WHY ATHLETES SHOULD ROCK VIPASSANA. AND HOW TO ROCK IT RIGHT.

flow-challenges-vs-skills.png

Can you begin, and continue, having sex with your clothes on? No. Well… no.

You can’t get into the zone, or continue in the zone with your thoughts on either. Here’s how to strip them down.

What is the zone? What is flow? We’ve all heard about it, and most of us have the experience of being in it to a certain degree.

But what exactly is it.

Nothing happens for no reason, quads don’t grow without leg day, so when someone says, “get in the zone”, there has to be an actual process you engage to get in, and stay in the zone.

And, Ideally it’s something we can do on demand.

If you listen to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (behavioural psych. expert and author behind the book/study “Flow”), you’ll think flow comes from being in situations of equal parts challenge x ability.

“Cool I can just throw myself into situations where they match, and I’m challenged perfectly equal to, or just beyond my skill level?”

Well, yes but then you’re not competing, you’re playing the lottery.

Or

“Great, I can just work my ass off to increase my skills so that I can handle higher and higher order challenges? ..But I already knew that…”

Well, yes we definitely can not get away from working our ass off to increase our skill level if we want to be at peak potential.

But if this is your only strategy for it, you’d still be just be getting into flow or the zoneby second order semi-accident, by working hard and trying hard and hoping things line up. You wouldn’t be getting into it when you decide to.

Bad news is this isn’t that this clearly laid out diagram isn’t actually a path to getting in the zone in real life.

But the good news is, that’s because this a scientific explanation that doesn’t actually do you too much good, precisely because it’s based on scientific observation, which is objective, from the outside, and it’s not based on the actual earned subjective wisdom of the truths of the practices which can cultivate what flow itself is actually made of.

Here is what flow it actually is.

The highest form is pure awareness. The precursor zone is clean awareness x focused creative intention.

Our only job, ever, is to catalyze potentiality into actuality. There is no way of forcing something that is not possible. But that highest potential outcome still has to be “created”.

Alright, relax, it’s simplistic at first, but hang on. There’s so much more inside that space.
And there are a few ways to work it out like any other muscle, or any other skill.

Just look at that flow chart above and we can start to see the internal elements that get you into flow state:

  1. Challenge: You’re challenged enough to not be able to control the situation, and

  2. Skill: You’re skilled just enough not to be pulled into looping anxiety,

So in that space of “Flow” you’re able and feel safe enough, while being gently forced by external demands, to let go of everything.

“Yeah.. we get that.. let go of everything and just allow the performance to happen… duh.. it’s just not always that easy. Plus, I don’t want to let go of everything. I want to win.”

Right - it’s definitely not easy if we don’t understand what that state is composed of. It’s not about letting go into nothing or anything. That would be careless and wishful thinking.

It’s about letting go of the right things, and about letting go into the right “thing”.

And it’s ESPECIALLY not easy, actually frustratingly elusive, if we think that external factors (the situational challenge x our situational skill) dictate our ability to be “in it”.

Once we know how to do it, we can drop that victim mentality which sneakily creeps into the best of our minds when we’re working your ass every day, trying our absolute best every day, but it just doesn’t seem to “happen” for us.

But the nuance here is knowing what to actually “engage”. And there is something. It’s subtle. But it has a quality you can learn to go back to. That something is awareness. That awareness is always there, so all that’s required is to let go of all else.

To understand why this isn’t only about deciding to “let go” of everything, one of the missing pieces, is that you’re not in that bottom corner of “apathy” - which means when you “let go of everything”, you’re not disengaged. You’re actually in a state which is the exact opposite of disengaged… because you’ve completely become the moment itself… when all the thoughts clear out, there’s no boundary between “you” and the experience. Pure awareness of what is with no boundaries. It’s not “detachment”, more on that below, but let’s get into how the zone can be cultivated and practiced and execute, and how meditation can help.

Here’s How To Do It.

  1. Decide to win or set a high intention whatever circumstance you’re in. Or decide to do something great.

    1. This immediately thrusts you up into the “Flow Zone” by creating a challenging situation to level up into and adapt to, at your peak skill level or just beyond.

Awesome - this is where the Flow diagram above ends, and where the skills you can learn and practice via meditation begin:

  1. Drop all cravings for it, and all aversions to failing. Both craving and avoiding have a janky feeling inside, almost like a dirty emotional energy type feeling, and it’s a process that saps mental resources and energy. They seem attractive.. even “responsible” to engage in when you feel you “have to perform”, but they are false helpers and will screw you out of your potential.

