“Competitive Meditation?!? What the heck are you talking about, Scott. There is no such thing. That’s an oxymoron.”
Okay, first of all, great use of the word oxymoron there, whoever said or thought that comment. Any chance I get to throw in a great word like oxymoron somewhere, I love to do it. So, thank you for that.
And yes, you’re right. There is no such thing as competitive meditation. At least not as far as I know. But if you ever hear about it somewhere will you let me know?
Because if there were such a thing, I would be all in on it.
Then again, maybe I wouldn’t.
“Why?” you might ask.
Because I suck at meditation.
I’m no good.
Whatever measurement you use – zero, nil, nothing, terrible, loser, making an “L” with your thumb and index finger up in front of your forehead – whatever it is, that’s me.
I can’t do it.
At least, I think I can’t do it. I’m not sure. Because I don’t really know for sure what being good or sucking at it really is.
All I know is every time I do it, my mind wanders to all kinds of things all the time.
But I’m not sure if that’s how it is for everyone else, too.
I do know that the concept of meditation is to focus your mind. Meditation is supposed to help us practice mindfulness.
Well, that’s good news because if there is one thing that I need to become good at meditation, it’s practice.
And that’s just the thing. As a coach, I tell kids all the time, “You need to practice if you want to improve. You need to work on your skills to be prepared for your competitions. Then you need to go out and play in pick-up games and scrimmages and put yourself in those situations where you’re going to fail and figure out the best way to use the skills you have worked on to deal with those situations successfully. You’re going to have to fail and make a lot of mistakes before you get good at it and start to have success.”
That’s the nature of getting good at something and then creating success in it – learn a skill, practice it, practice it, practice it, try it out against someone, fail, try it again, fail, try it again, fail, practice it, practice it, try it again, succeed, try it in a scrimmage, fail, try it again, succeed, try it again, succeed, try it again in an actual competition, fail, try it again, succeed, practice it more, try it again, fail, try it again, succeed, and so on.”
Of course, every skill we work on doesn’t follow that exact pattern, but you get the point. We’re going to fail a whole lot at any new thing that we try while we are learning it and practicing it. Eventually, we will have some success, but that will often be short-lived, and we will fail at it again.
But pretty soon, if we keep practicing at it and trying it in trial settings and then in actual competitions, we will start to see some more consistent success with it.
And that’s when it gets really fun.
Not So with Meditation
However, either that isn’t so with meditation or it isn’t so with meditation for me . . . yet.
Remember a few posts ago when I talked about Neil Pasricha’s mom teaching him the value of not ending his sentences with periods, but instead ending them with an ellipsis . . .
and then adding the word yet?
That’s what I need to do with meditation.
Because I’m not any good at meditation . . . yet.
Allow me to digress for a minute and go back in time a bit.
For quite some time in my life, I heard about the power of meditation. When I was a kid, this new thing called Transcendental Meditation came on the scene. It seemed like hippies were the main people talking about it.
I never really gave Transcendental Meditation much thought. (Snare drum hit, please, for that outstanding Dad pun!)
Seriously. I mean I tried to learn about it, but I never tried it. It was all new age, out-there stuff to me as a kid in my teens and then in my 20s.
As I kept getting older, though, I kept hearing about people meditating and talking about how great it was and how it transformed them into . . . actually, I don’t really remember what they were saying it transformed them into, but whatever it was, they sure liked it.
Then, in the last ten years or so, many of the sports, business, and writing people that I follow were talking about the power of meditation to help with focus, breathing, calming oneself, better health, and ultimately, success.
Here was that meditation thing again. Only this time, it wasn’t sounding like that new-agey, weird, hippie kind of thing, that I couldn’t wrap my head around.
These were actual people just like me espousing the importance of meditation in their lives and their success.
Only they weren’t just like me.
They were a whole lot more successful than me.
At least in terms of creating a positive business that was serving thousands of people and leading to what it looked like was all kinds of success, they were more successful than me.
So I thought, “Hmm. Maybe I should finally try meditating.”
But I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know the first thing about it.
Some of the people were talking about an app on their phone called, Headspace. They said it had a free trial period and then the cost of it per year was quite economical.
So I tried it.
One morning at about 5:30 or 6:00 (because all those gurus also talk about the importance of starting your day earlier, and I had been doing that for a while), I sat down on the couch, and downloaded the Headspace app and turned it on.
The first time I did it, I heard this soothing, calm British guy’s voice. (At least I think he’s British. Maybe he’s Australian or some other variation of a British accent, but it’s some British-sounding voice.)
