Meditation—It’s Not What You Think
Photo Credit: Garrett Kling
Meditation cultivates the ability for a skater to get “in the zone”—that golden mental state, often also referred to as “flow”. It’s when an athlete is so connected, moment to moment; with their performance that they are not at all concerned with what could go wrong. Every great athlete strives for the ability to reach this mindset, on command, at the time of competition. Practicing meditation is the most effective way to acquire this skill, yet many athletes still shy away from implementing it into their schedule because they do not understand what it is exactly.
A common misconception is that meditation is like flipping a switch to make your mind go blank or that you are flung into a deep “meditative” state, which is always one of relaxation, insight, and bliss.
Meditation is not the same thing as relaxation. It’s about bringing awareness to all of our mental states, which are all equally deserving of our attention. This includes negative emotions such as frustration and anxiety. Any internal experience that arises is an opportunity for insight and learning, and not necessarily a sign that our meditation practice is not “succeeding” because we are not feeling relaxed. Therefore it is more about training our mind to be present and paying attention, rather than our minds becoming blank or tranquil.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn explains, “Meditation practice can be fraught with thought and worry and desire. It is not the content of your experience that is important. What is important is our ability to be aware of that content, and even more, of the factors that drive its unfolding and the ways in which those factors either liberate us or imprison us moment by moment and year in, year out” (Zinn, 2005).
The intention, then, is to simply notice our own thoughts with an objective perspective so that we can learn to manage our emotional and physical response more effectively than before.
How can we do this? The easiest way to begin is to sit for even one or two minutes with you eyes closed and follow your breath. Breathing happens without you having to make it happen, simply stay with each inhale and exhale as it occurs. When your mind wanders, as it does, notice the thoughts that your mind has formed and observe your thoughts objectively—unattached to any meaning. Then gently bring your mind back to your breath.
This can be hard work, especially when what is happening does not conform to our expectations, desires, and fantasies.
Little by little you will find that you can sit for longer periods and you will discover that the benefits associated with meditation are more than worth the time!
Cultivating a practice of meditation helps develop an understanding that we do not have to connect ourselves so intensely with our thoughts, especially at times when they are fuelled by nerves or fear. Your ability to engage with the present moment unattached to your thought patterns will grow, and that’s how you get “in the zone”.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. New York, New York, Unites States of America: Hyperion.