This is an extract from the rejection letter I received from the editorial team at Elephant journal upon submitting the following article about spiritual practice:
I think you could expand a bit more though and offer readers a few tips to get started perhaps or some kind of substantial takeaway beyond that meditation practice (which is not actually a spiritual practice really, and my other concern is that it’s confused with that a bit here) can be helpful for increased awareness and relaxation in everyday life.
This got me really curious. If what I describe below is not a spiritual practice, then what is? Do we need to enter a Himalayan cave to have a “spiritual practice”? We are embodied beings and always relating. Refining our attention in the deeper feelings of the body and our environment feels deeply spiritual to me. There are many spiritual techniques and they all lead to refining awareness. Awareness itself is the key. Awareness takes us on an inward journey to our very essence.
I work with some great athletes, who also happen to be human beings. One particular athlete, a premiership footballer, had an interesting experience that changed the landscape of his season. He had been struggling with form and confidence. I decided to lead him through a simple awareness practice designed to induce the flow state. We became aware of the feelings in the body. And then connected with each other.
What happened next was quite extraordinary. We quickly entered a deep state of no-mind and he became aware of a bright white light around my body. This shocked him, as he knew nothing about the energetic field around the body. He experienced some deep emotions and felt a strong vibration throughout his body. This was a very powerful experience for us both and I left him with a curiosity about the impact it might have in his life. Bear in mind that this player did not consider himself “spiritual” and had never meditated.
Two days later, he entered the field against the current champions. He described clarity previously unknown and that he had an extra second in his mind. He flowed through the game with a level of ease palpable to onlookers. We had spent half an hour in this altered state two days before and it completely transformed his level of performance. Awareness had changed his performance indelibly.
Michael Jordan speaks about his own experience with mindfulness in his book, For The Love of The Game:
I understood the rhythm of the moment and how the game starts flowing towards you. I have always been in tune with my body.
My sense is that during our session, he had tuned in to the rhythm of the moment and was able to feel the game flowing towards him. For many athletes, this is the sole reason for playing. The game forces them to be fully present. Michael Jordan instinctively found this flow and yet was unable to feel it off the court. Working with people, it is essential that we help them tune into the body on and off their court.
Novak Djokovic is another of the greatest athletes on the planet. He describes a process of practicing so much mindful meditation that the state stayed with him on the court. He talks about turning down the volume of his brain and the success this has brought him:
Now, when I blow a serve or shank a backhand, I still get those flashes of self-doubt but I know how to handle them: I acknowledge the negative thoughts and let them slide by, focusing on the moment. It helps me turn down the volume in my brain.
Turning down the volume of the brain by tuning into the body. Our senses naturally flow outwards into the world. Tune into the senses through feeling. What are you aware of now in the body? Then turn the senses inwards. Follow the feelings to the core. Have no expectations. Simple awareness and allow the flow to take you home. You will become magnetic.
You don’t need to be an elite athlete to tune in to the whispers of your soul. Develop this capacity to feel and just like an athlete, life will begin to flow towards you. Every moment is a gateway to the spiritual and has the potential to transform your life. Awareness is the key to this most powerful gate.