I have been a huge sports fan all my life. It doesn’t matter that I never played competitive sports but I can proclaim that sports build character. Through a gamut of emotions – from ecstasy to jubilation to trauma to indifference – players learn to train their mind. Players need to put in tremendous amount of hard work and stay laser focused to be at the peak of their achievement. Why does this sound like meditation to me? At a macro level, players have to deal with a lot of distractions, in terms of press conferences, PR debacles, fan adulation, etc. At the micro level, they have to internalize so much and still bring out their best talents on the game day.
With so many external distractions, an untrained mind can buckle under pressure and sometimes , unfortunately, leads to disastrous consequences including death. I hold in high respect anyone that can keep their mind at peace even at the pinnacle of achievement. In Sanskrit (the language of gods), there is a word to describe equanimity, Sthitaprajna. Most sports(wo)men develop this with or without consciously knowing it.
Which brings me to today’s game. I was wondering how a 40 year old athlete could be so successful in such a physically demanding game such as NFL. While all his competition is retired and enjoying watching the game from their plush sofas, he is not just surviving but thriving. Tom Brady’s mental toughness and mindfulness has been well documented in books such as Exploring Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Well-Being. Some of the greatest sportsmen/coaches of our time including but not limited to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr, Pete Carroll, etc have employed meditation and mindfulness in their routine to gain a significant edge over their competition.
On a lighter note, one team is bound to win and another to lose today. Fans on both sides need some mindfulness in the midst of a, hopefully, nail biting finish to football season today. Too much of a negative emotion is not good for mind, body and health and so I encourage you practice some mindfulness during and after the game. A simple exercise as stepping out of the situation and taking 5 deep breaths will go a long way in healthier and saner experience.
I am listing three books that meld the idea of sports and meditation together.
- Meditation Muscle: America’s New Workout for the Mind to Increase Happiness, Build Resiliency, and Excel Under Pressure
- The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance
- Sport and Meditation
Have a wonderful Super Bowl. Go Pats!!