  2. Accept EVERYTHING as it is. In this moment, nothing could be different. Nothing. So waste no time wishing it was different. That may also seem “irresponsible”.. and you may be tempted to process / brood / think about / ruminate on your situation. False helper. What is, right now, has already happened. Caused by actions in previous moments. There’s absolutely NOTHING you can do about it. Zero. Let it go. And get into the zone so that you can create awesome future outcomes, in this moment. And the next. And the next. Those will add up to what you’re actually looking for. Not accepting this moment will ruin your chance at a badass future.

  3. Ride all the pain, with your eyes wide open. Pain is an intense sensation. That’s it. If you shy away from either physical or emotional pain, by keeping your head down and grinding when things get tough, you’ll keep going, but you’re going to crash and burn out short of your potential. It takes practice and the ability grows like any muscle. But you also have to grow the quality of this capability. Keeping it clean, and functioning properly.

  4. Keep going back to awareness itself. Pure awareness. Just awareness. It’s always within reach. And If you ask any zen master, it is the only deep truth of what we each are. It is a quiet, formless and unsuspecting powerhouse 🔋. It has its own, subtle feeling quality that becomes more and more and more distinct as you practice. It will put you at peace (even while still highly engaged and energized), it will feel like “home” in the midst of battle, and it will also create an insanely fertile ground for the next step:

  5. Introduce your intention. Sounds cheesy, but it’s everything. Going through the motions is for robots and failing relationships. You have to create an outcome. So what outcome could be created in this moment? Create that in your mind, in that space of awareness. Hold the intention lightly but resolutely. Kicker is, you also have to do it without the janky craving/aversion, if you can continually create that outcome, while in a space of pure awareness, it will have this crazy energy that feels like love, where nothing can go wrong, everything is perfect, and unfolding perfectly because you feel the potential for everything to go well feels enormous. You have become what you visualized, moment to moment, to moment.

    1. In this state you also feel like things going wrong is both a.) Impossible because you’ve cleaned it of all false judgements and b.) immaterial - doesn’t matter, because the energy of the state feels so perfect that something not going right becomes “whatever”, because the state is maximizing it’s own potential and because that state can keep creating rad outcomes from second to second to second, so it feels like you’ll make it up really quickly.

  6. There’s always more to let go of - until there isn’t, and that state will completely blow you out (in an incredible way). Time will disappear, and likely so will your rigid connection to the body. But that’s another article. Continuing to return to awareness, and continuing to let go of everything else, how you keep cruising to the state of pure awareness itself, even beyond intention, where a force and potential beyond ourselves seems to take over.

Don’t Worry About Meditation Causing Detachment (even if you hear them use the word)

Detachment, gets thrown around a lot of meditation in talks about meditation - don’t worry about that, because there’s a key distinction you need to know before being afraid that meditation will ruin your drive.

Detachment isn’t exactly what meditation teaches you. Even though they often use the word, the intention is to help you to “detach” from the grips of your unconscious ruinous thought patterns, like the cravings, aversions, making this moment wrong etc mentioned above.

But then, the evolution of it is to teache you to be “non-attached”, meaning that you are never frozen in time. You’re fully alive in every second. In the constantly changing flow of now.

You do not “care” what happens, because you’re so absorbed in the state of creative awareness that it’s a state constantly full of a wild joy that knows deeply it is doing everything it possibly can to create an intended outcome.

It’s like painting - you love the process of taking the canvas and your arm and the brush and paint exactly as they all are, and creating some badass shit with them out of this unconditional energy of love that gives zero f*cks if it doesn’t work out, because that state is a constant field of aware experience, or flow, that needs no outcome because it is always responding non-judgementally, perfectly, and with peak energy to the now.

You’re winning every millisecond and “outcomes” start to lose their reality. There was no chance anything could have been different, because you were creatively doing your absolute best from a place of intense love for the game, for the never-ending “now” of the game. There is no way to judge the outcome anymore. It was perfect. Win or lose. Perfect.

“Great, OK, so letting go isn’t passive defeatism or detachment.. but what the hell am I actually letting go into?”

So then the question becomes, what are you letting go into?

What is still there when you’ve “let go” of control, and you’ve “let go” of emotional struggle (aka anxiety)?

What is the zone “made of”.

The Zone Is Pure Awareness

The greatest news about this, is that pure awareness, pure consciousness, is what we actually are before any thoughts and emotions hook this pure powerhouse of what we are at the core.

It’s the only thing that has been constant every single moment of our life. It’s never gotten older. It never leaves us, not even in sleep.

And if you listen to anyone talk about near death experiences, it doesn’t even leave us after we die. We don’t have to believe that, it doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is that this

The zone is a state where you’ve basically become awareness itself. Which is your truest self. And it’s the opposite of empty.. it’s full to the brim.

That space is beyond thoughts. But don’t worry about letting them go, because a.) they aren’t “you” in the first place” and b.) that space is actually full to the brim and has abilities so much more powerful than thoughts could ever dream of being.

