Guess what: We all meditate! We may be unaware of this because we believe meditation means sitting still and closing our eyes. However, the moment we focus attention on one thing and bring the mind into a quiet place, then we are meditating, which means it can be as much active as it is being still.
The most well-known forms of meditation are watching the flow of the breath or repeating a mantra, as these focus the mind. But it could just as easily be mindfully throwing a football or the stroke of a brush as you paint; most meditation traditions do walking meditation as well as sitting practice. This is meditation in action, which is mindfulness: awareness of the present moment.
"The Seahawks believe their kinder, gentler philosophy is the future of football," says Alyssa Roenigk in ESPN The Magazine. So could mindfulness and meditation be a way to win the Super Bowl? The Seahawks obviously believe that it can. They are taught yoga and sitting meditation as a part of their training, as it's difficult to be focused if they are distracted by a monkey mind jumping from thought to thought.
"Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice," says Russell Okung of the Seahawks. "It's about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn't matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can't do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them."
Meditation focuses the mind in one place, and this equally applies to the Denver Broncos, even if they may not knowingly meditate. In football, mindfulness is needed for the accuracy of a touchdown pass down the field or the presence to know when to throw or when to run with the football: Payton Manning's great passes are made mindfully, Knowshaun Moreno runs with awareness, Eric Decker receives in the moment!
We taught meditation to the Torquay United Football team in England, sitting in the men's locker room. They were at the bottom of their league but won their next game, which meant they advanced to the next division. Filmed by the BBC on the 6 p.m. evening news, the coach was convinced that the mindfulness training had enabled the players to stay positive, despite being in such a losing position.
As our partner Brian Jones says: "Meditation is as much something that happens to us as, as something we do, like the ah-ha moment when we first learn to ride a bike. All of a sudden it just makes sense, becomes familiar, and comfortable. Meditation and mindfulness, like riding a bike, are about embodiment, self-mastery, and self-fulfillment."
TIME magazine agrees. The Feb. 3 issue focuses on mindfulness, the far-reaching effect it is having in all walks of life, and on Jon Kabat-Zinn, who brought mindfulness to hospitals and clinics, through his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
"People come with a huge amount of pain and suffering, both physical and emotional," says Kabat-Zinn in our Award Winning book, Be The Change. "Through the cultivation of mindfulness, they develop a more functional relationship with that suffering, they turn towards it, open to it, and actually befriend it to a degree rather than insisting that it stop, and in the process, the pain often transforms or even falls away... For the most part, they will tell you that they are more in touch with their own beauty than they may have been since they were children."
Whether we sit in formal meditation with our eyes closed, go for a walk or throw a football, if we do it with awareness we are meditating. We can sit with our eyes closed but if our mind is scattered then there's no stillness, while we can be running everywhere playing competitive sport but if our mind is focused and aware then we are being mindful. A clear and comprehensive training in mindfulness is vital, so it can become integral to every part of our life. Play to win: practice mindfulness!
How do you practice mindfulness? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs by checking Become a Fan at the top.
Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World. See more at RevolutionaryMindfulness.com and EdandDebShapiro.com.