Mindfulness simply means being in the here and now. Present moment is the only time you can be aware of your sensations, your thoughts and your being.
Why does it matter?
In the world of videogames one millisecond might determine the outcome of a competition. It means that players need to pick up quickly on the past mistakes, be a few steps ahead to outplay the opposing team, but as a constant – a player should be centred in their own actions and team interaction in the present moment. We are talking here about juggling three points in time: past, present and future. This can sometimes be tricky…
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On one hand, we have functional characteristics of reflecting on our past and future. Past experiences are necessary for our learning, reflection, to change our perspective, and to see how far you’ve come. Thinking about our future can serve for exploration in which we consider our future, set goals and objectives thus motivating us and leading us forward; it can also improve our decision-making because we can anticipate responses.
On the other hand, both dwelling in past and thinking about future are source of common problems: past – being stuck and going in circles, lacking self-confidence; future – creating doubt and inducing fear which combined can result in anxiety. What’s more, most of the time we are mentally either in past or in future.
Here comes the catch, what is the only moment in time that is under our control? Past? It’s passed. Future? It is yet to come. Present? To some extent, yes. Our life is happening it the now, and passing by as we are stuck floating elsewhere. We exert certain control over present actions, and to a great extent, over our own actions and thoughts.
For all these reasons, being able to skilfully shift from past/future back to present where all our sensations are, we can acknowledge our environment better and perceive our own (well)being which gives us advantage in: identification and prevention.
Identification: Something is missing in your game tactics and you are not very well aware of all aspects. By focusing in the now, you are expanding your attention span and can figure out a solution to the problem in a more effective way.
Prevention (when it’s still on time): During your body-scan meditation practice you fine-tune with your body and detect discomfort in your right hand, for example. At this moment you could do 2 things: 1) You might jump to the past to trace back the possible causes of the pain to avoid doing the movement which has taken you to experience pain; 2) You become aware of the discomfort of the hand area and prevent it from becoming worse by purposefully taking care of your hand.
To simplify this example; have you ever forgotten to go to pee? Or to drink water? What were you doing at that moment? For how long have you been invested in that activity? Or you were simply jumping from one to another meeting… If you go running through your life without stopping for a second to soak in the experience you are going through, you are just unable to perceive your sensations. This is a common story between the individuals who suffer from burnout.
Intervention (late) would be a case of these burned individuals who are already suffering the symptoms of pushing themselves too hard and now there is less left to save and some drastic measures are to be taken.
Mindfulness was introduced to occidental culture thanks to: Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926-, buddhist monk) and Jon Kabat-Zinn (1951-; american medicine emeritus professor, director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic), among others. I really recommend you to learn some more about these two because their contribution to mindfulness practice has been astonishing.
Apart from experiential benefits, there is numerous more such as: healthy aging, reduction of stress hormone cortisol by which stress decreases automatically, stimulation of immune system, improvement in concentration, etc. For more scientific information I suggest you read ‘Altered Traits’ by Goleman & Davidson.
So how can we be mindful?
Meditation is considered to be one of the most popular practices of mindfulness today. In the next post I will explain meditation for beginners and add some interesting resources to those who are already doing the practice themselves. Not to leave you empty-handed now, here are 2 easy mindfulness practices:
#1 – 3 Mindful breaths – anywhere,anytime
We could calm and still our mind by paying attention to our breathing. Breath is always present, but at most times we are not aware of it because or nervous system has automatized the breathing execution. Putting all our attention to breathing we come back to the present moment, reconnect with ourselves and begin anew.
#2 – Choose any routine activity and do it with your full attention
It could be washing your hands, doing the dishes or having a cup of tea. It could even be while you’re waiting in the traffic. Pick an activity and be aware of sensual perceptions; visual stimuli, auditory stimuli, touch stimuli, olfactory stimuli and taste stimuli…
I have given quite an ‘american’ description of mindfulness practices which in this case is adapted to (e)sports. Original teachings are that mindfulness is non-doing. Which is to say, there is nothing simpler than being mindful – perceiving our environment and our inner self through our senses. It is basically listening closely to our body and mind without getting trapped in thoughts and identifying with any sensations because they are not a part of us – they are passing by and we just need to acknowledge them.
To end up, there is an ancient metaphor for mindfulness which I learned from Jon Kabat-Zinn. The nature of the mind is like an ocean. Surface is changing shapes, rolling over, sprinkling foam in air and moving fast, it is loud and unpredictable. Just as we dive a bit deeper everything becomes calm, there is serenity, nothing moves and it is silent. Same thing happens with the mind. Often times we are surfing the waves and enjoying the views but we forget to dive deeper, to become aware and just be. Not move. Stop. Breathe. Do yourself a favour and start thinking of your body and mind today.
Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash
Collaborators: Iván Bonilla Gorrindo, Ignacio Ruiz-Cruces, Oriol Incarbone Pallarés & Guillermo Mendoza
Goleman, D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered traits, Penguin Usa. ISBN-10: 073522031X
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018) Meditation is not what you think: Mindfulness and why is it so important. Hachette Books (1st Ed.). ISBN-10: 0316411744
Cover photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash