Bring mind, body and spirit into the shot in this new approach to archery, says One Magazine’s Bruce Hetherington.
Gordon Monaghan is one of those characters whose life story has been chiselled into his features. He’s been there, done that, and survived to tell the tale.
These days Gordon is living a more sedentary life as the guiding force behind Dartmoor Archery, the instinctive archery site on the wooded eastern slopes of Dartmoor. Here Gordon helps his visitors find their inner archer.
“In instinctive archery there are no sights, the accuracy comes from within the archer. We all have the instinct within us,” he says.
It is no surprise then that Gordon weaves mindfulness, breathing and Zen intuition into his approach to archery – urging first time archers not to overthink or overwork their first few shots. As soon as Gordon knows that everyone is aware of all relevant safety aspects he will help you choose a bow, purposefully identifying bows that are going to be easier to draw than you might expect.
“It’s much better to shoot with a lighter bow to start with, so there’s no physical struggle. The physical struggle is easier to get around than the mental struggle.”
It turns out it’s often those new to archery that respond fastest to Gordon’s instinctive approach.
“If they have an open mind, new people that haven’t shot before can be taught very quickly, but people already doing archery may have bad habits and it can take a bit longer to get through to them,” he says.
Gordon tells a lovely story of how the ‘in the moment’ aspect of archery can have amazing restorative effects.
A family turned up recently to have a go, and he could hear the eldest daughter telling the others in the car park how she was no good at these kinds of things, and didn’t the whole family know that? The rest of the family had been before, so after the safety discussion Gordon let them get on with their own archery. However, the eldest was missing the target every time and getting frustrated, so he spoke quietly to her about her thinking process and the way she viewed her seeming lack of archery ability, persuading her to view the glass ‘half-full’.
Within 15 minutes of shooting she was doing better and by the end of the session was comfortably outshooting her Dad.
Her parting words to Gordon were “I’ll never let my mind get in the way again”.
As a result of these successes Gordon has developed a full-day Meditation Archery course. The instinctive archery courses are done in a mindfulness way, but the Meditation Archery course has the time to go much deeper.
“As the archer becomes more proficient they will shoot with no thought at all, and their archery will become a dynamic meditation. Archery is a martial art that brings mind, body and spirit into one shot, and if done in conjunction with a clear mind and rhythmic breathing you will achieve accuracy and inner peace. I’m trying to get everyone to work more with the subconscious than the conscious mind,” he says.
On fair weather days, the archery takes place out in the woods, where Gordon has cleared a couple of acres of hillside to set up various targets. He has also built a long indoor archery barn (with roaring log fire) where you can shoot, and have a go at (supervised) knife and axe throwing.
For those of you playing Red Dead Redemption II, or anyone actually, this is the perfect way to take your inner Arthur out into the real world and have your own go at what life must have been like when we relied on our instincts to survive.
When you find that sweet spot of calm anticipation, pull back the bowstring and release the arrow on its almost self-guided flight towards the target you will have found a moment of peace. It’s true. Then, thwack, the arrow strikes your target – bang – straight between the shoulder blades and no amount of Zen can block out the rush of adrenaline that a successful hunt delivers!
Just don’t let Gordon see that mad glint in your eyes… take a deep breath.
For a fun-filled, safe introduction to instinctive archery, or for more detail on the full day Meditation Archery course call Gordon on 07527 449758 or find out more online at www.dartmoorarchery.co.uk