Olympic Mindfulness & Motorcycle Riding

Today marks the start of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.  Thousands of the finest athletes from around the world will come together to compete in these historical games.  This year's American team boasts 230 members, and according to CNN, it is the "largest athlete delegation for any nation in Winter Olympics history."  That is pretty impressive.  Thinking about it even deeper, we see that these men and women did not get there on strength and talent alone.

Engaging in something, such as an athletic event, with your full attention brings your mind into a state of meditation.  In August 2012, teenage Olympic gold medalist Kim Jang-Mi, of South Korea, explicitly credited the Buddhist practice of mindfulness with reaching her gold medal.  Practicing and preparing for the games drew her into a natural state of mindfulness.

Although I am no Olympic athlete, I've found this to be the case in my own life.  When I concentrate on the task at hand fully, I find myself rejuvenated at the conclusion.  My first successful extended and deliberate state of mindfulness was in my yoga practice.  This isn't, however, something only reserved for yoga. 

The most surprisingly mindful activity I have discovered hasn't been a sport, but the skill of riding a motorcycle.  Let me give some background.  I am a cautious individual--some might say I'm a nerd.  (I knew I wanted to be a teacher in ninth grade, so I, logically, saved my notes from each year of high school type of nerd...)  I just got married in March 2013, so when my brand new husband told me, in September, that he was interested in getting a motorcycle, I thought to myself, Well, you can't really say no.  He is an adult, after all, and you haven't even been married a year... so, I did the most terrifying, but understanding thing I could think of: I committed to take the motorcycle license class with him.  I considered this a great way to understand all of the rules of the road, risks, and safety concerns, while simultaneously being as supportive as possible of this new interest.  

When my husband and I decided to take the weekend course,  I never imagined I would come home the first night invigorated after three hours of classroom reading and discussion and five hours of learning to ride (and that was only day one of two!).  Much like sports require all of your thought and attention, motorcycle riding demands your full concentration.  As you can imagine, thoughts of possible wrecks, to-do lists, and what would be for dinner were too distracting to be safe.  Without exactly stating this, our instructors encouraged us to look ahead and use our eyes and minds to help us move where we wanted to go.   Besides yoga, it was the only way I had ever been able to so wholly focus on one thing at a time.  While riding, my entire body moved as one and my mind was peaceful.  I was shocked to discover that I not only didn't mind him riding a motorcycle, I had actually fallen in love with riding, too!

motorcycle + yoga mat = best life!

Taking this even further, my husband, Danny, has begun to ride his motorcycle fulltime and commutes to work on it; he loves beginning his day with this refreshing and uplifting practice.  He has no radio, no phone, not even windows or heat to distract him from his purpose.  On days he doesn't drive the motorcycle to work, he's noticed the difference in his day.

This anecdote is meant to encourage you to find your Olympic-minded-type activity in order to make mindfulness happen in your everyday life.  All of the athletes of Team USA have achieved their extraordinary status as representation of our country due to their perseverance and concentration.  Mindfulness, whether deliberate or not, has become a daily practice for these incredible athletes and something I feel is worth exploring for ourselves.  As the Olympics begin, contemplate the dedication and presence each athlete exudes through his/ her performance.

Image source: mcwade.com

PS: I absolutely love Classical antiquity, so I was delighted to see that Olympic.org has posted the following video to celebrate the rich history of the games, as well as provide historical context for their establishment in Greece.

What's your avenue to mindfulness today?

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