I was listening to a podcast the other night on Sigma Nutrition Radio with Danny Lennon, and meditation and mindfulness was one of the topics they focused on. It really caught my attention, as I have read a number of mental strength books that focused on mindfulness, self-awareness, and the power having control over your mind. I have learned how powerful it really is to have the ability to completely control your own thoughts and where you allow your mind to go.
I think most people are under the impression that there is only one type of meditation: most commonly the traditional Buddhist method. In the traditional meditation practices it is typically focused on sitting on the floor in good posture and puts an emphasis on breathing. Among being coupled with other elements of Buddhist practices: ritualism, chanting, and readings of the Buddha teachings. This is by no means a bad way to meditate if this works for you. But I have found that there are SO many other things that you can do to improve your overall mindfulness and meditation on a daily basis. All it takes is a few minutes and some willingness to try.
I read the book called “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman recently. I would recommend it to any human on this earth, not kidding. I don’t care if you’re a competitive athlete or not. It is completely relevant for anyone and is bound to teach you a valuable lesson or five. I know it sounds cliché, but it really did change my life and the way I think. My grandma was the one who recommended this book to me. It was right after I had a pretty disappointing performance at my first USAW Nationals last year. I really beat myself up about it, and knew how much work I had do when it came down to my mental game. So, I made it a point from then on to not only focus on my overall weightlifting training, but more importantly to focus on training my mind. And over the past year I have come to the realization that there is so much more to weightlifting than solely one’s physical strength.
Mental toughness is the secret weapon.
This is applicable to any sport, but also to life in general. People in our society we live in have so much trouble shutting off their brain and keeping their stress levels low. And in case you didn’t know, stress plays a HUGE roll in every single aspect of our lives. I sometimes forget this myself. Not sleeping well? Not losing weight? Energy levels suck? Always hungry? Feel like crap? Ok, well… Are you stressed?? Something to think about… Meditation and mindfulness could potentially be a solution to your anxiety.
From the generous amounts of technology that we consume ourselves with, to all the worldly distractions that happen sneak into our lives and distract us, it becomes extremely difficult to just stop for a second… Empty our minds and “take out the trash”, as Dan Millman would say. I am 100% guilty of it; and I have no problem admitting to that. But through my readings regarding mental toughness I have learned so many gateways that lead to emptying my own trash. Here are some of my favorite ways to meditate both in and outside of the gym:
Stare. Just keep your eyes open and stare. It sounds stupid, but stare at anything. A spot on the wall, a tree, a cup of coffee, a jar of peanut butter, anything that you can completely focus in on and keep your mind blank. Whatever pops into your mind, pops into your mind… And whatever doesn’t just doesn’t. This is something that I always try to practice before preparing for a lift. I try to relax everything, stare at whatever object I happen to see in front of me with an empty mind, and approach the bar with a clear and focused mentality. People have such a hard time learning to RELAX, both their bodies and minds. They are always on autopilot: gotta go to work, then gotta go to the gym, then gotta do this, that, or the other thing. Next thing they know they are going to sleep and doing it all over again. Get out of a daily routine!! UN-PLUG from the matrix and see what you will be able to discover about yourself.
“The quieter you become the more you can hear” -Ram Dass
2. Exercise. And lifting weights. Duh. Now I’m not a fan of cardio or conditioning workouts as of late, but both strength and conditioning exercises have been proven to reduce vulnerability to stress and make us overall happier humans. It makes us healthier, increases our general physical strength, and improves our emotional and mental wellbeing. Not to mention the fact that if we’re stressed or upset about something, we can use it as a channel to get away from the world and focus our mind on a challenging task. Or maybe just do some bar slams after a big PR. Basically, when we exercise it can be similarly compared to the process of meditation. We allow our brains to have a little “time-out” from the real word, focus on the task at hand, and take a step away from the stress endured throughout the day, all while releasing endorphins.
- My personal favorite (aside from weightlifting of course ☺) is simply going for a long walk. This gives me a chance to clear my head and be completely self-aware of my surroundings and embrace peacefulness. It’s important to become aware of what we are actually doing, rather than what we think we’re doing.
“You have to ‘lose your mind’ before you can come to your senses.” -Dan Millman
3. BE PRESENT. One of my favorite quotes, among many, from “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” is this:
There is never nothing going on.
Next time you’re bored, take the time to stop and look around. What’s happening around you? What do you see? What do you feel? Realize that your existence alone is still something that is going on. Pay attention to the detail around you. I bet you’ll be surprised with how much you can discover. Most of us say that we’re paying attention, but in reality we miss out on probably 90% of daily occurrences that happen right in front of our eyes. Most of is has to do with the “mental noise” or clutter in our brains that affect our ability to pay attention and think clearly.
Living in the present time is a specific lesson that I learned the hard way. There is no point in dwelling on past experiences or worrying about the foreseeable future. Too often do we let our past results or experiences dictate what our bodies can or cannot do, rather than simply being PRESENT in each attempt as a completely independent experience. And to remember that there is nothing more valuable than self-trust. Living in the present is a great skill to master and use in anything. I try to practice this everyday in training, as I approach a big lift, or moments before I hit the platform at a competition. I try to believe in myself and allow my training take over. Do yourself a favor and get out of your own way, empty your trash, and focus on the being present.
Where are you? Here.
What time is it? Now.
What are you? This moment.
4. Mindfulness & self-awareness. “The Art of Mental Training” by D.C. Gonzalez is another one of my favorite books that taught me useful strategies on how to be self-aware and mentally tough. It’s important to interrupt any negative self-talk and be quick to replace it with something positive. Besides, why would you want to lead your brain in a direction that could potentially result in a negative outcome? Another one of my favorite quotes:
“Whatever is going on inside your head has everything to do with how well you end up performing.” -D.C. Gonzalez
Yup. This could not be more accurate and I have constantly seen this in action, especially in myself. What’s the point in thinking about a lift that you just missed two minutes ago when you are about to get another shot at it? You only get three shots at three white lights at a weightlifting meet. Don’t let your mind direct you towards a couple red ones.
Though this specific type of mindfulness/self-awareness is specifically directed towards weightlifting, it can always be used in adverse circumstances. Regardless, whatever direction you lead your mind in is surely where you will end up.
“Remember: One should never look where one does not wish to go.” –D.C. Gonzalez
The second you find yourself hearing talking negatively or seeing negative images inside your head, interrupt it. Immediately. Practice focusing your mind and replace the negative with positive. Concentrate on what exactly it is that you want to achieve, and remember to never put your focus on what you DO NOT want to happen.
This stuff isn’t easy to master; it takes a lot practice and constantly training your brain to make it habitual. I am personally still working on being mindful, mentally strong, and more self-aware each day. Establishing self-belief is hard, but it will do wonders for your confidence and how you approach a task at hand.
So take 10 minutes of your day and practice meditation. Pull from any of these 4 ways that I mentioned and see what it does for your overall mentality and mindfulness. Regardless of if these are completely new topics to you, I would highly recommend reading one of the books I mentioned above to start. Good luck and happy meditation!
Live well. Be well.