How Do You Prepare For Gameday?
Okay, I’ll admit, while I have drastically reduced the amount of time and energy I put into following sports, most of my life has been spent absorbed in the fascinating world of athletics, both as a competitor and as an engaged fan. Sports are arguably one of the most ubiquitous endeavours on the planet, and despite ESPN and other TV providers attempts to steal your attention away from other perhaps more noble pursuits, there is something to be said about joining a raucous crowd, and going absolutely bananas with people you may never see again in your life.
Sports are sports, and sports are here whether you like them or not.
So why am I starting this post talking about sports? Is there going to be anything medical about this at all?
Short answer, no, nothing strictly medical.
Longer answer, still no, but what I am about to share with you transcends the well defined boxes of sports or medicine and opens us up to a curious discussion of how did we find ourselves in these boxes in the first place?
If you read the title of the post, and have a more athletic mindset, your mind may be thinking of some very practical ideas on how to “prepare for gameday.” For the true fanatics, this may involve acquiring food and beverages to enjoy on a comfy couch with friends, or perhaps it involves getting on your computer to pick your fantasy team for the upcoming weekend’s slate of games. Perhaps it involves washing those smelly socks and undergarments so your son or daughter has something at least slightly clean to wear before tomorrow’s game. Or maybe even still, it involves getting yourself as far away as possible from family who may be more inclined to throw sharp or heavy objects as part of an emotional explosion during the big game.
There are lots of ways to prepare, and lots of “Gamedays” for which we could be preparing.
Which begs the question,
What really do I mean by “Gameday”?
Thinking back to my childhood where it seemed I was never NOT kicking a ball, wearing a glove, or putting on a pair of athletic shoes, Gameday carried a very literal connotation.
There was the physical preparation, the pregame meal, the team warm-up, reviewing the line-up and strategy, the final pause before everything began.
Some people on my team had intricate pregame rituals, listening to the same songs on their I-Pod, putting on their shoes in the exact same manner, engaging in a reflective prayer, finishing the warm-up by touching the backboard. You name it, it was part of the preparation for Gameday.
And while some of these odd rituals or practices may seem just that, the reality was, there was little judgement when it came to preparation for Gameday. You didn’t talk to your friend who was absorbed in his pre-game playlist, you didn’t stop your friend from being the last one to lay the ball in the basket, you didn’t bat an eye while you waited for your friend to finish lacing up his shoes and extend his thanks to God.
It was “Gameday.” And that’s all that mattered.
Reflecting back on those years, it’s amazing to think about the unconditional acceptance of people’s practices and it’s fascinating to see the impact television has had in shaping the pregame rituals of our youth.
Do you really think that 12 year old learned how to step into the batter’s box and hold out his hand from a coach or a book?
We as humans are master emulators, and masters too of unconsciously assimilating the habits and practices of our heroes and peers.
And as I mentioned before, no pregame ritual or preparation is TOO odd. Whatever you have to do, you just do it. No one questions Lebron when he kicks of a game with a cloud of chalk. No one questions the pitcher who juggles the Rosen bag prior to the first pitch.
And while no one judges our athletes on how they prepare for “Gameday,” we also forgoe perhaps the most important question we should be asking ourselves
How am I preparing for MY “Gameday”?
Yes, I said it. Your “Gameday”
Not Lebron’s or Bryce Harper’s “Gameday.”
Now some of you may have slipped back into sports mode and thought once again about how you prepare for your athletic competitions, but that’s not really YOUR “GAMEDAY.”
Your “Gameday”, you see, is the playground for your life’s calling, the blank canvas for your embodied artistry, the perfectly polished stone ready to be tossed across the hauntingly still pond.
Your “Gameday” is your opportunity for growth, your opportunity to succeed and fail, to make mistakes and get dirty, your opportunity to relate and connect with others in ways you didn’t think were possible.
Your “Gameday”, you see, is YOUR EVERYTHING, so why in the world do you show up like its just YOUR SOMETHING or even worse, YOUR JUST ANYTHING?
You cannot prepare for what you do not know, and you cannot know without some time to prepare.
Many of us have at least taken the steps to discover our passions, to follow our hearts and live out our callings.
The problem, is we don’t see our callings as GAMEDAY, and as such we don’t have any clue on how or why we should prepare.
Some of us are still searching for our playing fields, seeking out our true Gamedays, and are even perhaps playing on baseball diamonds with more rocks than blades of grass and soccer fields that haven’t seen nets for 20 years.
But just because you don’t know where your Game is being played, or are stuck playing in a Game you wish didn’t exist, doesn’t exempt or excuse you from preparing, for showing up, for readying your heart for what you do not yet know.
I will be honest and say despite my dedicated yoga practice, my constant reflection and my perspective of purposeful intention, I have only recently started to see my calling, my work as a family medicine physician as “My Gameday”, and as such have just started to dutifully pursue proper preparation for “My Gameday.”
