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How archery teaches us the process of let go

Unsplash - Archery

What I took away beside having fun at archery was a deeper understanding of the process of what it takes to let go.

Archery is said to have a positive effect on physical and mental illnesses or complaints and to accelerate their healing. I knew that it is used for therapeutic purposes, but I never had the opportunity to experience it.

A couple of days ago, I took a break from writing and visited Parko Toxovolias Artemis, an archery park in the beautiful mountains above Παλαιοχώρα (Palaiochora) near a small mountain village Άνυδροι (Anidri) in Crete.

A beautiful small serpentine road, coming from Palaiochora towards Anidri, wriggling through a wonderful gorge all the way up to the archery park in the wild mountains, southeast of Crete.

Immediately, while arriving on-site, I could sense the authenticity. Contrary to what one would expect when going to an archery park on an island that relies on tourism; Leaving an impression as if it would have emerged naturally from its environment, sensing the calmness and energy this space offers, far beyond from being a simple sport or entertaining activity.

Kirsten and Susanne, have made a little nature-mindful paradise for archery enthusiasts since their arrival on the island in 2019. A paradise in which you learn much more than just mastering archery.

“Don't think of what you have to do, don't consider how to carry it out!" he exclaimed. "The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise.” Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

After a brief introduction about the equipment, I asked Kirsten:

"How shall I aim?"

"Not at all!" She said, "Or do you aim when guiding the fork to your mouth when eating?"

It made me laugh right away. As a musician, I know how important it is to lean into your playing, leaving your mind aside. No reason to be different here, I thought.

After several shots on the shooting range, I was ready to embark to the course extending over approximately 1km with 20 stations.

Since my objective was not only to experience archery, but beyond that, experiencing myself, I paid careful attention to my posture, mindset, breath and emotions as I progressed through the course.

Once I was done, I sat down with Kirsten under a carob tree next to the shooting range to discuss my observations.

I explained to her how I noticed my shots went much smoother when holding my breath after exhaling than vice versa. She confirmed. While we hold on our breath after inhaling, our body has to hold tension and thus, cannot be free and works against the process.

I asked why some arrows fly straight compared to others. Although the direction doesn't differ much, some fly visibly "more stable", others requiring much more time to stabilize.

Kirsten explained, sometimes we do not let go properly on the line, whereas sometimes we do. She observed that my hand sometimes subtle moved forward when releasing the line, as if I would try to push the arrow further. It surprised me since I haven't noticed it at all.

She explained further that one can observe if someone is having difficulties to let-go in life. Before you can let go off something, you first need to have it. Commonly, people struggling to let go, require the feel of holding something. Archery comes in very handy here, since although we have to let go the line with one hand, the other hand keeps on holiding the bow and won't release it. This comforts and gives a level of security.

Executing a shot holds all the elements to the process.

  1. First you accept the situation, the target you want to shoot on. Easy or difficult (Bad or Good), it doesn't matter. You don't turn away from it, you face it. Take position and preparing yourself, placing the arrow onto the bow.

  2. You lean into it. Making the situation your own. Breathing in while raising the bow, aiming to the target. Breathing out while you pull the line towards you. Letting your self merge into it. Feeling your hand holding the line next to your cheek.

  3. Releasing your fingers holding the line, without hesitating, a smooth opening and releasing of what you held. Let the arrow find its path to the target, free from control and refraining hesitation.

Susanne nailed it perfectly while referring to the 3 "lets".

  1. Accept (let it be),

  2. Live it through (let yourself into it, make it your own)

  3. so that finally you'll be able to let it go.

Next time whenever I feel resistance to whatever comes along in my life, I will think about archery. I had a wonderful day spending my time with nice people, enriching and pleasant talks, fun with archery, and deepened my understanding of the process of let go.

If you ever come to visit Crete. This is something you definitely should consider on your to do list. There's much more to take away. To me the above was the most dominant probably since I'm letting go of so much right now.

Enjoy the moment

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