Balancing body and mind

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Talking to yourself

In the 1970s Timothy Gallwey worked as a tennis instructor. He saw people talking to themselves on the court in ways like “Come on, get up for the ball” or “Keep your eyes on the ball” or even “You clumsy ox, your grandmother could play better”. He started wondering who was talking to whom?

“I am talking to myself”, was the answer he got. He identified two selves:

  • Self 1 = “I”, the one that gives instructions, the mind, the ego
  • Self 2 = “myself”, the one that performs the actions, the body

The mind controls the body

Self 1 thinks he knows better than Self 2. That is the reason that the mind is constantly ordering the body what to do and how to do it. The result is, at least in tennis, a player who puts in a lot of effort. That is visible in the way he holds his racket, clenches his jaws, or looks over-concentrated. There is no balance between body and mind, the mind is dominant. And there is no fun in learning tennis like this.

Whatever the mind is doing, the body must do, and vice versa
John Douillard

Natural movement

Natural movement is easy, does not take a lot of effort and can be seen in any animal, whether it is a jaguar, a dog or a giraffe. And within a species, movements are almost identical.  The same is true for children under the age of two. What do infants and animals share in common?

There is no Self 1! This means there is no thinking, worrying, controlling, trying or fearing. Moving is learned through experience without interference of the mind. And, according to Timothy Gallwey, Self 2 is perfectly capable of learning.

Balancing body and mind

Timothy Gallwey offered his students another approach in learning to play tennis. Instead of giving instructions, he helped his pupils to become aware of the things they could see, hear or feel. Then they would use the mind differently. He talks about quieting the mind, but nowadays we would call it being mindful. Then the mind is focused on what the body is doing!

This little film is about Molly, learning to play tennis from Timothy Gallwey in twenty minutes. Pay attention to how she enjoys herself.

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