And the more you let go of thoughts, the more you get aligned with the truest form of “You”.

It has the power of what could most closely be called an unconditional love for existence and for the intentional flow of existence, which is also called your creativity, and your performance.

Time doesn’t register. Not required.

Thoughts disappear. They’re a hindrance.

Emotions melt into a feeling quality that seems to stretch beyond our body and into our surroundings (i.e. become the ball, is actually real advice, because to “become the ball” you must become awareness itself, and in that pure awareness everything is you, because everything you are aware of is inside you - it’s all one wishing your awareness.)

Remember in the Matrix when NEO said “I am the spoon” This is exactly what that line was referencing.

Do not try and bend the spoon, that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth...there is no spoon. Then you will see it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

It’s not crazy - think about it, anything you see right now, what you see is actually inside you… this screen is inside you. That means you are not aware of a screen “out here”. You’re aware of a screen “in there” inside you. The way you experience this thing, no one else experiences, that means there is no screen. It is just a seamless part of YOUR consciousness. Your experience of this is you.

And if you’re trying to do ANYTHING, your ability to create an ideal flow from intended potential situation into an optimal situation is the only way.

Anything else is luck, and there isn’t an athlete in the world who practices luck. They abhor it.

So that means every athlete, whether they know it or not, is trying to do two things:

1. Access this state as often as possible, ideally on demand.

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Practice.

We in here, talkin about, practice?

2. And prepare their bodies/minds to be as consistently helpful as possible when they perform.

Which means that it’s a space where ultimate performance lives.

And it is always living there. Waiting for us.

Waiting for us to let go of everything

Ok, how the fck do I do that?

One word that you’re all deeply familiar with.

Practice.

Practice? We in here, talkin about, practice?

“How the hell do I practice this…. I usually just hope it happens when I need it to.”

Not many gyms will teach you. And frankly not even many coaches will teach you.

The closest you get might be learning from martial arts, especially Kung Fu - because Kung Fu holds a guy named Bodhi Dharma as their revered inspiration, and Body Dharma is the founder of Zen, and Zen is the purely distilled practice of what the Bhudda taught as the Way to realize the ultimate potential of being human, and Vipassana is the distilled truths of both Zen and the Buddha. And Vipassana is a super accessible, non-dogmatic, by donation, constantly available super-gym to practice it for 10 days straight.

Vipassana was brought to the world buy a guy who was a “house-holder” AKA not a monk. He was someone who lived a real life with wife and kids and was a successful business person.

He distills this stuff down to a super simple, super practical, non-dogmatic, non-religious, tangible way of practicing this intangible super-skill. While still keeping it respectful of where these universal truths came from.

10 DAYS OF SILENCE? THAT WILL HELP ME MY WIN MORE…

One sentence:

It teaches you to be hyper aware, in the midst of pain, and to be calm and totally ok with that pain. AKA totally free to remain in the state of flow when shit is going sideways or lactic acid is peaking.

SO many athletes “put their head down and grind”. But if you’ve ever boxed, you know that you have to be so open and willing to take a punch in the face, while being hyper aware, so that you can both take a punch, doge a punch, while intuitively calculating 2-3+ steps ahead, to throw (and land) all the right punches.

You just can not throw the right punches if you’re not hyper aware. You’ll literally be shadow boxing with your own mind and emotions while facing an opponent = trying to dodge and slip your own internal struggles, and throwing haymakers at your own cravings vs. actually being in the moment.

And you can’t be hyper aware if you’re not completely eyes wide open, embracing the inevitable potential of impending pain.

If you’re an amateur, your opponent will be doing the same internal shadow boxing. So that process might work for you.

One of the major requirements to jump into professional capabilities, is to realize that you can’t do that anymore. And most people learn by having the shit kicked out of them, in whatever sport it is.

Doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn to lay down the internal fight by practicing the

But if you can do that.. everything seems to slow down, you absorb so much of the environment you need to adapt to instead of getting stuck in your head “trying hard” to process the internal feelings and impulses trying even harder to make your external performance come together.

It’s just a massive disconnect that you can’t overcome by more effort into the same shitty processes.

You have to get out of your head. The only way to do that, is to be 80-100% OK with all of the sensations and feelings inside - All of them. So that you can stay in that state of pure awareness. Or flow. Or the zone. Or stay “out of your own way”. Whatever you want to call it.

That way they won’t hook you when it’s time to perform. You won’t try to escape them when you’re struggling and it’s painful, and you won’t get lost indulging when the ego makes a convincing case to juice itself when you turn a corner and start to do well.







Meditating for like 8 hours a day will help me win more competitions?

It teaches you to be hyper aware, in the midst of distracting desires that take you out of the moment, and to totally let go of those cravings.

