We are doing a Muay Thai Mental Training Reading Group, together. On Facebook for everyone – you can join here – and on Patreon in live video conference call with my supporters – you can see our first session here. We’ve covered the first two chapters of the book The Inner Game of Tennis, and on Friday morning (Thai Time), we’ll meet and talk about chapters 3 & 4. This is a small, short book that changes people’s lives, as it teaches us to quiet down our Inner Coach, which gets in the way of our progress a lot of time. This passage below is from the next reading section, and has been a huge one for me.
“Read this analogy and see if an alternative to the judging process doesn’t begin to emerge. When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as ‘rootless and stemless.’ We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”
In Buddhism, and therefore in Vipassana Meditation, there is a reiteration that a Truth need never be argued or proven. I turn to Vipassana here because I’ve found many connections between it and The Inner Game of Tennis. When you receive a Truth, you simply recognize it as being true. In that moment, you go from ignorance to knowledge. When I first read this passage from The Inner Game of Tennis, I was struck like this. Instant recognition that this is True. I felt in that moment, as I feel the same every time I read it over again, a sense of relief. That an indistinct seed is just as much a rose as the unmistakable blossom, and the dried dust it becomes after – it’s all a rose, at every moment in its lifespan. And at each stage, a caring gardener knows what is needed to progress to the next stage. When it’s hidden in dirt it needs water, not pruning; when it burst through the soil it needs sunshine, but not too much. The beauty of what the author of the book describes in this passage is noticing all the states of the rose, but not judging them. This is the hardest thing, I think, in using our brains to learn on a conscious level. It is meaningful and important to notice your limitations, where you need to grow, and your mistakes. It is not meaningful – ever – to judge those exact same observations. Because they are perfect, just as they are. They contain the whole of your potential, just as they are.
This part is important to me. It’s something I have to remind myself, because while I believe it to be true, I have yet to truly recognize it as Truth; I’m still kind of clinging to ignorance, in Muay Thai and in Life too, like looking at something in too dim a light. The important part is the recognition that at every state, it’s perfect. On my second Vipassana retreat, the monk I met with used this same word. He explained to me that even when my practice is wrong (if I wasn’t getting it “right”), it’s perfect. Even when my mind is wandering, which the mind does, it’s perfect. Even when I’m angry and out of control of my emotions, it’s perfect. Because all of these states are within the potential of a thing. “You cannot be half a thing,” Alan Watts said. A wave cannot only crest and never flatten. A rose cannot only bloom and never be a seed or bud or headless stalk. A rose can only be all these things, just not all at once. But each one is perfect, just as it is. So, as a fighter who is always reaching for the next progression, who is consciously trying to grow, who dreams of being in bloom… at every stage in that process, you are already perfect. At every single moment along the way. This is really hard for us, I think especially as westerners, who tend to see things in terms of mechanics. Either the machine is working perfectly, as it is designed, or it’s not and needs to be fixed. That’s not really how Muay Thai and development works. Your kick sucks today? Perfect. It’s in exactly the stage it should be, given the circumstances it has grown under. You’re off balance on knees: perfect. You are starting to see your opponent’s weight shifts: perfect. You lost: perfect. You won: perfect. All of it. All of it. The mistake I make, and why I cling to ignorance with this, is thinking that perfection is a judgement; it’s not. It’s a state, and it’s a state of flux and change, not at all the culmination that is often assumed with that word. Perfect is a continuum, not static. The care we take is in noting the stage and considering what is needed to help it along. This is exceedingly difficult for those of us who focus hard self-criticism in our attempts to pursue the thing we have passion for, but it’s the beginning of letting go, not gripping the steering wheel so hard that we can hardly become the race car driver. Allowing what we think are faults and flaws to be that way, for a moment, and then thinking about: what does this rose need in this stage of development?
I was inspired to share about this passage because Mary shared it in our Facebook Group, if you have any thoughts on it you can comment there.
The Mental Training Reading Group
So what is our Reading Group like? We read a couple of short chapters and then we meet up and talk about how we experienced them, and how they relate to our Muay Thai. I share from my own experiences too. None of us are experts, we are just feeling our way forward. Here below is about 15 minutes our first discussion session, you can watch the entire session and read my notes on it here, as a $10 supporter (which gives you loads of exclusive video content too).
above, 16 minutes of our Reading Group discussion on the 1st two chapters
If you’d like to join us for the next one you can quickly catch up, the chapters are short, the reading is easy. Just join my Patreon at the $10 level patreon.com/sylviemuay and you can hop onto the next call which is at 10:30 am Friday the 19th (Thai Time), 11:30 pm Thursday night (New York time), the link is in this post and I’ll post it on Patreon again, a day before the call. If the time is inconvenient you can just watch our call on your own convenience, and read my notes on it.
For everyone else you can read along with us and follow discussion in the Open Facebook Group. Post your own reading notes there, ask questions, browse the resources others are suggesting. The mental part of Muay Thai is the hardest part, but it’s the reason why we all are doing it, even if we don’t realize it.
Kevin’s Post on Our First Session
Even more! My husband Kevin also wrote a post on our first session, which contains some of my reading notes, and observations he made on the first chapter of The Inner Game of Tennis. You can read that post over at sylviestudy.com – my new website focused on in-depth training materials. “JOIN US FOR MENTAL TRAINING READING – THE INNER GAME CHAPTERS 1 & 2” – he has an unusual, philosophical/anthropological take on things, and he’s posted from his Instagram. You can follow his Sylvie Study posts by subscribing.
Reading Chapter 1 of The Inner Game of Tennis today for @sylviemuay ‘s reading group and right away the author is tapping into the power dynamics of authority of Coach and/vs student that the author will argue is antithetical to learning. Cramming the mind with biomechanical directives (or mental focus directives) is actually not teaching, it is rather authorizing teaching, cementing a power dynamic very far from the flows required for elite performance, or just expressive performance. This commercialization of knowledge is the root of this, in many ways. This is perhaps one of the hidden differences between Thai Muay Thai and the Muay Thai of much of the world. go to the original post
This Reading Group grew out of the desire to given even more to my patron supporters who make all my documentary work possible, all my fighting and writing. Already patrons have access to the incredible Muay Thai Library of legends and techniques we are building, and lots of exclusive articles, and film, but I want my patron to also become a community, a resource for experiences that get us all closer to the Muay Thai we love, together.
This is what the Reading Group is about, bringing together different perspectives, reading together and thinking together about this classic text. I hope to see you on our call, or in our Reading Group on Facebook!
You can get your own copy of The Inner Game of Tennis to read along with us here.