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Shooting and the Art of Mindfulness

My recent post with Pete Lessler’s advice regarding record keeping for each shot got me thinking. I’ve been reading a lot about health lately and there is a recurring theme about the importance of mindfulness. What is mindfulness, you ask?

mind·ful·ness
ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/
noun
  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

In other words, mindfulness is another form of meditation. It is the practice of focusing inward and becoming aware of everything that your body is doing and feeling, as well as any thoughts that are passing through your mind. The trick, in my view, is not become engaged with these things. Rather, you should acknowledge their presence, and then allow them to drift on into oblivion. You should not actively force yourself to reject these thoughts, as that only stresses your mind and distracts you. There have been a great number of studies in the last several years showing the stress relief benefits, as well as many other physical benefits, of mindfulness practice.

So what does this have to do with marksmanship? The level of detail that Pete suggests you should be recording about each and every shot does not happen by accident. The ability to pay attention to every one of those little details is exactly what being mindful is all about. In fact, in his own book Gun Digest Shooter’s Gudie to Rifle Marksmanship, he said the following:

THE MIND GAME
This is the hardest part. RELAX YOUR MIND! Stay positive, forget about the last shot, and work through your steps. Don’t worry about the last shot or the next shot, focus on THIS shot. Don’t think, don’t “try”, just shoot. You’ll find that the harder you try, the worse you will do. So don’t “try”, just “do.” Let the techniques and principles above do the work for you. When you execute correctly you will be surprised at how simple and effortless a steady hold right on your target can be. Clear your mind of impatience, desire, excitement, worrying about group size or accuracy, pride and ego, beating your shooting buddy, the last mistake you made, etc. All this is distracting, self-defeating mental and emotional junk! Work on your cold, focused “fire control computer”. Hypnotize yourself with your sight picture into a sort of detachment from the process, and have fun.

The bolded is my emphasis. These elements sound an awful lot like meditation and mindfulness. This kind of mindful practice is my goal for the next range session (hopefully later today), with an emphasis on returning to basics of prone and sitting position.

In other news, I picked up Mr. Lessler’s other book about Handgun Marksmanship. I think between this one and the Modern Day Gunslinger by Don Mann, I should have a pretty good base to start building my handgun shooting plan.

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2 thoughts on “Shooting and the Art of Mindfulness”

  1. Thanks for the plug!
    Be advised that this level of things does not happen quickly. Great patience and time are required. Just keep at it and note your progress, however slow it may be.

  2. I would add something else: there is a progression from “mindfulness” to “mindlessness” (not referring to my current mental state!) wherein all these things to pay attention to start to become second nature, almost subconscious in their action, and the conscious mind drifts into a sort of Zen-like meditative state of calm detachment. Takes a long time to reach that but it’s a nice place to reach.

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