Thailand is a land of many interesting places to explore. More than the adventurous spots, the country is also known for its meditation temples. It has, in fact, become one of the tourism offerings. Some of the meditation and retreat centres in Thailand cater to foreigners who want to experience authentic healing of the mind.
Mediation is an important aspect of having a holistic healthy living. It is something regarded as essential but overlooked activity. Exercising the mind is vital for poker players. Whether you are hobby poker player or a professional, meditation should be squeezed in your schedule. Why? Meditation has many benefits. Let’s break it down.
Meditation equates to happiness.
Our brain is accustomed to functioning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No rests in between. When thoughts become too preoccupied with the future instead of the present moment, it becomes problematic. Previous studies have shown that even boring thoughts are detrimental to overall happiness. Meditation increases the ability to focus on the present moment – the very thing that poker players must acquire. Happiness through mindful meditation allows poker players to concentrate on the game and even adjust their attitude towards a hand or a bad play.
Meditation reduces stress.
Heavy poker players are admittedly affected by stress. This is not good for their decision-making process during a game. Meditation can help poker players to process their emotions better, allowing them to make better decisions during their poker sessions.
Meditation improves mental faculties.
Playing poker is more than just having lady luck by your side. You must have skills and strong cognitive abilities to deduce possible plays. When you meditate every day, you exercise your brain on a daily basis allowing it to develop the strength it needs to cope up with the mental stresses a poker game may bring.
Meditation is for everyone. It is not exclusive to monks and experts. There are different ways to meditate. This can be achieved through Tai Chi, mantra meditation, or Qi-gong. Yoga is also a great way to meditate. It has become popular in the last decade that even MMA fighters from Thailand also do yoga to increase their mental abilities, recover from a fight, and increase their flexibility and mobility.
If you find it difficult to focus, which already affects your ability to make proper calls during your poker game, it might be best to try your hand at mindful meditation. Mindful meditation is a technique that allows you to be observant while being non-reactive to thought stimuli, emotions, and physiological responses. This cognitive and intention-based process allows you to self-regulate and bring your focus back to the “now.”
Poker players can largely benefit from mindful meditation especially when they are in tournaments. Their thoughts and actions done during mindful meditation can be used reorient your mind to what is in the present – your cards, your opponent, and the deck of cards. This technique does not need a big space and does not take long. Even a good 10 minutes of this activity can help you “get in the zone.”
Here’s a quick guide to get that 10-minute of mindful meditation that will help you win that coveted WSOP bracelet.
- First, you must have the will to do it. For your meditation to be successful, you have to condition your mind that you are going to let go.
- Go to a secluded space. This is crucial particularly if you are new to meditation. You will need to find a secluded place where you feel safe and secure.
- Try to remove all the possible distractions. If you are going to do it at home and you are living with someone, inform them that you should not be disturbed during your meditation. Also, make sure that your devices are turned off or put on silent mode.
- Position yourself. To do it correctly, you must have the correct position. Get a pillow or anything to balance you or make you comfortable. While sitting, open your hips and knees. Your posture should follow the natural curvature of your lumbar spine. Lightly retract your shoulder blades and rest them on a wall. Head should also be stable, with the chin slightly lifted. This ensures that your spine is straight. A straight spine allows the cerebral fluid to freely flow.
- Begin mindful meditation. Start by observing your thoughts and refraining from reacting. Acknowledge your thoughts and gain insights from it. Many think that meditation is achieved by blocking off thoughts. This is not true. Meditation allows you to accept that your thoughts exist but they have to power over you. Instead, you must be able to conquer them.
- Gain insight from your thoughts by focusing on an “anchor.” This anchor is usually the breathing cycle. Breathe through your nose for three to five seconds, pause to practice awareness, then exhale through your mouth for three to five seconds. Your breathing should be deep enough to push out the diaphragm. If a thought enters your mind, do not try to suppress it. Acknowledge its presence then concentrate again on your breathing cycle or your anchor.
- To effectively focus on your anchor, you must apply the breathing cycle properly. These are the four parts of the cycle:
- Inhalation: This allows heat to enter the body and feed your inner fire while activating your autonomic nervous system.
- Pause of Awareness: Listening to your heart during this time is an effective practice.
- Exhalation: This allows your body to cool down as it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Pause of Awareness: This second pause ensures that there is continuity of the cycle.
- Once you get the hang of it, you can increase your “stake” by doing it for about 20 to 30 minutes. You can even set a definite schedule for your meditation sessions. If you are in a tournament, you can do mindful meditation during tournament breaks.
Sure, mindful meditation can be done anywhere but it takes time to master it. But once you are committed, investing time for it, the benefits will return to you a thousand-fold.
Practicing meditation alters the brain’s neural activity, change the dopamine levels, and increases cortical thickness. One of the prominent poker players who practice meditation includes Daniel Negreanu.
Dan shared in his blog at FullContactPoker how he recovers from a bad beat through meditation. “People often ask me how to deal with a bad beat, and my answer to that is to take three to five really deep breaths. That in itself is a form of mediation that can help centre you and relieve the body of anxiety. As you meditate more often, this practice can help you deal with these situations more easily,” Dan wrote.
He mentioned that engaging in meditation has helped him become calmer when he is bluffing or when he encounters extremely stressful situations. He added, “There is no wrong way to do meditation, thoughts will come and go, the mind is designed to have thoughts. Over time, the thoughts don't go away, but you become better at simply noticing them and separating yourself from your minds thoughts.” Dan advocates meditation that he has been doing a course on the topic at ChoiceCenter. Dan was actually inspired by another WTP winner, Andrew Lichtenberger, who changed his diet and started practicing meditation and yoga.
Poker players can benefit from meditation because it is good for both the mind and the body. They spend over ten hours sitting down and this can cause health problems if a player’s body and mind are not at its optimal state.
Thailand poker players are lucky to be living in a country that offers them several temples and retreat centres where they can master the art of meditation.