A Buddha's Barbell
Crossfit has changed the way I think about my body. Fitness used to be something in which I invested time just to maintain my health. I forced myself to go to the gym. Now I see every hour spent in the Ox Box as a learning opportunity. I try to move better, experimenting with minor adjustments and new movement patterns. Now my primary motivation is greater understanding, because that greater understanding has improved all areas of my life. I pay attention to my body when I lift my motorcycle off the kickstand. I am more aware of my posture when I’m sitting in front of my computer. All those burpees translate to better surfing. I’ve stopped drinking and eating poorly, because I want to nourish and preserve my body. I feel better no matter what is going on in my life and that helps me to be a more gentle and kind person. Mindfulness has changed the way I think about my consciousness. In the same way that crossfit has led me to examine my body, mindfulness has led me to explore my mind. I don’t post the results of the understanding I’ve gained from mindfulness on a community whiteboard, but the profound change in my life has been similar.
Mindfulness is difficult concept to define. At its core, it’s about studying your own mind as objectively as possible. Might sound simple, but observing something in which your are entirely enmeshed is not simple. It’s a humbling reminder that you hold the reigns of the most complex and mysterious organism in the known universe.
Meditation is the tool that I use to study my mind and to cultivate mindfulness. It’s my barbell. It’s my pull up bar. It’s my wallball. There are many different meditation techniques and the manifestations of your consciousness are infinite. The effort to still your slippery mind is just as demanding as a WOD like Murph. Have doubts about that statement? I challenge you to meditate for the 40 minutes it takes to do Murph. People often find that they are ravaged by their thoughts and emotions, slaves of their own minds.
Crossfit is about getting away from machines and back to the functional movements of our ancestors. Mindfulness is also a back to basics concept based on ancient practices. The idea of mindfulness has existed in many cultures, but it comes to the Western world from the Buddha, who was not a god but a scientist of the mind. He wanted to help people understand their minds so they could live more peaceful and harmonious lives. The Buddha lived 2500 years ago. It’s astounding that mindfulness has only recently become a pop culture craze, largely driven by the mounting scientific evidence of the health benefits (Please read the article below if you’re interested in learning more about the science).
I want to emphasize that mindfulness and meditation are not just about turning off your phone and chilling out. Many of the experiences I have had in meditation have been jarring. Just as the challenge of crossfit leads to greater mastery of your body, the challenge of meditation can lead to greater mastery of your mind. I find the understanding gained from mindfulness helps me to be a more patient and compassionate person.
If you want to give meditation a try, there’s lots out there to read, but nothing replaces experience. We all know that you can read every book about snatch technique, but you won’t be able to snatch until you pick up the bar. You can start with any number of meditation apps. You might be brave and jump into a meditation course. Like crossfit again, your first contact with mindfulness might be a shock. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t sit for hours or you don’t meditate everyday. If you persevere, it’s only the beginning of a journey, an exploration of the kernel of your existence.