February Ramblings : 14 – Expounding on an elusive emotion

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

I guess you’d expect me to talk about love today. It is only appropriate that I oblige.

A cursory heads up before you jump headlong into reading (how presumptuous can I get ūüėõ ) – I am by no means cynical about the romantic variety of the aforementioned emotion, contrary to what this passage may indicate. (As I say this, I must also warn you that I have no clue what I am about to write.)

There are certain conclusions that my age (I would have added wisdom, but I gracefully refrain from the temptation, which would most certainly refute my claims to the said quality) has accorded and afforded me; and which I want you to be privy to too so that you can glean some insights (if you are the younger generation) or add your comments (if you are my peers or the older generation).

The movies or the books are just parts of the whole story. Love, in real life, ebbs and flows according to the circumstances – where in this existential voyage, both of you gather a collection of happy and sad memories. Cut a chunk of your love ‘timeline’ from any starting moment to any figurative ‘ending’ moment and you have a story worthy of cinema or literature.

The ‘feels’ are all too real.¬†I remember my Mom crying into her hanky in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. As I entered my late twenties, I too started getting emotional in movie halls. My eyes would fill up with tears of grief or joy for the lovelorn couple, as the screenplay demanded of the audience. THAT¬†my dear readers, is nothing compared to the roller-coaster ride that your heart takes you on, as an unwilling participant, when you yourself unwittingly fall in love!

Only the self-loving can love.¬†Having grown up on a steady diet of stories that glorified selfless love (case in point – Hum Dono), I have always held the notion that ‘love is, completing one another’. It is with utmost reluctance that I admit that it is not the case.

‘Love is in fact, evolving together.’

You may be opposites, or – there would never have been two people who were so alike. That is immaterial! You are under no obligation to ‘complete’ or entitled to ‘be completed’. On the contrary, when you hold hands, you set out on a journey of besting ‘your own self’ with an equally enthusiastic companion in tow, who in turn is doing the same himself/herself – while enjoying the experiences you share with one another, on the way.

This is where I end my deliberations. I can ramble on for eternity, for if any topic catches my fancy, my train of thoughts sets out to circle the Universe!

I hope you have enough food for thought on your plate. Do comment on whether¬†this¬†appeals to your palate or you’d rather have some modifications!

 

February Ramblings : 13 – Turning up

Hello there, you couldn’t be more wrong if you thought I had given up on the ramblings. I couldn’t have chosen a more ominous date to turn up. (This observation is just for theatrical effect, I don’t quite believe in omens.)

I do believe in signs though. I believe that the happenings around us indicate what course the Universe (rather, our inner self) wants us to pursue.

In the last week, several topics have occurred to me. Alas, I have not even made mental notes of them.

So today, I write extempore.

A very radical shift has taken place in my personality in 2018¬†– both physically and mentally. I have lost quite a few kilos and look leaner (not meaner ūüėõ ). I carry a feeling of complete control about me. My heart and mind are at peace.

How can such a short duration affect such a change is not beyond me though. It is the culmination of my efforts in the last 10 years, towards the development of my worldly skills and deepening of my spiritual understanding.

I have joined an online book club started by an old colleague. It has a small circle of readers of varied ages – typically 30-70s. The purpose is to read books with strong messages for self-development. We have read one book – Man’s Search for Meaning. The next one is Adela Cathcart.

The latter is a refreshing read in Classics, because the writer George MacDonald¬†has a quirky way of describing people, places, and events. I’m almost through Volume 1 and feel a strange kinship with Adela and the protagonist of John Smith’s first story. I leave you be without spoilers…

I have also joined a Toastmasters ¬†Club, attended one meeting as a guest, and spoken on a Table Topic – What do you think is the Universal Truth about becoming rich/making money? To sum up my take crisply, I said – you never have enough of it and you always think the grass is always greener on the other side. To further expound, even the richest man/woman on the Earth feels he/she doesn’t have enough money to cover his/her whims. Fancy going to Mars in a SpaceX flight, anyone? Also, money cannot buy everything and it comes at a price. Look at how Steve Jobs lost his health… Most rich people suffer from chronic lifestyle or stress induced illnesses. I rambled on, so to speak, for a minute and 7 seconds and qualified as a speaker. Ta-da!

All in all, this month is going to be exciting as I start actual work on my writing (February Ramblings), reading (Book Club), and speaking (Toastmasters) skills. Here’s to steady progress! Let me know what you have planned for February!

P.S All this while, I’ve been ‘writing’ in a British accent. I don’t know why! Do I hear you exclaim – ‘Dandy!’?

