The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford

IMG_7598Wes Knight handed me The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford when he came to visit Ella and me, and he was beginning his pod cast “Creating Space”. He suffered an ACL injury near the end of his career and, combined with some personal struggles, he was crushed. He had defined himself as a soccer player and had to rediscover his identity because he wasn’t in that role anymore. Wes and Ella became good friends while in Vancouver. I had asked Ella to move there with me. She and Wes trained a lot together, and most of the training they used then, both still apply to their daily regiment. Wes told me this was the book I needed to read coming back from my injury, and he was spot on. Not only does George Mumford refer to Bruce Lee, Star Wars, Viktor Frankl, Michael Jordan, and Buddha, many of my heroes, his own journey to get to where he is today is incredible.

In a nut shell, his dream was to play in the NBA and when that didn’t pan out for him he turned to drugs and eventually joined an AA group to get clean. When you join AA, one of the commitments you must make is to something bigger than yourself. This can be God, or for George, it was Buddhism. George went on to create a mindfulness program for thousands of inmates. Yes, you heard that right, and after that he joined the Chicago Bulls during their golden years and worked with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the rest of the dream team. This book has so many golden nuggets. It defines mindfulness, what meditation really is, being in the zone for athletes, intentional learning, and the list goes on, and it all follows along many Buddhist principles.

My favourite part of the book, as this is a theme in many books I like, is the space between something happening and your reaction to it. That is where I believe all of one’s power really lies. I used to get so upset because I felt like my emotions controlled my life and that was only because I let them. Even as a goalkeeper, sometimes I get so excited playing that I’m too aggressive instead of being a little more patient, waiting half a second and taking in the situation and then reacting. What I like about this space is that meditation can really help you here. Meditation, to me, is simply about observing your thoughts. Sometimes I imagine observing myself from afar, like if I was across the street sitting on a park bench. When you look at others you don’t hear all the chatter going through their brains. You just see them from the outside because everything going on in their minds they are creating. So when I observe myself, I find it helps me to silence the chatter for a little bit and then when thoughts come in and out of my head I let them. I don’t resist them or say, “You are supposed to be thinking about nothing.” Instead, I act as though those thoughts are visitors, guests that are just passing through. If they want to stay for a while, I let them stay, but I’ve noticed that “what you resist persists” so I take away my need to control my thoughts.

Why is this helpful? When you get in a situation where something happens, maybe someone has hurt you or made you angry, instead of lashing out right away and making the situation worse or doing something you will regret later, sit with your thoughts. If you really are angry or hurt, expressing that openly and honestly once you’ve had a bit of time to absorb your emotions can take the sting out. Waiting a little while and allowing the rawness of your emotions to soften will enable you to speak without your emotions taking over. I’m not saying I don’t get angry and that I don’t yell, but I don’t that often, and I do it much less than I used to. I don’t have control over a lot of things, but I am fully aware I am in control of what I do, and at the end of the day I always want to be proud of what I do and how I treat the people I love. I also find being in this space enables you to be present more often. The more present you are, the more in the zone you are, and if that becomes your habit and part of who you are, I believe you will perform at a higher level more consistently, no matter what line of work you’re in.

All in all, this book is awesome. From the selected fonts and organizing of the book, to the rich content, this is one of my all-time faves, and I highly recommend it.

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