“Being in a rat-race it’s so difficult to take the time to stop. So people forget that there is a choice. And for me that’s the most precious thing about life. It’s that you always have a choice. So when you come to an intersection you can always choose the direction. And that’s what’s so precious. That we can have our own influence on it.”
Mindfulness has been part of ever athlete’s life since the very beginning of their sporting journey. And although most would admit it may have not always been part of a conscious decision making, the decisions in your sporting career have all lead up to a form of mindfulness which, after years of training, you can learn to develop. For some, practicing sport can really “save” them, for a lack of a better word. Even in places with high unemployment and crime, the sportive lifestyle can be found. So sport, it teaches you to be disciplined. And when you think back to it, you can realize that your mindful behaviours growing up plant the seeds for who you become today. There are so many lessons to learn about mindfulness, but only when you really take your time to reflect on them can you understand them in their full glory.
An example of someone who has learnt to master being mindful is Roxanna. Whose full ‘story’ can be read in the blog post: Roxanna van Erp. When it comes to mindfulness and awareness a massive shifting point in Roxanna’s mentality comes from a book suggested to her written by Phil Jackson, one of the biggest NBA coaches of all time having won 11 NBA awards during this time. He experimented with martial arts, Thai Chi in particular, and started to incorporate mindfulness into his practice. Roxanna knew straight away that this is what elite athletes need to incorporate into their training regimes. So she took a course in mindfulness to learn and teach athletes she was working with. Her process came full circle when she became aware of the fact that what she was teaching, was actually something that she was benefitting from herself. And that in order to teach mindfulness she had to embody it in order to pass it on. She aimed to be the kind of coach like Phil Jackson, who doesn’t just shout at their athletes on what they should be doing, but that can actually do it himself and ‘walk the talk’.
“If you really believe in the philosophies you teach, then I believe you should practice it in your lifestyle. Mindfulness is really training about your inner self and understanding yourself before you can translate it into your direct environment. It’s about attention, focus, being more aware, intentions. And also about compassion for everything (good/bad). In high-pressure societies, like at the Zuidas, and many times people put more pressure on themselves (maybe sometimes their environment is supplying pressure) and your own mind is putting pressure to yourself, self-critique, etc. That doesn’t contribute to better well-being and to have better performance. Being aware of your inner voice, and not being critical about it, but instead being aware of it and seeing it. Looking at it with more friendliness, openness. It doesn’t mean you have to be a softy, people believe it makes you less hard but it also helps you in your well-being as an athlete or businessman/woman. But it’s in our system and in our culture and lots of time we are not aware of it, how many times we put ourselves down. This is a lesson of my own experience. You can read it from a book, but the only way I can talk about this now is because it is my experience.”
– Roxanna van Erp
When you boil it down to its fundamental principle, mindfulness isn’t about the body or about the mind. It’s about the interaction between it all. Some people experience mindfulness through their sport, such as Roxanna and her time during martial arts. Everything that affects your body affects your mind as well and vise-versa. That’s why I’m so happy to be in the program. We’re looking at building connections and integral program for participants but also learning that it’s not only the loose components but about all these components (mind and body) are communicated with each other.
Everything you consume has an effect on your body and it affects your mind and your body in different ways. The idea behind mindfulness, as Roxanna explains, is that there is so much potential in us, so often we are stuck in our own minds, but there is so much more to gain than to lose by diving into mindfulness. It is about shifting the perspective of your mindset and being aware of how to adapt your mindset to different situations. It’s all these qualities we can actually train, being more empathetic and loving, we can train that. Anything you can achieve, you can do that. It’s the intention with what you want to do. It makes me so joyful and hopeful, that if everyone would see that everyone struggles at some level. We don’t have to be a victim of our problems. We can actually train our minds to overcome them.
Young minds are extremely maleable and will adapt to take every chance to improve themselves. Mindfulness isn’t only effective for people who are focusing on rehabilitating their mindset, it can also be an extensive tool for athletes who wish to expand their growth mindset as opposed to healing it. Athletes tend to have a very reactive and positive approach to mindfulness training. It turns out that your mindset going into training is what can really change the potential of mindfulness.
Athletes have a mindset for growth, whereas others may have the perspective to ‘heal’ or ‘repair’ their minds. If you want to envision real results, it’s all about the growth mindset, mindfulness, and meditation. These are three important pillars that help you cultivate and become aware. It makes you more resilient to incoming stimuli. There will always be bumps on the road, some bigger than others, it’s unavoidable. But in the end it’s all about how you deal with them and how you let the bumps change your daily life.