Saturday, August 13, 2011

MINDFULNESS: YOU CAN’T SAY 'IT’S JUST NOT CRICKET'

In the annals of Australian cricket master cricketer Justin Langer AM (pictured left, and also below) is one of Australia's great top-order batsmen.

Justin's own website reliably states, ‘Originally playing at number 3 he moved to opener in 2001 and played 105 test matches scoring 7,696 runs including 23 test centuries.’ Not bad, to say the least. In fact, as we Aussies like to say, ‘Bloody beautiful, mate!’

According to this recent article in The Times of India Justin engages in daily meditation. (I also know he's into yoga.) He has his own little ‘ashram’ (his word) at the bottom of the garden of his home in Perth, Western Australia. From the content of the article, and its wording, I get the impression that Justin, who was known in the cricket world for his mental toughness, practises some type of mindfulness meditation, for it has taught him to ‘live for the moment’ and ‘focus on the present.’

I have an important confession to make. I am not a fan of cricket. Sorry, but I would rather watch paint dry than watch cricket. Actually, if I am forced to watch cricket, I try to watch it mindfully. Not being all that familiar with the rules, I simply watch ... and observe ... each 'shot' (hit, catch, bowl, etc). I observe the bat, its colour and position, and its spatio-temporal movement. Ditto each bowl, etc. All this is done without judgment, condemnation or analysis ... for I can rarely tell a good 'shot' from a bad one. Of course, if you happen to be someone watching the game who is 'serious' about the matter, or if you're an umpire or a commentator, coach or selector, you will of necessity engage in (hopefully informed) judgment and analysis. You must.

What if you're a player on the field? Well, I guess a certain amount of self-evaluation and self-analysis must take place, but never to the point that you take your eye off the ball, or (if you're a batsman) you look at where you're going to hit the ball as opposed to keeping your eye on the ball whilst making sure the bat is 'coming through' facing the ball. I'm probably not making myself all that clear to those who really know what they're talking about (ha!), but mindfulness ... in the sense of attention and awareness from one moment to the next ... is very important for any player regardless of their position on the field or in the team. This is so, even if you've never heard of the concept of mindfulness.

Although, as I say, I know little about the game of cricket itself, I do know this much – the successful pursuit of any sport like cricket, baseball or golf requires, among other things, confidence and, most importantly, concentration.

We need to be careful when using the word ‘concentration’ in the context of mindfulness meditation. Concentration in the form of a fixed and rigid, even ‘absorbed’, focus on some word, sound or object may be the ‘name of the game’ in some forms of meditation, but not so when it comes to mindfulness meditation. Here, the word ‘concentration’ is used in the sense of one’s being able to be attentive to what is happening in each changing moment ... and things can and generally do change very fast in sports of the kind in question.

This also needs to be kept in mind. Concentration means, not so much blocking out distraction – for that is not always possible or even necessarily desirable – but being attentive to and choicelessly aware of whatever is the ‘content’ of the moment having regard to the ‘need’ of the particular moment in terms of the overall goal. That way, one can play in the moment for each hit or shot.

One final thing ... effort defeats itself. Yes, one must be mentally tough, persistent, determined, and so forth ... but trying too hard to, for example, hit the ball is not the way to go.

Finally, here's some video footage of the man 'in action':



Good on ya, Justin!


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