zen

Mindful Monday: Tom Brady Credits Six Super Bowl Wins to Regular Yoga and Meditation Practice

Good morning, mindful friends!

I’m not a huge football fan, but I am definitely fascinated by people who excel in their respective fields. The top of the top. The elite.

In Tim S. Grovers book, “Relentless,” he delineates among the professional athletes in the NBA there is good, great and unstoppable. Even in the crème de la crème of professional basketball, there are distinct differences among athletes. And of course this level of achievement can be extrapolated to any area of life.

So. Back to Tom Brady and yoga. Tom Brady is arguably the GOAT – but I’m certainly not here to debate that!

I’m actually here to support my fantastical claim that Brady attributes his success to yoga and meditation. I mean, there are a million different things we could discuss here. One particular thing made it completely evident to me, and it was something that happened off the field.

I watched horrified after the Patriots underwhelming win in Super Bowl LIII (I mean seriously, least exciting Super Bowl ever, except for those kickers!!) and Tom Brady was immediately thronged by a pack of rabid media cameras, reporters, and press handlers. Just watching, I felt so much anxiety and stress, especially witnessing that tiny female CBS reporter getting swallowed up and pushed and jostled in the jockeying to speak to Brady.

I mean, I freak out when there’s more than five people waiting in line to check in to my yoga class. Seriously, my heart palpitates; my breathing gets shallow; I start to sweat a little bit.

I was riveted watching how Tom Brady reacted under all of that pressure, in the midst of that chaos. And he was so calm and relaxed and PRESENT. He politely kept deflecting the reporters as a steady stream of Rams and Patriots broke through the huddle to speak with him. And you could see that he was having genuine moments with players, coaches and even the team’s owner. Genuine moments of true connection and clarity.

Wow! Just wow! I was literally watching yoga in action.

So of course I immediately googled Tom Brady and yoga. And I found a couple images. But it took like 45 minutes, because I ended up looking at tons of images of his gorgeous wife Gisele, and them together (greatest couple of all time) and their beautiful family.

I finally got back on track.

Because truly, our yoga practice doesn’t begin and end on our mat. It’s a practice that’s created so that we can live a life filled with grace, awareness and the ability to stay focused and anchored in each moment of life.

“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.”  – B.K.S. Iyengar

While we most likely will never be in the Super Bowl or married to a supermodel, we will all inevitably feel external stress and pressure on the daily. We will also have projects and tasks that require and deserve our undivided attention.

Fortunately, we won’t be under public scrutiny for each interaction we have with others or while we are actually doing our jobs.

Yoga is not a physical pose. It is a yoking of mind body and spirit. It is an internal state of being.

The practice is in maintaining our perfect inner calmness and stillness in the midst of external chaos. It is not the stress factors crushing us from the outside that creates discord; if there is already discord there, it will be surfaced. If we are filled with peace and inner calmness, that is what will surface from outside pressures.

Yes, of course the rigorous physical practice and training in any arena is required. But it all begins first with the mind. It is through the light of yoga that we understand on a conscious level the divine and inseparable connection of mind and body.

Have a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Reality

Good morning, mindful friends!! Let’s get REAL this morning!

Reality.

Reality AS IT IS, not how you think it could or should be.

Not your opinions of it.

Not your preferences and projections.

Not your thoughts about it.

Reality. As. It. Is.

The truth is that the universe is always conspiring to keep you alive. To make you happy. On so many levels.

Think about all that must take place for you to survive this entire day! Think about it … your body alone must perform tiny miracles each moment: providing enough proteins and lipids to fuel your body, your mental faculties alerting you to dangers, your spleen regulating immune system. And that’s just on the micro level!

At the macro level, you need fresh, clean water; the Sun continues to shine and provide energy and life to everything on the this earth. You maintain a roof over your head and have plenty to eat.

I invite you to meditate on just how interconnected you are to the Earth’s ecosystem and to realize how important you are on this planet.

