So here is the question the was posed to me recently by a spiritual practitioner and roller derby queen Amanda Risser:
Here’s my current challenge:
– I am working on being more effective at performing the kinds of blocking and hitting that exists in my sport.
– I struggle with finding a place within myself to draw the kind of energy that is helpful in doing so.
– My blocks and hits are suffering from over thinking and hesitation. They need to be more fluid and easy. Some of this will come with more practice and skill; the rest needs to come from a different connection between body and brain.
– Many of my teammates work on this by vocalizing or imagining they are hitting someone they hate, or visualizing some kind of animal that helps them connect with the aggression.
I don’t feel comfortable harming someone I hate (and can’t figure out if there is anything or anyone I ‘hate’ anyway) and visualizing an animal being aggressive doesn’t help, and actually gets in the way! My friend thinks of herself as a mean dog with no muzzle and that image just leaves me feeling concerned. I think that I’m a better contact sport player the more I take care to be an excellent sportswoman, teammate, opponent which seems more controlled and responsible than a wild dog. Compassion and care is wrapped up in there somewhere but I’m having a hard time untangling it. There is a kind of admiration and joy (and also pain!) that I feel when I’m effectively blocked or hit during play. When I can perform the same way and execute an effective and legal block or hit against my opponents, it feels good to help my team, I appreciate the way that it connects me to my body and my strength and I am grateful to the sport and how I am part of a very delightful group of folks engaged in a kind of vigorous and joyful and strong common effort. I feel lucky to have a body right now that can do such cool stuff and know that my body will change: it could change in an instant if I break my leg during play, it will change over time and I won’t be able to skate for ever.
I would love some kind of role models or practice tips or imagery that could be helpful. My friend suggested samurai. I don’t know much about that but my love for derby feels more communal and connecting than I imagine samurai to be but I’m not sure.
First I want to thank Amanda for her honesty and her question. I also want to thank her for letting me use her words in my blog.
The world of fitness and sport can at times feel very out of alignment with spiritual practice and a balanced way of living.
One of the reasons I have felt so inspired to help start the mindful fitness movement is that I believe true transformation is possible through awareness and exercise. The current fitness paradigm and sport mentality is built largely on critical commentary, aggressive language, and a subversion of peace for achievement.
I don’t think that this is the way it has to be; in fact I think we would be better off with an approach that utilized fierce compassion, motivated affirmation, and loving determination. But let me step down off my soapbox for a minute and address Amanda’s question more directly.
The key to overcoming your hesitation Amanda, lies not in rejection of compassion for something more aggressive. I think it lies in your appreciation of you body and your strength. In your question I can feel the tension between your love of your fellow players and the need to strike them with fervor.
The problem with our view of compassion is that it is often limited to a notion of motherly compassion. We see compassion as necessarily a tender hand and a gentle guiding, but compassion also has a fiercer side.
Think of the mother bear defending her cubs from the wolf. The bear doesn’t hate the wolf, but attacks to protect her cubs alone. One visualization you could use would be of a mother bear knocking away a predator from her cubs.
Another visualization would be to try to see what blocking with compassion might look like. Closing your eyes you might start by visualizing a perfect clean hit. A hit that does its job, but nothing else. There is nothing extra to this hit, no anger, or aggression.
As you come into contact with the other person imagine merit, or white energy, or love passing from you into them. This isn’t the kind of merit, energy, or love that has a gentle hand. This a potent love, like when a good friend tells you a hard truth you need to hear, or perhaps the swift hand of a stranger grabbing you before you step out into traffic.
For a moment your life and their life are in contact. In that moment there is a great and powerful intimacy. Appreciate that closeness and thank them for being so present with you.
Try doing any of these visualizations before your go to bed at night and again before you practice or participate in a match. Whatever we visualize we can realize.