When looking for solutions to their problems with insomnia, a lot of people immediately turn to proven and effective sleep-inducing pharmaceutical drugs– but at what cost?
Apart from the possible harmful side-effects of regularly taking drugs to induce sleep, relying on sleeping medication can consistently chip at your budget. Instead of relying on modern medicine to treat your insomnia, maybe it’s time to look for somewhat unusual but more natural solutions. Today’s guest post focuses on the key to what may be one of the best sleep-inducing relaxation exercies – the practice of archery.
Kyudo and Modern Archery
Modern archery is essentially a combination of ancient martial arts focused on bow and arrow shooting techniques. The most meditative form of modern archery today is called Kyudo.
Back in feudal Japan, it was still known as Kyujutsu, or ‘The Technique of the Bow’. Today, through centuries of refinement, Kyujustu has developed into Kyudo, or ‘The Way of the Bow’ – a combination of Shinto teachings, Chinese Zen philosophy, and martial bow training aimed at giving the samurai the mental strength to perform his duties with a calm and confident focus, allowing him to perform at the peak of his abilities.
Believe it or not, these same benefits that feudal samurais get from practicing Kyudo can be used to target and put an end to insomnia. How is this possible?
Kyudo/Archery for Beginners
One of the most important things about Kyudo is that it’s not a competitive sport. It’s also not a religion, but it’s a viable path for those who seek spiritual enlightenment. For those who have trouble sleeping, however, Kyudo can be useful as a focus-sharpening activity that can induce peace of mind, melt away anxieties, and possibly even treat insomnia.
Instead of actually attaining perfection, the point of Kyudo is to undertake the never-ending pursuit of perfection, allowing the mind (and/or the spirit) to consistently improve with every shot, regardless of physical health, age, or skill. It’s all about mastering the body’s movements through the application of extreme mental focus.
This is why in Kyudo, whenever you perform the ritual of shooting a bow and arrow, the first goal is to make no unnecessary movements. Before doing anything, learn the proper postures and stances from which you can execute the proper movements.
After that, each of your next breaths and movements must serve a single purpose: so you can gently pull the drawstring while aiming the arrow in a state of single-minded focus. Remember to keep the proper posture, stay balanced, and be perfectly still.
The Empty Mind and the Steady Bow
Near the point of releasing the arrow, proper breathing becomes even more relevant: trained archers can use controlled tension in the respiratory muscles to enter a brief moment of absolute concentration.
It is in this moment of heightened focus that the mind is emptied of everything else apart from the movements necessary to completing the shot. In a sense, hitting the bull’s-eye is not the point of Kyudo. You should still aim for the center of the target, but with the understanding that what’s more is the ritual of archery itself.
When you learn to empty your mind of all worries, you can find extreme calm and focus in the emptiness, allowing your mind to perform at peak levels of concentration. After shooting in the proper manner, the calmness you’ve achieved through The Way of the Bow can be used to assess your hits and misses – in Kyudo, there’s always room for improvement.
As Zen Buddhism expounds, ‘Shooting should be like flowing water,’ – sound advice for any aspiring Kyudo practitioner. If you want to see how shooting a lethal weapon resembles smooth, flowing water, check out this 7th dan Kyudo sensei as he prepares to undergo his Hanshi – the test of promotion to the coveted rank of 8th dan.
Achieve Inner Calm and Relaxation; Defeat Anxiety and Insomnia
The more practice an archer gets, the better she gets at performing the mental and physical rituals that allow her to achieve heightened calm and focus. While you can primarily use this inner calm to refine your form and hit your targets, it’s also highly effective at putting you into a state of relaxation – free from stress and anxiety.
As 9th Dan Kyudo Master Onuma Hideharu Sensei explains, the bow and arrow has always been a great way for people to look inwards, to search for the ‘hidden truth inside themselves’.
While there are many nuances that separate basic meditation from archery, Kyudo is, in many ways, just a more engaging form of meditation. Instead of just relying on your breathing, a mantra, and/or a positive image, Kyudo makes use of your entire body to sharpen your focus to the point where your mind is capable of great things, like shooting with impressive precision, handling stress and anxiety, or even using meditative calmness to beat your chronic insomnia.
If you’ve tried tons of other sleep solutions to no avail, maybe it’s time to pick up the bow and arrow!
If Peter Mutuc isn’t sculpting, writing, editing, drawing, skating, cycling, wrestling with his Labrador, or actively regulating his sleeping patterns through at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise, he’s usually just online, creating and developing web content for One Bed Mattress.
*This is a guest post.*