what is zen?
Zen is not a religion, belief, thought or action of any kind.
Zen is a state of being that can only be experienced by you the individual personally.
The word Zen originates from Zen Buddhism and is basically the silent, thoughtless state of nothingness we can access through disciplined meditation practice, or perhaps glimpse in our daily lives from time to time.
Zen can also be living and being in the moment, to experience your life fully. Whether that’s eating an apple, taking the bus to work or playing tennis.
To be free of the distractions and demands of the mind, the material world, the past, and the future... To experience your reality without the filters of your own belief system, fears, expectations or judgements.
On the tennis court it’s much the same feeling only simpler and safer, without the drama, stress and danger of the real world.
Just you, the ball and your breath… No thinking, no hopes, no disappointments… no anything.
Tennis can actually help us to access and hold onto these often only fleeting silent moments more easily.
The peak moments one can conjure up in certain sports and activities where the participant is ‘in the zone’ and playing without fear or thought are the moments that need to be sought and silently observed.
When one watches the best tennis players or athletes in the world, it‘s clear they are all striving to find this silent place where everything flows effortlessly, where all inner and outer distractions have no place.
Those who manage this the best are the champions and the greatest players of all time, and they won't necessarily be the strongest, the most physically gifted, or the one with the fastest serve or biggest forehand.
For us mere mortals the rewards may be less illustrious but equally beneficial. At the end of every tennis lesson or game I feel better than I did before it, every time without fail.
These things cannot be measured but peace of mind does settle over me while I’m solely focused on the ball and my breathing.
the zen of tennis
As the concentration, expectations and demands of learning to play tennis give way to a deeper, more relaxed state of feeling and understanding... You may then choose to step away from the excitement of winning and the disappointment of losing. Away from the ‘good-shot bad-shot’ nature of the mind...
Since somewhere far away from all that, in the ether between you and the ball, in that deepening silence, a gentle moving meditation is possible.
If sitting in meditative poise on a yoga mat doesn’t quite float your boat, then perhaps a gentle or dynamic dance with the ball and your hand as the lead... Remaining in silent harmony and sync with the ball can slowly become your only concern and a ‘Zen-like ’ state of mind may well be possible from there.
Adding a little Zen to your tennis will come as your mind becomes silent, and you place your full attention on the breath, the rhythm of the ball and effortlessly integrating the physical movements necessary without thought or judgement.
Breathing fully is essential for life, and for tennis also, and developing an awareness of this potential will also bring a sense of wellbeing and relaxation to many other areas of life.
Being and playing in the moment free from fear and doubt remains one of the ultimate feelings in sport and life, and one we can all get a little better at and practise within the safe confines of the nearest tennis court...