When we see just how miraculous and amazing each moment actually is, why do we spend so much time being paranoid. Anxious. Annoyed. Upset. Envious. Disdainful. Sad. Lonely. Depressed. Dissatisfied. Bored. Down on ourselves and those around us? Living in the past …

The universe has and always will provide you with exactly what you need in each moment. You are enough. You are sufficient.

The next time you start to feel anything but grounded in the present, in your body, in reality, take three deep, deep breaths and ask yourself ….

What in this moment is lacking?

Right here, right now, what is lacking in this moment?

As you close your eyes and deepen your breath, you come to the realization that there’s nothing lacking right now. You have and always will receive exactly what you need to get through each moment of your life.

Now that doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but you will always get what you need.

And the more we understand that all of life is this moment and each moment, the less we have the need to project and judge life. As we relax into each moment, we accept life as it unfolds with so much gratitude.

Expectations begin to fall away, thus freeing us from heartache and disappointment.

We truly have the opportunity to embrace life and all its lessons.

Your life is right now. Reality is your next breath.

Mindful Monday: Zanshin

Aloha and good morning, my yogi friends! I’m writing this blog from our 50th state, Hawaii, and I’m overflowing with gratitude for simply being alive in this moment. And while it’s still pretty early morning here, I should really be wishing you a good afternoon! Here is my early morning view as I write this blog.

We are on the fourth week of a series about four Zen states of mind. It’s important to note that there are many other Zen mind training techniques and mental states than the four I’ve focused on these past weeks. I’ve chosen to highlight these particular states, because we can begin to apply them to our yoga practice and daily lives. This is in no way an exhaustive list!

Read more about the first three Zen states here:

Shoshin

Fudoshin

Mushin

Now, let’s move to our final state of mind called Zanshin.

Zanshin literally translates to “remaining mind” or the “mind with no remainder.”

Zanshin is a general and constant state of relaxed awareness or perceptiveness. This state means that although you’re not actively watching out for things, you are constantly aware of your surroundings and situation. Think of a public safety officer or a first responder: they are always sizing up situations even when off duty. Constant situational awareness.

The concept of Zanshin is that one should be fully present in whatever action is at hand. When eating, eat. The mind is fully engaged in the action of eating. When practicing yoga, practice yoga. When standing, stand. When writing, write. It is being in the here and now, totally immersed in the task at hand, and there is no “remaining mind” to think.

And to take it one step further, every action and every thought in the here and now must be right and harmonious. Every routine, mundane action is important and should be done with Zanshin.

A beautiful example of Zanshin:

Roy Suenaka, the author of Complete Aikido, tells a story about aikido’s founder that is the epitome of this concept. They were seated on the floor face to face having tea and talking when Morihei Ueshiba, without turning his head, casually reached behind himself and then held something out for Suenaka to see. “Ah, a young cockroach,” he said, before gently putting it to the side. Only later did the significance hit Suenaka. How was Ueshiba so aware that even when focused on their conversation could he not only sense the presence of something so small but be able to know exactly were it was so that he was able to pick it up without looking?

There is a samurai saying that roughly translates to: “When the battle is won, tighten your chinstrap.” This means that zanshin should always be practiced, even after a big success or goal has been met. Never rest on your laurels. Be prepared at any moment for another attack (if you’re a samurai). But also that the battle is never over until you stop striving.

If you’ve been working for years on a particular yoga pose, you don’t stop practicing once you achieve it! If you reach your PR in weight lifting or any other competitive sport or arena, it’s not the time to relax and start slacking.

There is a second component to zanshin that can be summarized with this beautiful thought: Everything is aiming.

There is a story of a master archer who consistently hits bullseye after bullseye, even splitting his own arrows in the middle of the bullseye, blindfolded and in complete darkness.

This is attributed to the process being of utmost importance, not the goal! Each and every small detail is preparation for the ultimate goal. But the paradox is that the ultimate goal is not the focus; each and every boring, mundane, repetitive task that is performed thousands of times is where focus lies. Once one has performed every minute detail ad nauseam, the goal is inevitable and can be reached without the luxury of seeing the target.

Have a great week, yogis! As always I love to hear your comments and feedback. And of course if there any topics you’d like covered in our weekly blog please let us know!

