Now walk towards a river…pick up a leaf…place your thought on the leaf….watch it float down the stream…let it go…let it drift away.
Those were the words of a psychologist who I recently had some interactions with. She was helping me with mindfulness mediation. Mindfulness isn’t always easy. In this instance, her cue words didn’t quite resonate with me (maybe I’m too cynical) ..…in fact the little voice in my head blurted out, “the current is too strong for my thoughts to float down the river.’’ I guess my mind on that day was behaving like a river with a class III rapids classification- moderate, irregular waves that may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe.
By no means is my life anything but charmed. I do not pretend that I suffer anything more than first world problems. Put into the context of what is happening in Gaza, the Ukraine or even Ferguson Missouri, I am lucky, incredibly lucky. Yet, there is no point in pretending that whatever street of life one walks down, we do not all suffer from the condition. This condition is not dependent on factors such as gender, race, culture or class; the Human Condition is the self-aware, and reflective nature of people, which allows for analysis of existential themes and the ongoing search for ultimate meaning.
Where is this going you may ask? Well, life throws us curveballs at times. We then think and ruminate on things. Swimming, riding and running for long course triathlons leaves me with far too much time in my own head. This is where mindfulness can be beneficial. Having a good relationship with your thoughts is key, in my opinion, to successful athletic performance and enjoyment.
Mindfulness, involves paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides. It does not reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, mindfulness enables us to be with such experiences and tackle the task at hand. Equally, mindfulness relates to pleasant experiences as well; however, it is not always easy to stay in the moment in situations that feel good. Sometimes, we turn a pleasant experience into something more familiar, like worrying that the good feeling will not last or trying to keep it from fading away.
I have not competed since March, after being hit by a car in May. The majority of the competitors who I will face at Mt Tremblant in three weeks, have been dueling it out around the world at various races. There has been some inconsistency in my training, due to rehab and other challenges and there is no doubt that the past couple of months have been filled with some difficult experiences. Sure, there is some uncertainty to my form, but that’s OK. When is a preparation ever perfect?
Since I was twenty-two I have been competing professionally, and I cannot think of one instance where everything went to plan. You accept and work with the capacity and capabilities you have. You surround yourself with brilliant people who believe in you, AND you try hard, without forgetting to enjoy the simple pleasure of exercising. Last weekend I was running along the coastal path from Brighton in Melbourne on a blustery, yet beautiful morning. Next Sunday I will be racing at Currumbin on the Gold Coast. Two weeks after that, I will be experiencing the beauty of yet another destination, which just happens to coincide with the 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, Canada.