I can choose to feel confident before I have reason to feel that way. Indeed, feeling confident generates confidence in a delightful self-propelling virtuous cycle.
So can I do the same with understanding and letting go? Can I seek to understand in order to stop seeking to understand? I think I can!
If I understand what's happening to my body, then I can build trust in my ability to replicate those actions. If I practise that enough, then I can gradually let go of the actions---rather than controling them, they just become things that I do. This comes alongside the phenomenon of repetition leading to ease leading to confidence. It also leads to trust.
Recently I noticed a physical link between my breathing and my balance. When I breathe a certain way, I improve my balance at the point of release. This gives me something simpler to focus on: instead of trying to control my balance, I can focus on my breathing. Hell, I have to breathe, anyway! Moreover, I find it much easier to influence the pace and depth of my breathing than I do controling the fine physical movements that lead to good balance. When I fall over, I never mean to. (I've really improved at stopping myself when this happens, even if that annoys the people behind me waiting to bowl.) I will focus on my breathing and trust that doing this improves my balance. Why? I've felt it happen. I have evidence. I understand it.
I'm going to focus on my breathing and practise timing my approach and release to match my breathing cycle. This will lead me to better balance at the point of release. I will eventually be able to do this autonomically: I'll know when to step on the lane in order to bring my pushaway in sync with exhaling. When this becomes second nature, I will be able to trust it.
And that, friends, is the thing I want more than any other: to trust my body to do the right thing.
So I'm going to practise that.
With any luck, as I feel better balance and a more-explosive release, as I see better results, I'll trust that I understand what's happening to me. This would lead me to trusting my body more. And gradually... gradually... I will find it easier to let go of the understanding.