“Whoa,” I thought. “I wasn’t ready for that.”
I don’t know what I was thinking I would hear, but a calm, soothing British man’s voice was not it.
After about fifteen seconds, I got used to his voice, and I started doing the things he was telling me to do.
Actually, I realized he wasn’t really telling me to do them. At least not in the way that we coaches tell our players to do things. It was almost like he was gently suggesting that I consider doing these things, but if I didn’t want to do them, that would be fine with him.
They were simple things: deep breaths through the nose and out through the mouth, feel where the breath comes from, focus on the body, do a body scan from head to toe, and so on. (I wish I could imitate in writing the way he says “body” cuz it sounds cooler when he says it. It sounds more like “bawdy,” which is a whole different word for a whole different post and one I will probably not be writing!)
And so I did what he said.
And I liked it.
And after three minutes it was done. I had chosen a three-minute session because I had no clue if I could sit still and focus for more than that.
Good choice. I was terrible. I couldn’t sit still and focus for more than that.
But I liked it well enough to do it the next day.
And the next day.
Uh, huh. Same result.
But pretty soon, I was in a bit of a habit. And slowly, I was starting to focus a little longer and a little better.
But I was never able to do it for the full, three, five, or ten minutes I do now.
That’s right, I’m up to ten-minute sessions!
And I suck at it.
No Focus, No Peace
I will start down the path of concentrating on breathi— “Ooh, I’ve got to remember to send that email to her because if I don’t then . . .”
“Oh, crap! I’m supposed to be focused on my . . . what the hell am I supposed to be focused on?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right, my breathing.”
“Wait, what did you just say, Mr. British man with the calm voice? You mean we’re already onto the bawdy scan?!? How long was I thinking about that email? It couldn’t have been that long. I mean I just need to tell her about the shell that I found when I was cleaning out the . . . oh, that’s right, I’ve got to make sure that in our shell drill in practice tonight, we let the offense start cutting. We’ll have to take a few minutes to teach them how to defend the . . .”
“#$%^@!*. I did it again! Focus, damn it!!”
“Oops! Sorry, Mr. Brit with the calm, soothing voice. I didn’t mean to swear or yell while you’re trying to help me calm down and focus and be one with myself. I know I’m not very good at this right now, but I’ve got a lot on my mind, and today I’ve got to make sure I run off that quiz over the second chapter of Call of the Wild, or did we already do Chapter 2, and are we on to Chapt . . “
“AAARRRGGGHHHH! I did it again! Sorry, mate. I’m listening now.”
“Okay, so focus on my breathing again? Okay, good. I can do that.”
“Oh yeah. This is good. Yeah, I like this. I’m getting really good at breathing.”
“I mean, sure, it’s something I’ve done every second of my life without ever having to think about it, but now I’m supposed to be concentrating on how to do it because I must not have been very good at it all these years, and by concentrating on it now, it will make me a whole lot better at this thing that I’ve never once in my life not been good at because, you know, I’m still alive from all the good breathing I’ve been doing without thinking about it for the last 60 years, and what’s going to happen to me if I don’t learn how to breathe better than . . . “
“ARRGGHHH! There I go again, old chap.”
“Wait. What? Gently open my eyes?! We’re done?! Are you kidding me? I just closed them and started breathing like you asked me to, and I was getting really good at it. This can’t be over already, can it?!”
I look around where I am sitting. “Why am I so tense? Why am I sweating?”
“Okay, Scott, take a deep breath. You know, like that guy was just telling you to do for the last ten minutes but you wouldn’t listen to him. It’s time to calm down and get to your work.”
And that’s pretty much how every session goes for me.
God, I love this meditation thing!
It’s so good for me to calm down and focus and not be so damn competitive.
Someday it may actually work for me, too.
I just need more practice . . . just need to keep trying.
And then after a while, when I get really good at being calm and mindful and purposeful and at one with myself and not letting my mind wander too much . . .
I’m going to win.
I’m going to be the best meditator ever.
I wonder if they give out trophies for meditating.
Gold, Silver, and Bronze?
Can you imagine how bad you would have to be to get the Bronze in meditating?
That would suck.
I mean, come on.
How hard can it be?
If you’re at all like me when it comes to meditating and this struck a chord, or if you’ve got it figured out and can enlighten the rest of us on what we’re doing wrong, or if you’ve never done it and want to tell us why, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Seriously. I really would. Because I either want to know that I’m not alone, or I want to know how to do it right, or I want to hear from those of you who, ironically, are so much more calm, content, and peaceful than I am because you who have never known the joy of meditation.