Mindful Monday: Mushin

Good morning, mindful ones!!!

We’re on week 3 of the Four Zen States of Mind! Week 1 was Shoshin and week 2 was Fudoshin.

Today let’s explore the concept of Mushin, which means “Without Mind.” It is very similar in practice to the Chinese Taoist principle of Wu-wei.

Mushin or Wu-wei refers to a state of total ease, in which you become completely lost in what you’re doing, feel no sense of exerting effort, and yet everything works out perfectly. You’ve probably experienced this feeling at some point on your yoga mat!

In this state of mind, you move with ease and maximum effectiveness and emerge from your experience feeling relaxed and satisfied. Sound familiar, yogi?

One of my very favorite Bruce Lee quotes epitomizes this lovely concept of Mushin or Wu-wei.

Basically, when we practice the Zen concept of mushin, we are cultivating an awareness that nothing has value until we place value upon it.

The Zen master who cultivates mushin will have a mind that is open to all possibility – not a mind that is stuck on objects and situations as they have previously experienced them, thereby limiting their real-time experience. A mind that is not fixed on specific thought patterns or emotions is more in touch with the “emptiness” from which all arises.

The “empty mind” isn’t one of an idiot. It is the mind of a master. It is unbiased, free, and completely adaptable. Like water.

Like the moon’s reflection in a perfectly still lake, we perceive reality as if it is “real,” but that moon, as realistic as it looks, it only a reflection. It is easily distorted by a small pebble being thrown into the lake, or a slight breeze rippling its surface.

When you practice mushin, you are practicing mind without mind – you are the clear surface. There are fewer distortions. When you eliminate mental chatter, worries, anxieties, and concerns about the future, the lake’s surface becomes smooth like ice. You can see everything around you more clearly.

The practice of mushin allows you to observe the world from a less distorted perspective.

How do you cultivate it? By getting still, and constantly reminding yourself that all that arises is phenomena reflecting like a pebble on the surface of a lake.

Have a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Fudoshin

Good morning and happy Monday!

Last week, we covered the first state of mind in Zen Buddhism known as Sho Shin or Beginner’s Mind. You can read more here.

Today, we move on to the second state of mind in Zen Buddhism, Fudoshin which means “Immovable Mind.

Fudoshin represents a peaceful state of total determination and unshakable will. It is the state of a spirit that is determined to win, and that is filled with courage, endurance and determination to surmount every obstacle that comes in its way. Fudoshin is associated with a feeling of invincibility, of a mind that cannot be disturbed by confusion, hesitation, doubt, or fear.

It is when your mind is in a total state of equanimity, characterized by mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Fudoshin is most commonly associated with martial arts, particularly the samurai warriors in feudal Japan. These warriors displayed a steadfast determination and absolute control over themselves. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean one in a state of fudoshin is being stubborn or angry. Rather a person in fudoshin is calmly resolute and cannot be swayed, tempted or concerned.

We channel fudoshin when we are holding our more challenging yoga poses. Visualize your strength, balance, determination and focus when you’re holding a Warrior III pose or an inversion! Total concentration, muscular engagement and a calm and peaceful countenance. No thoughts, just your breath and bodily sensations evoking a powerful sense of peace and stability within yourself.

In modern Zen practice, Fudoshin is the protection against the “Shikai” or four sicknesses of the mind: anger, doubt, fear and surprise. Through the disciplined practice of meditation, we learn implicitly to center ourselves and clear our minds, thus developing a Fudoshin mind.

There are so many opportunities each day to implement Fudoshin in our lives! Hopefully you won’t be facing a life or death situation, but one can never know what life is sending our way!

In this era of random acts of violence, road rage, bad behavior and other losses of self-control, development of fudoshin can contribute to a peaceful, more compassionate world.

Fudoshin means “unmoving mind/heart”or “immovable mind,” and connotes the imperturbability as well as courage of the truly mastered self. It is the mind/heart from which have been purged all impurities and weaknesses in the resolute process of forging artistic and self-mastery.

Have a great week, friends! Remember that fudoshin is just a few, slow deep breaths away.