Sport, like life, can be joyful, and some of this joy comes
from the quality of attention we bring to the sport, in addition to the
activity being fun.
However, sometimes we can get caught in a trap of trying
too hard or of getting tripped up by expectations that are strident and
unreasonable. This driven feeling can bring distress into the sports activity.
Sport becomes work and many of the patterns of feeling and behavior that are
present for us in work get transferred to play. When distress is present, a
form of compulsive behavior may be present that may be a consequence of what I
term the Strident Self.
Any activity is vulnerable to this harsh aspect of
self. I have seen this in myself with advanced snowboarding – a pressure that
is applied from within the self that is pushing towards a peak experience. The
enjoyment of the moment can become supplanted with fretful decisions – which
trail to take, and beating oneself up for not making a great run. There have
been days when I have come off the mountain bruised and broken, psychologically
as well as physically.
I remember this happening one day after a big snowstorm.
After becoming aware that I was beating myself up and not connecting with the
pure joy of the experience, I paused and sat down in the trees. I ate some snow
and moved my attention from the harsh conversation inside my head to my breath
and then the trees laden with snow, and the beauty of the woods and the
unbroken snow lying before me. I gave myself permission to be present without
expectations or requirements.
I invoked the kind of gentle self-awareness that
I try to teach my psychotherapy patients and participants in my
mindfulness-based stress reduction classes that I teach. That shifting of
awareness was enough to take me out of my head and into the moment and the full
and indescribable joy of riding the trees in deep powder.
They say, hot Buddha sweats, cold Buddha shivers, and snow-covered Buddha smiles surfing down the mountain.
This is something to look forward to as winter approaches.