February Ramblings : 1 – Lunar Eclipse 2018

Okay, I’m too lazy to think of a more appealing post title.

Welcome to February Ramblings, a blogathon conceptualized by the Lady at Shail’s Nest. The purpose is to ramble…so here I start.

I watched the total lunar eclipse that occurred after 150 years, because it took place on a super blue moon night. (I have yet to know what a super moon means.)

In the year 2004, I had seen the total lunar eclipse that happened in the dead of the night. If I remember right, the moon was wholly red at about 2.30 am and looked like an orange – with its rough ‘peely’ (pockmarked) surface.

When I saw the ring (I know there’s no ‘ring’ ring in lunar eclipse, but I call the first illumination moment that) from the tallest building in the town yesterday, I racked my brain to remember ‘that’ moment from 2004. For the life of me, I couldn’t. Maybe I had fallen asleep after waiting too long for the eclipse to start lifting.

Let me give you a little background on how I watched that eclipse. It was the summer vacation after 12th. The younger sibling was enrolled in a Cricket Camp in Baroda, and we were also hosting one of his school friends from our town, at my Nana’s place. If you know Baroda (yes, uh Vadodara or as the locals say – Baoda), the summers are extreme. The only respite is the night breeze.

My Nana’s place was a quaint row house near the newly functional Airport, and the terrace was the perfect place to camp out with a few mattresses, for a good night’s sleep. The plus point for parents was that the sunlight at 7 am was so strong that we couldn’t sleep past reasonable waking up hours!

As usual, out of the 3 children and 1 grown-up (my Mom) who slept on the terrace, I was the only one excited about the eclipse. I was over the moon thinking Рnow I can boast about seeing both total solar (1999) and total lunar eclipse. I stayed awake past my bed time of 10 pm till 2.30, marveling at the celestial wonder. People on the terrace woke up for a moment or two and then went back to sleep. And looks like I had drifted off too, for when I woke up the moon was almost all visible.

So, to conclude,¬†I had watched the total lunar eclipse partially, and only completed watching it now, because funnily enough, I couldn’t see the moon till it was fully engulfed by the shadow at 6:21 pm. I didn’t get to see the half I had seen and saw the half I hadn’t. (OMG, I’m truly rambling!)

Getting back to what is the original point of this post – to ruminate on the mental state in which I saw both the eclipses. Sorry for keeping you in the shadows…

In that summer of 2004, I had heavily messed up my board exams. I knew the results wouldn’t be too attractive, but I also thought that there was a safety net of 80% – I was not that dumb that I could fall below that. (Or so I thought.)

I had nightmares where I couldn’t finish my paper or didn’t know what to write, because I had ‘forgotten’ to attend the classes for a subject. I had shared my feelings about my grades, but I had not shared those nightmares with anyone. In the day time, I used to have a queer feeling in my tummy – a feeling of ¬†impending dread.

Most of the times I managed to ignore it by keeping myself occupied in reading, and playing cricket with the guys. When left to my own devices, there was a constant feeling of dread running in the background.

One day, I decided to face it head on. Was I afraid of what my teachers would say? Or was it what friends and family would have to say? Was it because there were friends and cousins to whom I’d be compared to? Was it because I thought the marks would not be enough to get into a decent engineering college?

The answer to all these questions was ‘No‘. I had that feeling because I knew¬†I had not done enough, when I easily could have.

To not keep you in suspense, I got 77.7%. The safety net didn’t catch me. I reaped what I sowed. I made up for the fiasco in the entrance exams and did get into a good engineering college.

Coming back to the future… I thought on my present mental state. I have that queer feeling in my tummy again every single day.

While the feeling is of the same nature,the cause is not the same. As opposed to 2004, in 2017/18 – I feel have indeed done all I could. After a lot of mulling over, I think the feeling is because over the course of time, I turned into a people-pleaser and the nagging feeling is¬†because people feel that I haven’t done enough.

To sum up, my uneasiness¬†stems from the fact that my ‘all I could‘ isn’t ‘enough‘¬†for others!

Looking at the eclipsed moon yesterday, I realized that I have learned to face it, and use it to my advantage. It now keeps me on my toes and makes me do the right thing for myself.

Then, I had an illusion about a safety net. Now, I have none.

I know that I’m on my own, and that makes me resolute in my vow to never have that queer feeling in my tummy again, by doing what I have to do to evolve in order to reach the best of my potential!