Let’s get real, do you think Lebron is going to show up 5 minutes before the game is about to start having downed a double espresso and half a bagel with cream cheese after navigating through rush hour traffic with one eye still glued shut after 5 hours of restless sleep?
Yeah, it’s ridiculous, but what I just described to you is how WE are showing up, how we are preparing for our work.
So WHY IS IT OKAY?!?
My calling as a healer is to craft and hold spaces for patients to discover what they must let go in order to heal, and fully embrace what they must bring into their being to restore their joyful nature.
This does not happen by accident, this does not happen running on Red Bull and bagels, this does not happen while ruminating on how to tell your mother she could have loved you more.
We must get serious, we must get playful, we must be intentional, we must become AWARE.
The remainder of this post could involve me telling you how to prepare for Your “Gameday,” but that would be waste of space and your time.
What you need, and we need is a roadmap, a simple process to realize this preparation and live our “Gameday.”
So here it is
1. Discover “Your Gameday”.
In this moment “Your Gameday” may not be your calling, and may indeed involve getting scrapped by rocks as you slide into second base, but you need to get quiet, take pause, and discover “Your Gameday,” wherever that may be. Don’t get moody or angry about it. Pros prepare and show up no matter the conditions. Amateurs come up with excuses on why the game shouldn’t be played.
What do you want to be?
2. Begin Your Preparation
But I still don’t know my “Gameday”? What’s the point? The paradox of preparing for Your “Gameday” is that you will have to and will likely spend months or years preparing for Your “Gameday,” before you ever discover where in the world the game is being played.
My suggestion, get quiet, rest your mind, and start to breathe.
I don’t care if it’s 10 seconds or 10 hours.
Get Quiet, Rest Your Mind and Start to Breathe
And if you are one of the lucky ones who knows Your Gameday, start walking the pitch, start inspecting the grass, walk every inch of the diamond before you ever touch a glove, and never for second think you know enough to stop.
Evaluate what you are doing now, what are you eating, how much are you sleeping, what do you listen to on your ride in to work, what is the last thing you read or say before you go to bed. How many times do you say I love you?
The Beginner’s Mind will be your friend and will never stop the pursuit of preparation.
3. Just Do It
Nike got it right with this ubiquitous slogan and the truth is preparation is only preparation if you decide to play the game. We cannot spend our lives perfecting what cannot be perfecting, or planning for what cannot be foreseen. We must live our callings and carry out our work knowing we will make mistakes and we will miss things we “shouldn’t” have missed.
But guess what?
Growth doesn’t follow from perfect practice.
Perfect practice comes when see that it’s possible to grow.
So, How do you prepare for “Gameday?”
Maybe it’s time we all start playing a little ball.
Why We Need Reflection Now More than Ever: A Path to Ending Racism, Discrimination and All Acts of Hatred
Racism is real.
Whether implicit or explicit, unconscious or conscious.
It is real.
In 2016 at the Mind of Life Institute’s International Symposium for Contemplative Studies in San Diego, California, fellow attendees and I were blessed with the passion and insight from one of the most brilliant minds in the greater mindfulness community: Rhonda Magee. Sharing her life’s work within the field of social justice, Rhonda brought to light some of the emerging literature behind the power of meditation to counteract some of the damaging effects of our unspoken implicit biases.
Some people argue that implicit biases are not real, not conscious, and as such, are simply artifacts of statistical manipulation from artificially designed studies.
Some people, on the other hand, have spent their entire lives studying these prejudices and argue that such unconscious biases and processes are at the root of nearly all our decisions, actions and speech.
I cannot tell you what is true and am not here to argue one theory over another. I am simply here to hold an open space, and acknowledge that is it possible and indeed more likely that most of what we think, do and say is a manifestation of processes of which we have no conscious awareness.
When I left San Diego in late 2016, I was inspired to bring some of these ideas back to my supportive community in Charlottesville, Virginia. In partnership with my mentors and colleagues with the University of Virginia School of Nursing’s Compassionate Care Initiative, I sought to expand upon an individualized mindfulness program for nursing and medical students and include as a part of the study, specific measures of burnout, perceived stress, self compassion, and implicit bias. In the end, however, we determined that it wouldn’t be feasible to include measures of implicit bias as part of the pilot program. And while we wouldn’t be able to study the fascinating phenomenon of implicit bias in health science students, implicit bias and specifically racial bias would not leave my life alone.
In early December 2016, amidst the final preparations of the initial pilot study, I stumbled across the person that would change my understanding of bias and racism forever.
Now to be honest, this actually wasn’t the first time I had met this courageous individual, nor was it the first time thinking that it would be a good idea to start a conversation with this person.
It was, however, in a mysterious and nearly indescribable way, the first time I found myself walking with a stranger I so deeply wanted to understand, to cherish, and to love.
From the reasons behind her multi-colored highlighters to the passion behind her inviting apartment zoo, I wanted to listen, to hear, to know the story of the most beautiful human being I will ever know.
I should be honest as well to tell you that this person did not look like me.
My skin was light
Her skin was dark.
