Raising the Bar with Meditation

by on March 26, 2012 · 0 comments

in Thoughts on Meditation

I began meditation at what I consider to be an early age. It was during high school when I discovered a book called The Mental Athlete. I can’t really recall what compelled me to read a book at that time, but I did manage to finish it once I realized that starting a meditation practice would help with my performance in sports. During my youth, I played basketball, tennis and ran track, but my favorite activity was pole vaulting. I found it to be exhilarating and extremely challenging, mentally and physically. But it seemed that the physical aspects of the activity were quite easy to master over time yet the mental aspects of it were extremely challenging. The first feat to accomplish to be a successful jump is to learn to block out everything that does not pertain to the jump. The competition was aware of this, and though most were nice enough, there were some guys that would try to psych each other out in an attempt to throw each other off their mental game. This was when I realized how the steadiness of mind was just as important as the physique of the body in this sport, and also when I was convinced that a meditation practice could really take my sport to the next level.

At the time I really did not know much about meditation. I read what books I could find on the subject, but I really couldn’t dive into the deep states of mind that I was expecting. I eventually found guided meditation on audio and gave it a try. One try turned into two, three, then another and so on, and eventually one day, something happened. It was in the midst of being talk into a state of complete relaxation where I felt like my thoughts were completely clear and without anxiety. Though this was not meditation, I felt like I had actually accomplished something. So, during these moment of extreme calm, I began to visualize the same process of pole vaulting, over and over, in slow motion, backwards, frame by frame, feeling every muscle and the movement of air over my body as i was hurled upwards and the swoosh of the wind in my ears as I fell back to the earth. Over the course of weeks, I had learned to emulate the entire process in my mind. It got easier and easier.

Looking back on this experience I realize that the meditation was not happening when I was practicing this visualization. The process of meditation was happening when I was running down the approach at full speed carrying a thriteen foot fiberglass pole. The meditation began when I was sixteen full length strides away from being catapulted vertically, upside down into the air. I was truly meditating, when I was no longer affected by the distracting remarks of my competition, the noise of the crowd and my own nervousness. All these factors simply became part of the experience as I had practiced visualizing and had become powerless over my mind. I learned to disengage from anything but the athlete and simply be aware of the task at hand and drop into that deep relaxing ocean of calm and reside in the moment. This was meditation in action. The crowd being loud was “noise” the distracting comments from my peers, “competition”, my own anxiousness of failure or injury “doubts” feeling the blood rushing through my veins, my heart pounding, the white knuckle grip and muscle energy rising up from my feet throughout my body, the ecstacy from the endorphine rush “Motivation”. From the moment I took that first step, the world around me dissapperaed. The sounds of people clapping and cheering fell silent,  the jeers of my competitiong faded into indistinguisable sound, everything but the elevation of a twelve foot high target fell from my vision, and within a matter of a second, my kinetic energy and momentum is transferred from the horizontal axis to the vertical axis, I’m upside down looking backwards, a little twist once the apex is reached and momentum is lost, then gravity brings me back to reality. The thud on the padded mats indicates my moment is over. A successful jump.

The early years of this practice had such a profound effect, I continued to meditate. The method changed slightly. Initially, it was the relaxation technique paried with visualization of my performance that actually led to proper meditation. I often find that people new to meditation or those who desire to start a regular practice sometimes sit with an intention. Though this is fine, and actually beneficial, it’s more contemplation or visualization. A meditation practice is quite simple in theory and explination. You sit, you breathe, and you allow the current of thoughts to flow without jumping into the stream. Why do we do this? How can this be beneficial?  Anything we practice often, we tend to do naturally. When  a person can disengage from the torrents of the mind in practice, the process comes much easier in the daily routine, or in difficult situations where one would actually require mental focus and clarity (or bliss). Aside from any improvements one may gain from a meditation practice, being able to simply exist, breathe and experience life in moments is a commendable goal. Give it a try, see where it leads you.


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