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Mindful : February 2016
Know Your Body, Know Yourself By George Mumford Nearly every athlete or successful individual I’ve worked with has had intention and a clear sense of purpose. Some of us say we don’t know what our intention or purpose is, but often we simply haven’t spent enough time listen- ing to ourselves carefully and in silence. To help with that, it can be useful to try some Deep Listening: the practice of stopping and listening without judgment or advice. Sit down, rest your mind, and ask yourself in silence: What do I really want? What is my life for? If you go deep enough, intention will emerge. With Deep Listening, you have an opportunity to honestly evaluate yourself. When you’re reflecting on a habit or an action—such as an obstacle you perceive or something you think you’ve accom- plished—take the time to ask yourself, “Am I deluded or is this really happening the way it seems to me?” Having listened to yourself, you’re now in a better posi- tion to listen to others. Ask friends, team- mates, coaches, teachers what they think about what you’re perceiving. That’s why they’re there: to notice our blind spots. If we have people in our life who can point out to us what we’re missing, then we can investigate further to see what’s true. If we listen deeply, we can observe and investigate a habit or action without being identified with it and without push- Ask yourself at least one challenging question each day. For example: What makes me uncomfor t- able in my physical activity? Why? Where do my discom- for ts come from? How do they hold me back or move me forward? What do I crave? What do I worry about? Which emotion is most, and least, comfortable for me: Anger? Fear? Guilt? Anxiety? Where does my stress live? Why is this par ticular stress inhabiting my body? Take some time and listen to your body when you ask these questions. Don’t just answer with your mind. If you listen to your body, it will answer you. ing it away or pulling it in. We can just observe and ask, “ What would happen if this is true?” As athletes, we also need to take more time to listen to our bodies. If you have a pain in your body—whether it’s tendonitis, a headache, or a cramp—don’t struggle to get past it. Stop and listen to your body, surrender to being with what is. Ask yourself: “What is the lesson for me to learn here? Have I been overdoing it? Have I been going too hard or too long?” Your body is like a circuit breaker. Injury is its way of protecting you and telling you to change something. Learn to listen and to trust that still, small voice inside, the voice of self-knowing. You may slow down in the short run, but it will keep you far healthier and more active in the long run. And as you learn to practice listening deeply to yourself and to your body, you will find, as I said, that you can listen better to others, whether it’s your boss, your partner, your child, or your team- mate. When you really listen to a person without judging or interrupting, it may feel as though you’re hearing them for the first time. Adapted from The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Per formance. © 2015 by George Mumford. Reprinted by permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA. describes it, “there’s no sense of I, me, or mine, no actor, nobody doing it.” It doesn’t happen that often, and, adds Mumford with a smile, “the best way to get into the zone is not to try to get into the zone.” But elite athletes are more likely than others to enter this rarified state because they tend to see stress as a challenge, not a curse. Complexity is important. To enter the zone, you need to have a high level of skill and be in a high state of arousal, but also have the presence of mind to be comfortable with being uncomfort- able. A good example is Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant, who’s always pushing the limits of performance. “ When Kobe is in a high state of arousal,” says Mumford, “he knows that he’s closer to being in the zone and keeps bringing the energy, while other players often withdraw to avoid being in discomfort.” Once Mumford told Kobe before a game that the best way to score was not to try to score. So he started playing that way, giving the → PRACTICE February 2016 mindful 51