 

All about shooting : Physical Fitness

This post is to introduce the beginners to the concept of fitness related to 10M Air Pistol Shooting through my experience. This is NOT a How-to post. As you move towards higher levels, it is advised to get professional sports physiotherapist and psychologist to help you early on.

My Dad and I share an interesting bond. We claim that we understand each other like no other person in this world would (which is true). And that is precisely the reason why we argue like no other father-daughter duo would.

A very frequent bone of contention between us is ‘fitness’.

Consider this :

2002

15-yo Me: “Baba I want to be a cricketer like the Younger Sibling.”
Dad¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†: “You are not fit enough.”

Trekking. Me, Dad, and younger sibling at Nainital for a rock climbing camp.

2008

21-yo Me: “Baba I want to take up tennis. As a hobby.”
Dad¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†: “You are not fit enough.”

Trekking. Again at the Nainital rock climbing camp.

2015

28-yo Me: “Baba I am going to join shooting.”
Dad¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†: “You are not fit enough.”

Trekking. At Lonavala.

I looked at him dumbfounded. I just had to stand there for 2 hours and lift a 1000g pistol. I warmed up before the session and stretched after. What’s the big deal? It is not an out and out physical sport like Tennis or Cricket. What is Dad driving at?

Cut to 2016 : My second State-level match in Nashik.

I shot 11 points less than the required qualification score of 335, with one shot in the first ring – a 1! I attributed the score to the fact that I hadn’t trained enough yet.

My parents were with me in the match. When we walked out of the range, I asked my Dad for an analysis.

He said that he doesn’t know much about the sport, but it is interesting, and I did well, and I will do better when I was fit enough.¬†

This time I heeded him and asked him to explain in detail.

He said that even though primarily shooting is a mental sport, you need to go out and do some physical activity so that you are not fatigued during your sessions. Even top-level Chess players swim and run. Gone are the days when unfit players were acceptable in Cricket. If anyone manages to get in the Team despite physical shortcomings, they fade away in the longer run with occasional moments where (just) their talent makes them shine.

I bought it.

But when I saw final matches in women’s 10M Air Pistol, I could see players of all shapes and sizes and they did not look to me as if they’d be doing¬†a lot of physical activity outside of shooting. Only one European shooter mentioned doing Yoga in one of the interviews.

Here’s where I was wrong. Never¬†judge anyone¬†based on appearances.¬†

Then, I didn’t know that. So I went to my Coach with my dilemma.

My father thinks I am not fit enough. I see International Players who I think are not fit enough. So why exactly am I not scoring?

He looked at me with half a smile. I now realise how juvenile my question might have seemed, coming from an apparently mature individual. He told me that I do not require serious gymming, but swimming, running will help, and I could talk to the in-house physio if I wanted.

A year passed by. I never talked to the in-house physio. I did not pursue anything additional than what I was doing on the range. I scraped through the Pre-Nationals and Nationals of 2016.

Then I saw the movie Dangal. As superficial as it sounds, my eyes were opened.

I needed to be more serious about my sport. And I did get serious in everything I did in shooting, except fitness. It gave me results, good ones too, but somewhere I knew something was missing and I always felt lost as to what.

I knew I had to exercise but what, how, when?

2017 : 1 year 2 months after the fateful Nashik match.

I met our consultant physiotherapist, who is currently training International athletes. A lot of my myths were busted, and I got the real no-frills perspective on physical fitness in shooting.

You guys, the real article starts here!

So here’s the long and short of it :

Physical fitness training in shooting is to help develop mental strength.

The crux of it is running. That too, slow running. All other exercises a shooter does (warm up, stretches, cool down) is to aid him/her in building the stamina required for running.

Why slow running?

  1. The completion of even one session of running fills you with confidence.
  2. It gives a sense of achievement.
  3. Completing each running session trains the shooter to finish what he/she started no matter what.
  4. Regular running streaks help make winning a habit.
  5. It helps improve your lung capacity. (This one’s my addition.)

Layman tips

  1. Always run or exercise after your shooting session.
  2. Your exercise regimen should be : Day 1 Run, Day 2 Full body stretching, Day 3 Rest AND Repeat.
  3. Start with 20 mins on 400m track – in which you do basic body exercises, brisk walk for 5 mins, slow run for 20 mins, and finish with an additional round of brisk walk. Gradually, when you feel like it, increase to 30 mins.
  4. Substitute running with 40 mins walk a week before competition.
  5. Do not go by my word for it. This is just to give you an idea of the kind of fitness an average shooter needs.

Meet your physio and talk to him/her about running, its benefits, and what other physical fitness measures you need to take.

