Monday, May 15, 2017

Instinctive skills.

When I first started shooting with my new 60lb Horse Bow I was only getting about a third of my shots in the gold and inner red bands of the target. In addition, my back and chest muscles rapidly became sore. After a month, I am now getting over half of my shots in the inner area. Still not good enough, but my muscles have largely adjusted and I anticipate further steady progress.

I am interested in shooting accurately through instinctive archery, without conscious aiming. The process is the same as in learning to draw accurately without conscious effort and can be illustrated with a little experiment. This demonstrates the link between thought and action (I originally got it from an old book on auto-suggestion).

First you need a target. You can print out the one provided (click on the image for the full size version) or draw it out roughly on a piece of paper.

Next you need to make a simple rod and pendulum. Get a straight piece of light wood about 30 cm long (or a piece of stiff wire – anything will do). You need a weight (a small nail will do), which you attach to the end of the rod with thread so that it will hang about 20cm below the end of the rod.

Hold the rod so that the pendulum is hanging just above the centre of the target. It is a good idea to hold your arm slightly away from your body, so that your body does not steady it (and do not rest your elbow on the table). Hold the rod lightly and as far away from the pendulum end as you can comfortably manage. Relax your arm and - from this point on - ignore your arm! Concentrate on the target! (You will NOT need to make any DELIBERATE movements of your arm.)

Please note that the following exercise does NOT rely on anything “supernatural”.

This exercise is entirely to do with the normal functioning of mind and body. However, please do NOT try to work out how it functions until later (there is an explanation at the end).

Concentrate on the target and start saying to yourself, slowly and steadily, over and over again, “A B, A B, A B, . . . “

(It may help at first to look rhythmically from one end of the A/B line to the other, at the same time.)

After a few moments the pendulum will start to swing along the A/B axis. Don’t get excited, just keep going until the swinging motion is nicely established.

Now try thinking, “C D, C D, C D, . . . “

(you do not have to say it aloud, although it may help at first).

The pendulum will gradually respond and change until it is swinging along the C/D axis.

Again, just keep going until the C/D swing is well established.

Now try thinking,
“Circle, circle, circle, . . . “

Just keep going until the pendulum is steadily swinging in a circular motion over the target.
All these pendulum movements should have happened WITHOUT any requirement for deliberate arm movements - it should have felt like the pendulum was swinging all by itself!

Finally, just think, “Stop”, look at the centre of the target - and relax!
(It can take some time for the pendulum to fully slow down so, after a moment or two, I usually just break off and put the pendulum down.)

How does it work?

Well, the preparations have made it clear that something is supposed to happen with the pendulum. The obvious expectation when you start thinking, “A B, . . . “, is that it is supposed to swing along the A/B axis. So your unconscious mind promptly fulfills your expectations by synchronising the tiny movements that your (unsteady) arm makes anyway. Normally, these movements cancel each other out and so (apart from the odd quiver) the pendulum stays stationery. Since these tiny movements now reinforce each other, the movement of the pendulum will gradually buildup without any noticeable effort on your part (another observer MIGHT notice very slight movements of your arm, but these will be tiny compared to those made if you deliberately swing the pendulum).

This is a very good exercise for training yourself not to interfere with things that are best done on an unconscious level, i.e., learning to think about the desired result and knowing that it will come about without the need for deliberate effort on your part. It is also the way that I try to teach students to draw - to perceive what they want to draw, whilst letting the hand and eye do the rest, without conscious effort or strain.

NB :
There is a twist to this exercise that can be very revealing. You get the pendulum swinging in a circle. Then try to convince yourself that it is very frightening, perhaps that it is "supernatural". You want it to stop, but it won't stop swinging. If you can work yourself into a convincing state of panic, the pendulum will normally swing even faster! This is because your unconscious mind does not understand negatives. The intensity of your fear is interpreted as an even stronger desire to make the pendulum swing harder. Your unconscious mind is simply carrying out what it is interpreting as your wishes.

The moral of this is - DON'T PANIC!