Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Meditation & Mindfulness for Football and for Life

Meditation is (1) present moment, (2) mindful, and (3) non-judgmental. In breathing meditation, the focus is on the breath. Thoughts, emotions and tensions of the body are not the enemy. We often begin by acknowledging them. If they arise again through the practice, we again acknowledge and put them to one side. We can imagine standing beside a road watching the cars pass by. We are not stepping out into the traffic and trying to direct the traffic. Doing and fixing has its place, but the purpose of meditation is training us to recognize how we relate to our thoughts and taking a bigger perspective. The intention is the awareness to be mindful in this moment, this breath. Through awareness we come to recognize harmful and helpful patterns and cultivate a new relationship to our thoughts and problems. (Another good example is how when the rain comes down, we might take shelter to collect ourselves before stepping out into the rain and not resisting the prospect of getting soaked.) In meditation we are in being-mode, not doing-mode. There are no goals or objectives, no good or bad practice. A monk was told by his superior to go up a mountain and try to have no thoughts. He came back very sad, saying he had been distracted by endless thoughts the whole time. His superior sent him the second day asking him this time to try to have thoughts. Again, he failed, and complained of long stretches now when no thoughts would come. Excellent progress, applauded the superior. He had learnt that you can’t control the nature of mind, so the best way to meditate is to just be. Just being, there is no such thing as a good or bad practice. If you try to repress a thought, say I were to tell you not to think of polar bears for the next minute, then the thought of polar bears will keep cropping up, and may even continue to crop up for the rest of the day. This illustrates the harm of repression. Like cloudy apple juice, or muddy water, clarity comes from letting the bits settle. This is a lesson for meditation, and a lesson for life.

Mindfulness is easy. Remembering to be mindful is the challenge. We need mindfulness most when stressed or depressed, and yet it is at these times that the body and mind are most tense and prone to forget to be mindful. So we need tricks to remember. A particularly good trick is to associate moments or places of your daily routine to trigger reminders to be mindful, to just become aware of the body and the breath, or even to do a little 5-minute meditation. When the mindfulness of meditation permeates our everyday life, then it can begin to have a very powerful and profound effect. An example of a three-stage short meditation is (1) acknowledge thoughts, emotions and tensions, (2) follow the breath and increase concentration, and then (3) expand out the inner space of awareness to encompass the world. We can visualize these three steps as the narrowing and then expanding out of an egg-timer. Other good tricks include writing down one’s thoughts in a diary to get a sense of perspective, imagining our thoughts up on a screen to get distance, breathing light into parts of the body where we feel tension, feeling the contact of our feet with the ground as we walk, doing a body scan, and consciously doing things to pick ourselves up, motivate and revive us, like going on holiday. Whatever we do, from sport to work, if we do it with awareness of our body and breath, then far from distracting us, it enables us to perform much better. Try it!

Source: Anonymous. This is merely written up by me, based on talks I attended and I've put a football spin on it just for fun. :^) This is definitely for everyone though, not just for footballers and Olympic athletes, lol. We can all learn to be more mindful!

The videos are “Waka Waka” by Shakira ft. Freshlyground and “Wavin' Flag” by K’naan, both theme tunes of the 2010 football World Cup last year in South Africa to bring back the memories.

This was published originally on Buddhist Travellers in 2011.

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