A friend of mine recently asked me about meditation and sports performance. Her boyfriend is a young pro golfer and is trying to mature his game. In other words, he’s trying not to lose focus and fall apart on the course when under pressure. When you are talking about golf, that is by far the biggest challenge of the game.
Golf is a serious mind game where if you don’t have your head in the game, keep your cool and absolute focus, you’ll wish you stayed home. One crappy shot can destroy a golfer’s lead and turn their game into a tailspin with a cascading domino effect of utter shame and humiliation.
But golf is also like many other sports in that way, and many other professions and scenarios of talented and inspiring individuals who make art out of their play and push their personal envelope to the edges. Achieving anything you desire takes action, it also takes determination, focus and sheer commitment. But these things are just the processes, the real carrot is what it gives us. This is where accomplishment, pride, self-worth and acknowledgment come in. If you take it one step further, performance is actually about melting into your essence, joining your energy force and that of the natural universe around you into a flow of your own true potential and divinity. It’s a high, and it’s the most beautiful place in the world.
Some people call that “the zone” or “the flow”. Many top performers know what it is but can’t put it into words or explain where exactly it comes from and especially understand how deep it runs through them. They just know when they drop into that space, time stops, things move slowly and nothing else penetrates that magical arena- they are fully gone into the ether of who they truly and actually are. This is what meditation is.
Finding your zone isn’t just for top performers or golf. The bigger game is life itself.
When I was explaining this “zone” and “flow” to my friend, which I have worked hard at myself, I found I was explaining “life” as I know it. If you have ever watched the Disney movie “Finding Nemo” there is a scene where Nemo and Dora meet a creep of tortoises riding the oceanic conveyor belt and Nemo and Doro swim into it and hook a thrilling ride. The belt is much like the “zone”, it’s a current, an energy, a force that envelopes you and carries you in a protective field towards your goals, your life purpose. We all know the saying “Let the force be with you”, and the metaphor is that there is a divine invisible force of energy all around us that we can tap into that gives us ultimate power and carries us in a positive direction and materializes basically anything we really, truly want.
So, let’s talk about how to get there. Hence, meditation.
Meditation is a process of refining your focus to the point that your mind becomes free from the incessant distraction from thoughts that come into our attention sometimes hundreds of times a minute and perhaps thousands of times per day. Your mind is darting here, darting there, tripping into the future, drawing you back into the past constantly. Its sizing everything and everyone up automatically and many times without your own awareness or consent. Your mind is like a wild horse, a drunk monkey, a crazy spinning out of control lunatic yelling in your head, and it’s exhausting, and its where suffering comes from.
To be able to be in control of your mind is the “zone”. Spiritually it’s called sumahdi, enlightenment and or nirvana. To calm your mind is to give it something else for it to do than its usual random thinking and troublemaking. To overpower this monkey-mind takes practice, not unlike learning how to golf, speak another language, get abs or straight A’s; it takes effort, focus, determination and commitment. It’s like building muscles. Your mind is a muscle and the more you work at “stilling” it (controlling it from running amok), the more you will experience the zone, otherwise called joy, peacefulness, tranquility, happiness, compassion and love. These things will automatically flow into your life when you make room for them. This is the art of living, this is where anything can happen to you and you will be firmly grounded in yourself.
A dear friend of mine who is a monk in Thailand explained the monkey-mind to me this way: Imagine you are trying to put a monkey in a box. At first, the monkey is running around everywhere, and you can’t catch him. After a while of trying, you start to learn his moves and you become quicker at trying to catch him. Finally, you catch him and then put him in the box. But before you can get the lid on, he jumps out of the box and starts running around all over the place again. You catch him again and put him in the box. He escapes again, and this happens over and over again until the monkey finally gives up because he realizes you’re just going to put him in the box again. Eventually, he just gives up and stays in the box quietly and doesn’t try to escape. That is the process of training your monkey-mind and achieving a meditative state and practice.
When you develop this skill, you will ultimately and eventually have an experience that will forever change you. I remember all the early stages of my meditation practice where I sat in frustration not quite understanding the jest of it, other than it would help my lack of happiness in my life. Yet, I stayed diligent, got training from someone who was a deep meditator, and I sat, and sat, and sat.
…it turned out that I was sitting in meditation for hours.
Then one day as I sat with sincere conviction, I closed my eyes, focussed my attention to my inhaling breath, then my exhaling breath in a rhythmic way, I slowly turned the lights off, turned the motor to my mind off and put the monkey in the box. He didn’t move. He just stayed there silent. I sat there for what seemed like only minutes, but it turned out that I was sitting in meditation for hours.
It’s hard to describe where I went, but the best way I can explain it is that I drifted to the other-side. It was like stepping off the noisy busy streets of Manhattan and through a portal out to the other side where I was now on a deserted white sandy beach oasis, with the sound turned off. I was completely aware that I was aware, yet, I wasn’t thinking, I was just “being”. There was a flowing energy pouring over me that I can just describe as pure “love”. I connected with my whole being, melted into myself and in a flux of beaming white energy coming from me and around me. I felt overjoyed with compassion, understanding, peace and joy. I connected to myself within myself. I turned inside out, and back in to myself. In all my years of living, I have never felt anything like this before. I was now was changed forever. I now felt I understood why I was here, who I was and how things worked. Its difficult to explain, but everything we think we see that is happening is only happening in our mind. We are the witness to ourselves in this play and we have such power over that because deeper down, that is where all things really exist. This I will explain in future posts.
Perhaps, before my first breath was breathed into me at birth, I was there in that place, the ether of no-thing-ness, and everything. Perhaps, after the Iast breath I take, I will dissolve into it again until the next life is birthed, my next first breath. All I know is that the more I frequent that place, the softer, well rounded, happier and content I become. I am a changed person as a result, I don’t sweat the small stuff, I live knowing that each moment is all there is and that there is so much beauty in it all. I have become conscious enough to breath in what’s around me. I realize that we are all one, no one is an outsider. No one is ugly, no one is less. I rarely judge anyone, including myself, I let things be as they just are, in all the beauty that they behold. I give my attention, I am present in the here and now more than ever. I can focus and shut everything else off completely for extended periods, including negative emotions.
The more I float into this flow, I realize that no matter what- I will be just fine regardless of the extreme. You can take everything away from me, but I will still behold the greatest gift in the universe; my sturdy understanding of my connection to the whole. I know that this force is with me, it’s in me, it’s in everything and everyone, we just have to tune into it like a turning the dial to a radio station and it goes from static to clear sound, from nothingness to ‘no-thing-ness’.
In this zone you can create whatever you want, you have the cosmic consciousness all around you manifesting and guiding you. Tune into it and let it carry you and you will see your game shift, and that’s because your life shifted.