The early morning air is crisp about you as you take in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as you quiet your mind. You raise your bow towards the target, fingers gently resting on the string and focus your eyes on the far away circle of yellow. Another deep breath and you pull back the string, hitting the familiar anchor points on your cheek and chest while your eyes never waiver from the target. You wait for the moment where everything feels right ... and then you release. The arrow hisses as it speeds towards your intent, ending with a satisfying thud as it reaches your goal. You lower your bow and draw another arrow from your quiver.
The early morning air is crisp about you as you take in another deep breath ...
Since human kind has been able to paint the walls of ancient caves, archery has been a part of us. It is a discipline which we mastered for its many benefits. It has brought us food, defended our homes, and has helped build and destroy empires. The bow and arrow has been perfected, modified, re-invented, and perfected again countless times throughout history. The english longbow changed the way warfare was fought. The mongol horde utilized horseback archers to create the largest empire ever known to man. Even into the 19th century, American people used archery as a means of providing food for their families.
But the bow is more than just a weapon. It is a part of us. Archery is a part of what it means to be human, because without the development of archery, it is likely that civilization wouldn't exist in its current form.
However, guns have made archery obsolete. The ancient ways of creating bows, styles of shooting, countless disciplines ... over 50,000 years of development - is now being forgotten because we no longer count on our skills with the bow for our survival. Even so, many are discovering that archery still has a place in modern times. They have found that the process of mastering the bow is more than just getting good with a weapon. In order to achieve perfection, one must be able to focus, clear their mind, and concentrate on the simple movements involved.
Using Archery for Meditation
Recently, technology has infused itself into this ancient tradition. The modern hunting compound bow is more akin to firing a gun than archery as was practiced by our ancestors...
However, many people are discovering the rebirth of traditional archery. For a completely meditative aspect of archery, stick with a piece of wood and a string. No sights, no stabilizers. No fancy arrow clickers or rests. Just you, your bow, and your target.
There are a few forms of formal "archery as meditation" out there, like the Kyudo archers pictured above. However, meditation does not require you to join a dojo or wear a special hat. True meditation can be done anytime, anywhere. So when it comes to archery remember that if what you are doing is instinctive, devoid of analytical thought, and pure in intent ... then you are practicing a form of meditation.
When you are practicing archery you must be aware of a thousand different little details. Are you hitting your anchor points (the points that let you know you've pulled to the same place each time)? Are you standing the same way? What does your sight picture look like? Is there any wind? And so on. The trick is to have all of these things in your mind, but without having to think about them. Like any martial art, you must have perfected your basic form to the point where you don't actually have to think about it. All you have to do is quiet your mind and focus your intent.
This can be much harder than it sounds ... and that's why archery makes such a wonderful form of meditation! You can get lost for hours trying to not think about everything you need to do in order to have your arrow hit its intended point. And that is where the journey is. The goal is not to be perfect - but to take the journey towards perfection.
Using Archery for Meditation
- Unlike other meditations, archery gives you a simple goal (hit the target) to focus on, making it less frustrating than other forms of meditation and supplying you with a sense of gratification when you achieve your goal.
- Its easy and inexpensive to get started.
- It can be practiced outdoors or indoors so it is good for all seasons.
- Proper form can not only help you shoot better, but will also help correct bad posture from sitting at a desk all day.
- It's a wonderful way to center your mind and release tension.
- You can spend your whole life practicing.
- You can do it alone, with friends, or with a formal group.
- Its a cool skill to have :)
So go to your local archery shop, set up a range in your backyard (or garage, or use a public range) and start taking some time everyday to quiet your mind, take a deep breath, and center yourself through a skill as old as humankind itself.
Check out my hub on Getting Started With Traditional Archery for some helpful tips on beginning your journey. Also, comment below if you'd like to learn more about archery for meditation!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on January 25, 2020:
This is an interesting article. I have not shot a bow and arrow for quite a few years, and never thought about it as meditation. I doubt I could shoot one now with all of physical injuries from psycho stalker, still unprosecuted, treated, or compensated for. He is trying to cripple me, apparently so that when I'm dead someone will be able to collect disability with my identity. It's a pattern, reported years ago, but still not stopped by police. They have actually greatly assisted him in his agenda.
dfross on October 27, 2018:
Thank you for your article. I particularly appreciate your emphasis on process over tech gimmicks and ‘bulls-eyes’. I was left with the impression that your opinion was that compound bows are ‘like guns’ and therefore not suitable mediums for meditation. Perhaps I misunderstood. Permit me to say that I have found my compound to be an exacting master in this respect - the Buddha seems to infuse the pulleys of my Hoyt just as he did my recurve! Now, I’m shooting flatter and harder, true, but is perhaps even more demanding, as the slightest distraction translates into deviation from true.
It’s also more of a bugger to extract arrow from target...:-)
Jason Hambling on July 25, 2018:
I would like to learn more about informal archery meditation. I have been studying Kyudo (just books and online) but the yumi bow is hard to get and the lack of teachers in my area has left me stuck. I have a Manchu bow as well as a Hankyu bow. Please forward more infotmation if possible.
Ricky from South Australia, Australia on January 21, 2015:
On reading this again, I remember now, this was one of the few articles I found on using archery as a form of meditation when I originally looked up the topic.
I've posted a hub on this topic myself (very new hubber here :P ), but I wanted to say thanks for taking the step to post something about it long before I did. It helped myself along the way, and I hope it helps even more people. :)
Adam (author) from Friday Harbor on February 16, 2011:
I am a massage therapist and encourage meditation and balance in my clients lives. A few of them have already shown an interest in using archery as a way to quiet their mind during the day and to help with their posture. It really is a pretty cool, yet under utilized technique!
kislany from Cyprus on February 16, 2011:
I am a meditation practitioner but archery and meditation, now that is a novel and interesting idea. Totally out of the box, I like it!