Monday, February 4, 2013

Mindfulness and the Superbowl

During last night's Super Bowl broadcast, one of the commentators made a reference to mindfulness and acceptance! Did you catch it?

Ok, ok, he didn't use quite those words, but he was talking about those concepts. It was during the 34 minute game delay caused by a power-outage that shut down the lights in half of the stadium. The delay occurred early in the second half, when the Ravens had a sizable lead and quite a bit of momentum. As it became clear that the delay would be lengthy, questions were raised about how the teams and players would manage it: Would they be able to stay warmed up? Would the Ravens lose their momentum? Would the 49ers be able to capitalize on the delay to change their game plan? Which team would it benefit/hurt more?

A commentator was asked what he thought the coaches would be saying to their players. His response was that both teams needed to stay focused on the present moment. The Ravens needed to avoid jumping ahead to imagine themselves winning, and the 49ers needed to not get caught up in what they wished they could change about the plays that had already occurred. They needed to do what was needed in the current moment.

Mindfulness, of course, is at its heart an awareness of the present moment. While mindfulness meditation involves quiet observation of our internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, sensations), mindfulness can be applied to more active pursuits. One mindfulness exercise is to "do one thing" in the moment: if you're washing dishes, be fully present in the experience of washing dishes. If you're playing football, be fully present in the current play. Not the last play. Not the next play. Just this one - be here now.

Another element of mindfulness is nonjudgment: observing whatever is present in the moment without judging it. This is where acceptance comes in. This was also another aspect of the commentator's advice to the teams in the midst of the game delay. If they got frustrated or angry or impatient as a result of the delay, that could throw them off their game. Their heads wouldn't be in it anymore, and their emotions could get in the way of executing important plays. Instead, they needed to accept it without judgment: "it is what it is."

How well any of the players last night achieved a state of mindfulness and/or acceptance is something only they could say. The Ravens did in fact lose their momentum, and the 49ers almost eked out a win in the end...almost. The 49ers, like the rest of us, can only adopt that non-present-moment refrain: "Next year!"

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