Soccer is now helping Chris Forte with his spiritual fitness lifestyle: a commitment to grow and train the mind, and here’s how.
I have three daughters, ages 16, 14 & 12, and all of them have been playing soccer since the age of 5. Thus, I have attended hundreds of games over the years. Recently I put my mind to the test at one of their games. For the first half (30 minutes) I would just keep my eyes on the ball.
My full attention on the ball, nothing else. The game starts: my eyes locked on the ball; here and there I see some feet; the ball is moving so fast, but I have no problem keeping up to it. It’s like my mind is enjoying the speed. At times the ball goes out of bounds and play subsides for a moment, but my eyes are still locked, full attention on the ball.
Now it’s halftime and the referee puts the ball in the middle of the field as both teams take their break. Here is where the real work begins.
My eyes are locked on the still ball in the middle of the field. Then thoughts are coming in, like “where should we go to lunch after the game? How was my daughter playing in the first half, because I wasn’t watching…?” etc. I think you get the point the chatter of the mind plays.
This is the mind we must learn to train to tame–this is Spiritual Fitness. When this chatter was happening, it was time to focus on my breath while watching the still ball. As I was doing that the chatter went away and the exercise turned more into a meditation.
Once the second half started, I stopped focusing on the ball and watched the game, fully present to the entire field. As I watched there was a calmness in my body and mind, and I felt much lighter. I was more keen on watching the ball along with the players. I was very much living in the present, not giving any thoughts to towards what we were going to be doing after the game. The game and experience were very enjoyable.
My takeaway from this experience is that we know our mind is going 1,000 miles per hour most of the time, with thoughts coming and going, and that’s why the speed of the ball was able to combat that part of the experiment. The halftime experiment showed that at anytime one can come to their breath and go into a meditation, even if it’s just for a few breaths… one minute… ten minutes. These little incremental steps help one live a spiritual fitness lifestyle.
I now approach watching my girls’ games a little different. Every game, just for a few minutes, I keep my eyes locked on the speed of the ball–it’s truly a freeing feeling for my mind. At the same game, for a few minutes I’ll watch that still ball at halftime while concentrating on my breath. For the second half I’m very much present and aware. Soccer is now helping me with my spiritual fitness lifestyle: a commitment to grow and train the mind.
Lastly, being an avid sports fan all my life and playing competitive sports into college, I hadn’t thought too much about the importance of the ball. In our culture today, we are so wrapped up with the players’ performance, players’ contracts, referee bad calls, price of tickets, etc. Next time you’re watching a game, give thanks to the ball. Without the ball there would be no game.
This article originally appeared on Chris Forte
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