It’s Sport Saturday. This entry continues an essay on using sport to awaken. Click here to read part one and part two here.
Mindfulness and sport-samadhi can also impact how we deal
with exertion and the limits of our body. I have noticed, especially when I am
running uphill, if my mind is engaged in a future-oriented conversation, that I
am more apt to give up and not push through the pain and discomfort of that
This future-oriented story may be mindless chatter, or it can also be
focused on the activity itself. For instance, if I look up the hill and think
to myself, “my god, that’s a long way up, I’ll never be able to stomach that,”
it is very different than staying with the experience of embodiment at that
The running, when it becomes an experience lived in the moment is a
succession of moments. And as intense as they may be, because attention is
focused on now instead of moments from now, the crush of the future is
relieved. Again, an important distinction is to attend to the experience of the
body at the level of description versus the level of analysis.
At the level of
description there are sensations, and these may be described as intense, warm,
pulsing, constricting, sharp, dull, and so forth. Notice that I did not mention
pain or fatigue. Pain and fatigue are labels applied by the thinking mind after
it has analyzed the sensations.
By identifying with the label we are moved away
from the experience. I find that whenever I do this – think about how painful
the running is or how much pressure I feel in my chest — I am apt to stop
running and walk the hill. However, I get a lot more out of myself by staying
in the moment of now and feeling the sensations rather than thinking about
This is not the same as brute gutting through the experience of what
might be called pain. We need to listen to our bodies and to extract any vital
information out of the sensations and perceptions we are having. We should know
the difference between sensations that can be pushed through and those that
should be respected.
The experience of attending to sensations at the level of
description can become a useful analog for all of life with similar benefits
from staying with our experiences as experiences in the present moment.
many of us though, this mindfulness experience comes off with the running
shoes. No transition occurs and a split between our sport life and the rest of
our life can emerge. Daily meditation practice can help to eliminate that
transition and to facilitate moving between the meditative experiences of sport
and the activities of your day, including all the activities we do such as
eating, washing dishes, driving, loving, and working.