Mindfulness Matters

NFLIt’s Super Bowl Sunday. Much of the world will be watching the game, the commercials, and the half-time entertainment. Many of these watchers won’t be all that interested in the game itself.

I will be. Having lived in Vermont for 20 years and in Boston area for seven additional years, I am an New Englander and the Patriots are the adoptive home team.

There are many reasons to not watch the game too. The NFL has issues both on and off the field. The status, power, and morality of the NFL create ethical dilemmas for any thoughtful person that watches. For example, you can view Frontline’s powerful expose, League of Denial to explore just one of these ethical issues.

Despite the ethics, I watch for emotional reasons. Watching football, and to a lesser extent playing football, was one of the principle ways that I connected with my late father. The television was always tuned to games on Sunday through the season and from an early age we had rivalries. He was a Cowboy’s fan; I was a Dolphins and Steelers fan.

We did see eye-to-eye on the Jets, my ancestral team (I was practically born in the shadow of Shea Stadium) and he often took me to games. These are some of my fondest memories growing up. I was too young to remember the Jets glory from 1969 and there hasn’t been much to be exited for over the decades since. I am sure my father got a lot of exercise turning over in his grave after the abysmal showing the Jets made this season.

What would the Buddha say about football? Lot’s I’m sure, including some comments about right action and right livelihood. He would also caution about what the spectacle can provide its hopeful viewers. This game, like everything, is empty. It has no substantial existence and therefore cannot provide us with lasting happiness.

People will certainly feel a lot of emotions tonight and that is a big part of why we watch–to feel something, to feel like we are part of something, as well as the pageantry itself. Whatever else happens, we will see impeccable athletes performing amazing feats of movement.

To the extent that we identify with the game or the results is to the extent that we will get caught in anguish. Both elation and let down stem from attachment to outcome. If you want to approach the game mindfully, try to see it as an event unfolding in the now and as you cling to the results of each play, recognize the feelings that gives rise to in your body and bring you attention to these. Repeat as necessary.

The way we are invested in the results of this game replicate the manner in which we invest ourselves with all sorts of outcomes. Therefore, the game is an opportunity to work on our spiritual development. If you can watch dispassionately, without a sense of ownership and without projecting a sense of your self on to the process, then you are growing spiritually.

It would be ironic to pull of this mindfulness coup during the biggest commercial event in history.

Whatever happens enjoy yourself.