Next week the Seahawks will be trying to repeat their Super Bowl victory from last year. Four years ago, in 2011, Pete Carroll (Head Coach) introduced his team to meditation and ever since he has encouraged all the players to meditate regularly. Carroll believes that mediation has been a key reason for their consistent high performance. He is not alone. Many professional and college athletes, including scientific researchers, have found that mediation helps increase focus, decrease stress, and elevate performance.
The practice of meditation has been around for centuries and is an excellent way to reduce tension and quiet the mind. When our mind is calm we are in a better place to meet the challenges of the day, maintain a healthy perspective, and perform at our best. Conversely, when we are caught up in turmoil and our mind is flooded with disturbing thoughts, it is difficult to think clearly and take appropriate action.
So whether you're an NFL quarterback with the Super Bowl on the line or giving a presentation at work, having calm nerves and a quiet mind are crucial to performing well.
If you are experienced at meditation you already know the benefits. But if you are new to the practice and or want give meditation a try, here are five guiding steps to help you get started:
1) Find a quiet place and sit in a chair with your back comfortably straight, shoulders relaxed, and chest open—this natural position helps your breathing. Place your feet flat on the floor with your knees and feet about hip width apart. You can place your hands on your lap either apart or together with the palms facing down or up, whichever feels most comfortable. With your eyes closed begin noticing your breath. Become aware of yourself, of your presence in the chair. Notice any place on your body where you are feeling tension and release it.
2) If you happen to be feeling a lot of tension throughout the body, a good way to release it is by momentarily tightening each zone of the body. For example, after you inhale deeply to a count of 6, hold your breath and count to 3 in your mind while tightening your hands in a fist. Then, as you slowly exhale, release the tension in your hands. I like to do this tension release process through each zone of my body. I usually start with my feet by curling my toes, next flexing my legs, then tightening the stomach muscles, arms and hands, shoulders, and face (you can tighten your face muscles by scrunching your face and piercing your lips). Tighten one zone at a time as you hold your breath for a count of 3 and then release on the exhale. You will find that your body will relax more and more with each deep breath and muscle release.
3) Now just simply relax and breathe. Make sure you breathe through your belly allowing it to expand and contract with each breath. Breathing through the belly enables your lungs to fill completely with oxygen which helps you relax. While exhaling you can repeat in your mind a peaceful phrase like “I am at peace with all things,” or any other statement or word that is calming to you.
4) Notice your breath as it enters and leaves. Be present with yourself. Whatever thought that may come into your mind just notice it without judgment and simply refocus your attention on your breath. If you find you are being overly distracted with intruding thoughts, counting your breaths is a good way to quiet your mind. On the in-breath, count “one,” on the out-breath, count “two”, in-breath, “three,” and so forth. Count this way up to ten and then start again at one.
5) Stay with this meditative state for a few minutes or for as long as you like. When you are ready, take a deep breath and gently open your eyes.
Meditation does require patience, discipline, and practice but over time you will get better at it and begin to experience some of the benefits including:
- Finding inner peace
- Having a more open, vibrant heart
- Accepting life as it comes on its own terms
- Improving stress-related health issues (e.g. anxiety, depression, high blood pressure)
- Becoming more in tune with your true self
- Improving performance in all areas of your life!
When we meditate we are actually moving into Alpha and Theta brainwaves—this is when the mind is most peaceful and happy. The press of daily life gets our brainwaves out of the preferred Alpha and Theta state. Meditation is like feeding the brain the essential diet it thrives on.
(excerpt from my book Thriving in Turbulent Times)
John's passion is in helping people get unstuck so they can experience their true potential. Before starting his own practice he spent 16 years coaching, consulting, and presenting to Fortune 500 companies, teams, and individuals on how to breakthrough their barriers and magnify their talents.