Life lessons from archery

This past week was our 7th annual Castle Staudinger archery tournament. For me, this has become the biggest event of the year. The single occasion that I look forward to more than my birthday, more than Christmas, even more than Halloween… which is huge.

Captain Chris Staudinger

The 6th Annual Tournament

In Eastern Washington there is a small castle. Some kids get tree forts, some kids get castles. Well, no, I got a castle. Let’s not dwell on it. This little hamlet has become the stage for one of the most important things Tawny and I do every year. We let our imaginations run wild. For a weekend Castle Staudinger becomes an adult summer camp. While archery (and the medals that come with it) are the facade we use to coax ourselves to this place, the true ambition is to remember the spark that keeps us going. It is a time to celebrate the glorious phenomena we call friendship.

life lessons learned from archery

Tea-time at Castle Staudinger

Don’t be fooled by the fact that most of us wear animal hides and chainmail, the true aim of the tournament isn’t live action role playing, but camaraderie. We don’t come to pretend to be someone we’re not, we come to celebrate who we really are. This is the key. Each tournament starts with the archery tournament itself. For me, it’s a form of meditation. Archery requires you to focus your whole self into a single moment of release. I stand, feet grounded, and eyes focused on the target. I have to drown the world around me out until only the small circle 20 yards away is all the remains. Push out the anxiety, the deadlines, the vanity. I have to push it all out and drawn the bow (50 lbs. of tension) and hold it.

Focus

Focus

And hold it.

Keeping the focus, the grounding, the aim, and in a single moment let it all go. You don’t shoot a bow, you focus all its tension into a point and let it go. If you are still and disciplined the arrow will do the rest. It’s a challenge against your own self. As Confucius says,

“Archery enshrines the principles of human relationships. The Archer perfects his form within himself. If his form is perfect, yet when he releases he misses, there is no point in resenting those who have done better than him. The fault lies nowhere but within himself.” 

Life is like an archery tournament, we are all in it together, but all competing against our own self the whole while.

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“In life, accuracy counts.” – The Weather Man

We open the tournament with meditation, force ourselves to push away everything but the core of who we are and what we want. And then, we drink. We drink to celebrate life and one another. It’s easy to take for granted our existence. Isn’t it? We get so caught up in the process of living our lives that we forget to celebrate the incredible achievement of having made it this far. When you think about it, it really is an amazing feat to have come this far. We should all toast one another’s conquest over the myriad of trials and snares the act of living presents daily more often.

Celebration time

Celebration time

It is the social aspect that makes this tournament what it is. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you’re sleeping in a campaign tent in the shadow of a castle. The constructs of life we build up don’t make as much sense in that context and you’re forced to focus on the now, the people, your actions. For me, this is what’s important. A weekend with good friends and good beer is suddenly the most important weekend of the year.

A ripping good time

A ripping good time

6th Annual Tournament - 2012

6th Annual Tournament – 2012

Ben Herndon

1st Annual Tournament – 2007

For seven years now we have set aside the time to celebrate one another. For me, I can’t think of a more important holiday. Friendship and fellowship are such undervalued commodities these days. Too often we mask them with other celebrations. We put the focus on the wrong target and miss the mark. Sometimes the reason for seeing your friends should just be your friends, or your love.

Love does play a large roll

Love does play a large roll

1st Annual Tournament

1st Annual Tournament – Medalists

2nd Annual Tournament

2nd Annual Tournament – Medalists

3rd Annual Tournament

3rd Annual Tournament – Medalists

4th Annual Tournament

4th Annual Tournament

5th Annual Tournament

5th Annual Tournament – Medalists

6th Annual Tournament

6th Annual Tournament – Medalists

7th Annual Tournament

7th Annual Tournament – Medalists

“The superior man has nothing to compete for. But if he must compete, he does it in  an archery match, wherein he ascends to his position, bowing in deference.   Descending, he drinks the ritual cup.”

– Confucius 

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8 Comments

  1. Tim Moon
    August 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    That sounds like a blast! I learned archery at summer camp back in the day. Then practiced for many years with a long bow and a recurve. Cool looking house. Do you have a moat?
    Tim Moon recently posted…Best Travel Movies: Films That Inspire AdventureMy Profile

  2. Erin at The World Wanderer
    August 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    This looks amazing! Mostly because of the booze, haha, but also because I know you two know how to party. Maybe you should host RWTBEX at your castle one of these days…just saying. I mean, we are like family…
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted…Egypt’s Famous Dish: Koshari.My Profile

  3. Hogga
    August 6, 2013 at 7:04 am - Reply

    i would like to drink beer and play archery!

  4. Kristin @ KEEN Digital Summit
    August 6, 2013 at 11:51 am - Reply

    You’re a modern day Robin Hood!

  5. Carol
    August 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    I wanna go!! Waaaaaaaaaa! I tried archery for the first time in Scotland and loved it and have, coincidentally, signed up for lessons in my hood…though I ain’t no Robin! Hahaha! Get it? Robin? Hood? Anyhooooo…awesome event, and congrats on that metal!
    Carol recently posted…Where Would You Go?My Profile

  6. Gabriel
    August 20, 2013 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Looks like an awesome time. I’ve only ever gotten to shoot an arrow once and it was at a renaissance festival so they weren’t that great of bows but it looks like a lot of fun.
    Gabriel recently posted…Travel Photography Gear – MeFoto Tripod ReviewMy Profile

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