 

All about shooting : Overcoming self-doubt

In sport, being grounded is an important quality.

It keeps you realistic when you are soaring high in success and propels you higher when you feel down in the dumps.

However, for beginners, it is a double-edged sword.

Being grounded in just the right amount can work wonders while being excessively grounded to the point of inferiority complex can severely damage their aggression and ambition Рwhich are the key ingredients for success.

There are two types of grounded beginners according to me :

1. Confident

They are excited at the prospect of learning something new.

They start slow and steady, go on improving each day, and are content with the progress they are making with the knowledge they have gathered so far.

They are not bothered by what others are doing. However, they actively seek out information that will help them improve their technique and other supporting abilities.

In competitions, they know exactly where they stand and do their own thing without being intimidated by the presence of stalwarts or other seasoned players.

On the range : They will be found doing their own thing calmly. They allocate separate time (that does not interfere with their practice) for discussions with their Coach and peers. They enter the range cheerfully, and walk out with a smile after completing their practice sessions.

2. Self-doubters

They are intimidated at the prospect of learning something new.

When they start, they have too many questions and are always unhappy with their results. Most of their practice sessions go by in lamenting that they do not know enough. Instead of taking in the offered step-by-step guidance, they keep focusing on what others are doing and what makes the others click.

They spend much time networking, but this consists of one sided cribbing about their present situation and discussing how the stalwarts have got all the amenities to make it big. They do not derive any useful information out of it.

In competitions, all their puffed up confidence disappears and they’re paralysed with mortal fear of taking shots. If the seasoned players are present, they automatically write themselves off the list of serious competitors.

On the range : They will be found chatting up anybody who’s willing to converse – seniors, juniors, or Coaches. They rarely finish their practice sessions. They enter the range with a nervous smile or in a sulky mood and exit in a similar fashion.

What is the root cause of self-doubt? 

Self-doubters are often more intelligent and knowledgeable than the confident ones.

‘Knowledge is Power’ – we have been taught in schools. However, the very knowledge makes them acutely conscious of the fact that there is a lot that they don’t know. They know that there is so much to know that they wouldn’t get to all nuances of 10m Air Pistol shooting in their entire lifetime, let alone the other branches of the sport!

This overwhelms them so much, that they resort to constantly underestimating the basic knowledge that they already possess. The knowledge, if implemented consistently, would be enough to take them to higher levels where they can further improve by self-learning and expert coaching.

The million dollar question – How to overcome self-doubt?

Self-doubt is often a direct result of the tendency to overcomplicate.

If you can dumb yourself down for set durations, say in practice sessions, exercise sessions, visualisation time, and even competitions, self-doubt will not make an appearance.

Img Courtesy : The Awkward Yeti

Dumbing down is an art. It does not mean that you shut down all your logical faculties.

Instead, you shut down your inquisitive side just long enough to allow you to focus on what you are doing at the moment, so that you do what is required of you in the practice sessions or competition, and not think about what more is required of you to accomplish more than what you are achieving at present.

After practice or competition, you switch on your inquisitive side and use it to analyse the ‘takeways’, ‘need to dos’ and ‘questions’ for yourself, and for the discussions with your Coach. This way, you are dissociating your inquisitive nature from self-doubt.

Now, inquisitiveness will be your ally rather than a detractor. 

When you master (Do I see you doubting yourself again at this decisive word that establishes you as an authority on a given subject? Then go over this section again and read this when you are a regular at switching on and off your dumb side.) dumbing down and can switch it on and off at will, you will see that your results have improved significantly. This will also get rid of the ‘impostor syndrome’ that stems from too much knowledge (and very little real work) and is an¬†equal cause of self-doubt.

Footnote

  1. Although this post is mainly for beginners, even seasoned shooters experience self-doubt at various points of time due to similar or other reasons. Recovering is easier for them because they have string of successes to validate their expertise in shooting.
  2. Not all self-doubt is bad. Sometimes, it is an outcome of the shooters ability to stay grounded while experiencing a fine streak of back to back successes. As long as the shooter has mastered dumbing down, it doesn’t hurt to remind oneself of the long way that remains to be travelled. It provides the zeal to achieve more.
  3. The ideal shooter will never fall directly into one of the two beginner types I have highlighted. Because a confident starter may fall into the trap of becoming over confident and complacent, while a self-doubting starter may develop an inferiority complex and become an underachiever.

    The ideal shooter has a healthy mix of confidence and self-doubt, and knows when to use both to his/her advantage.