And to some, that made all the difference.
Over the next few months we found ourselves at the end of more awkward moments and stares than I had previously experienced.
But I had no idea.
Through some of the most randomly beautiful experiences, my love for her and my curiosity to discover the passion behind her greater why exploded.
But my curiosity and love did not take me everywhere my present soul needed me to go.
For you see, I was curious enough to ask her on a date, I was creative enough to write her pages and pages of poems, I was courageous enough to even ask her to marry me, but I didn’t know that the space I was seeking to hold for her flourishing was not enough, not even close.
I thought I was inviting, inquisitive and insightful. I thought I was open, compassionate and aware.
But never once did I realize that my listening was not enough, that my encouragement was not enough, that my caring was not enough.
What I needed to do was ask. To ask her how exactly had she been hurt by judgment, how had she been targeted, how she had been judged for the color of her skin and lack of a Y chromosome. I needed to ask how she had suffered. I needed to ask if she wanted to let out every last little detail of the hatred implicit or explicit that she had endured. I needed to tell her that she was not crazy, that she was not paranoid, that she was not delusional when it came to understanding the intent of the hate of which she had been subjected. I needed to ask her how she wished to release this suffering, how I could allow her to no longer remain silent and accepting, I needed to ask her how I could try to protect her from this cowardly hate and seek to rid this world of its destruction.
There was a lot I needed to do.
I didn’t realize any of this until she found the courage to tell me. I didn’t realize any of this until she found the strength to speak between drips of flowing tears as we sat in the dark of the Belizean jungle inside of a cabin in which she wanted absolutely no part.
I simply didn’t know and I had absolutely no excuse.
All of this “not realizing,” “not knowing,” “not asking” coming from a man who walked the streets of Charlottesville on August 16th 2017, who wrote so passionately about his desire to nonviolently protest and pray for the end of this hatred, this from a man with a bisexual “adopted sister” and a transgender colleague and friend. This from a man whose three closest medical school classmates looked nothing like he and this from a man with a black homosexual friend he called his second father.
This man thought he was loving, mindful, accepting, compassionate and understanding.
This man was surrounded by more love than he could have ever imagined, but sadly he was surrounded by more acts of intolerance and hate than he could have imagined too.
I use the terms above not as labels, but as the simplest means (from commonly used language) to articulate the wonderful diversity in my life.
Some people may find what I have said above false or offensive saying I am making assumptions that my friends of different racial and ethnic backgrounds or sexual orientation and gender identity have been judged and treated with disrespect or worse, with pure hatred.
You may be right, but something tells me that, the assumption that they have been judged, targeted and hurt is MUCH MORE likely than the assumption that they haven’t and by not asking, not holding space for the telling of such potential acts on their own terms, I would be doing them a greater injustice.
I will never know what is it like to be a black female treated as if she doesn’t exist, an adopted bisexual woman shunned by her Catholic family, a homosexual black male in beautiful partnership with a white man 13 years his younger.
I simply cannot know.
But this shouldn’t stop me from being curious to the death. This shouldn’t stop me from asking the questions I never realized I most desperately needed to ask.
Holding space I have discovered, is simply not enough.
We must ask, we must listen and we must act.
We must practice, we must sit and we must stand.
We, as a greater community of mindfulness teachers, leaders and students are not here to study compassion, mindfulness, or meditation to prove to others that these practices reduce stress, prevent burnout, or make better human beings.
We are not here to study these practices to validate for ourselves that they can increase self-compassion, improve state awareness, or make more mindful students.
We study these disciplines to prove to the world just how little we understand and how much farther we are from creating nations governed by compassion and not fear, founding schools for flourishing and not creative annihilation, cultivating communities grown for nourishment and love and not marginalization.
Self-Compassion is not a concept, a primary outcome or goal of meditation.
Meditation is not a means for simply becoming more mindful.
Yoga is not a way for you to suddenly touch the floor.
These practices, or should I say ways of exploring the world, are just a small sampling of the journeys we can take to truly create a place in which discrimination, hate and fear no longer run our world.
I have always been a hopeful and optimistic person, and have been on occasion accused of being too naïve when it comes to my hopes as a doctor and human being to foster a world free of suffering or at the very least, a world of empowered people able to transform suffering from the mud into a flowering lotus.
But I’m not okay with just being hopeful.
Hopeful didn’t get me to ask the right questions.
I’m here now to be helpful and I need your help.
We need everyone’s help.
There are still so many questions I cannot yet fathom of asking, so many things I still do not understand, I have no good answers, no magic solutions, and no perfect pills.
But perfection is not the enemy of good you see.
So I ask you one final question.
One last plea from a man with no good answers.
With no money, no formal training and seemingly no time, what would you do to support the wellbeing of your community?
What would you do to give voice to the hurting, what would you do share compassion with the world, what would you do to make reflection come from someplace other than just a mirror, what would you do to eradicate racism from this planet?
It’s about time we start asking these questions and living the answers like we never have before.