Soul Sports and Why we still need Meditation
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. There are many ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
As a multi-passionate adventurer I find pleasure, joy, inspiration and connection through playing in nature. As a Freediver, I submerge into the tender heart of the Ocean to feel her power and love embrace me. As a snowboarder, I soar down soft blankets of snow to feel alive, rapt in the wonder of the mountain’s intensity. As a climber, I dance up rocks to see with the clear vision of a humble and open mind. As a runner, I beat the earth like a drum, striding to the rhythm of my soul.
Nature and movement are two of my greatest teachers. In nature I feel humble and at home, through play I feel creative and alive, and still, my own deepest experience is through meditation. By meditation I simply mean becoming still and turning my awareness inward.
Whether it’s trail running or dancing, movement allows for a smooth transition from doing to being. And in this state of being we can recognise our true nature as peace, love and joy.
I wholeheartedly believe that soul sports, outdoor adventures and hobbies are a beautiful way to celebrate life, nourish the soul and create community. I have learned so much about myself and to embrace my own power through sports like Freediving and Snowboarding. I also know that at times they have been a method of distraction, an easy escape from what was going on in my inner world.
Even if our flow state activities give us a feeling of connection and belonging, without connection through stillness we will always be seeking outside of us for what we can only find within.
I am in Greece right now, immersed in the amazing sport of rock climbing. After the first few days on the rock I was feeling ungrounded, easily excitable and almost obsessed about the next day of climbing. That was fun but it also felt impulsive and like it was taking me away from my moment to moment experience of being here right now. I was going from spending the day climbing to working all evening and I wasn’t allowing any space for integration or reflection. As soon as I returned to meditation, I could feel my whole system rebalancing. I am still excited to climb, learn and improve but I also feel grounded and connected to myself outside of climbing.
In modern yoga we practice asana (the physical postures) so that we are comfortable in our bodies and relaxed in our minds for meditation. Yoga means union. It is about connection, becoming intimate with our own nature of peace, love and joy. Asana alone is not yoga. I will go as far as to say that asana without meditation can actually be the opposite of yoga, cultivating a competitive nature and a belief that the poses are what ‘give’ you the good feeling. That is why meditation is so important, it shows us that the ‘good feeling’ is our true nature, it’s already within and the dynamic practices are just a helpful way to clear away the confusion about where the joy really comes from.
I teach Vinyasa Flow which is a dynamic and modern form of yoga. There was no ‘Vinyasa Flow’ in the ancient texts but I believe that a mindful dynamic practice in conjunction with meditation is Yoga. I also believe that rock climbing or Freediving or Surfing can be the ‘vinyasa’ and to round it out into a healing and spiritual practice we need meditation.
Why is meditation so important if your sport makes you feel really good? Well, what happens when you are recovering from an injury or away from your sport for a while? Do you feel sad, incomplete, frustrated, maybe even depressed? Or what about when you don’t live up to your expectations, you don’t ‘perform’ as well as you think you should- do you feel angry at yourself or even jealous of others? Or in adverse conditions when you can’t go out and play- do you feel like something is missing? Do you feel incomplete?
I am not saying that you should give up your sport, (I certainly don’t plan on ever giving up my many passions) but I am saying that you are complete without it. You are enough as you are. You are perfect as you are. And it’s a lot easier to realise that when let yourself ‘be’ as you are for a while everyday.
Making Room for Meditation
It is actually easy to start and maintain a ‘meditation practice’ if we approach it with an open mind. I used to think that meditation was really hard. My idea of meditation was sitting in a perfectly erect posture with a blank mind for a long period of time. I thought it had to be this way for it ‘to work’ or ‘be worth it’. Those are all major barriers to meditation. Wanting to get something from it, needing it to be worth the time, thinking that it owes me something, thinking there’s only one way to do it is about as limiting as believing sex is for reproduction only.
Now, I meditate for the love of it. I see meditation as a direction of awareness rather than a way of sitting or controlling my mind. If the word alone turns you off of meditation, call it something else. It could be your rejuvenation time, inner experience, or journey into stillness.
Make it easy to enjoy. Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit or lie down. Play music if that’s helpful. Relax your body. Imagine that your skin is a gentle boundary for your awareness. Explore the inner sensations by feeling them rather than analysing them. Compassionate curiosity is the key and a playful nature helps. Let go of expectations and be with your Self in your experience. Commit to 3 minutes after your training/practice/activity and as you find yourself liking this reflective time, build it up gradually.
To your own deepest experience,