It teaches you to become “the force”, which is pure awareness, so that you learn how to keep going back to that place, and can handle anything that comes at you.




Here’s what goes down: for 10 straight days, your silent. No communicating, not even with glances or gestures. You meditate.. a lot. 4:30AM - 6:30AM [Breakfast + Rest] 8:00AM - 11:00AM [lunch + Rest] 1:30PM - 5:00PM [Tea/Fruit Break] 6:00PM - 7:00PM [Video Discourse] 8:30PM - 9:00PM.




“It’s not for everyone”




The food: don’t worry about the evening meal. you Won’t miss it after the second day.

WHAT TO WEAR

I’ve done 2x 10 Vipassana and 1x Traditional Zen retreats in the last 60 days. 27/60 days in total silence. Practicing this. And it’s unreal. It’s jedi training. Can not be understated how real it is.
I wore a bunch of RYU gear and it felt like the stuff was made for it - up to 11 hours of sitting and not a single thought of clothing discomfort.

Plus it kind of fits the vibe… felt like a zen ninja most days in a blacked out ethos hoodie, black crew T, a pair of black joggers and some black RYU socks.

This was my perfect setup:

  1. RYU travel bag (so legit.)

  2. A few pairs of Joggers.

  3. Midlayer hoodie (perfect temperature most days and super comfy)

  4. Ethos hoodie (for the evenings or cool mornings)

  5. RYU ankle socks

HOW TO SIT THROUGH HELL (AND HEAVEN)

So many people try to challenge themselves TOO much when it comes to pain that sets in from long hours of sitting. So one of the most important pro tips is to sit in a way that makes you feel comfortable, and sit in a way that you can keep sitting for over an hour. Posture struggles, get a backrest. Groin doesn’t like cross-legged sitting (most non-yoga fit guys suck at cross legged sitting)? Don’t do it. Or get some supports to put underneath your knees and prop them up.

Don’t get hooked on the challenge of just sitting through discomfort, there’s a lot more work to be done internally than externally. Even though the two are pretty well linked on a certain level.

HOW NOT TO GO CRAZY

Two major things.

  1. Don’t worry about it. Your brain will actually feel like it has been waiting for this for a long time. The lack of technology, and stimulation, and constant chattering, and constant running around. After a few days you’ll be sitting on the toilet, and the old internal patterns will be shocked that you don’t have your phone with you, but that little craving will be super weak and the contentment you feel with nothing but being alive in that moment will get stronger and stronger.

  2. Don’t try too hard. If you are trying really hard, you have to realize that you are actually igniting a craving from some false sense of accomplishment. Cravings are misplaced effort invested into illusions that we fuel and inflate with our emotions and thoughts and desires. There’s nothing to crave when the goal is to be. Be aware. And soon you’ll realize you’re awareness itself, and there’s nothing that can touch how incredible that feels on a whole different level. So trust me: the real MVP is not trying to make anything happen. Let it all go. Don’t look for your emotions and feelings to give you answers.. they are the enemy in a way: as in, they are an external (non-you) illusion on the screen of your awareness. If you dive into them wanting to have them be different or to change them, you’re literally putting on a halloween costume of frustration, anger, excitement and calling it who you really are. Drop it.

HOW TO BALANCE MAX EFFORT & CHILL

  1. Get up early and do the work. But also let yourself nap mid-day. Wake up at 4:00AM every morning and do the 4:30AM meditation until breakfast. Just do it. Do yourself a favour and do this. BUT, after breakfast, and in the rest times, or even one of the non-group meditation times, take a nap if you need some extra rest. Most people from our busy world will probably need to catch up on some serious deep rest. They will tell you that an obstacle to watch out for is wanting to sleep too much - but worry that in the second half. You’ll start to see how tired you actually are, plus some internal stuff will probably come up that takes energy to process. So don’t fight it too much or smash the instant coffee every day.

  2. Go for walks. Spend that time in nature and appreciate being out there. It a ridiculous thing to be alive, and for this entire flow to go so well all around us, all the time, flawlessly. And to notice how much is still really going on when you slow it from 100 - 0… it’s mind blowing to watch a family of deer walk amongst you and do their routine things. Or to watch clouds flow and collect and form and crack into a lightning and thunderstorm. Or to watch bumble bees work tirelessly in an effortless flow from flower to flower to flower. Take the beauty of all that in. There’s a joy available all the time, that doesn’t require likes on instagram, a new PR, our BF or GF doing something nice for us, or work going well. It’s always there, and it’s free. Just look. Let go. And just be.

  3. Stretch a ton. This was literally the game changer for me. My knees ended up getting so sore sitting on a kneeling bench for the first 3 days, I almost puked / evacuated because of the pain at one point. I realized it was because my quads were so tight.. I stretched my quads a ton before the next sitting.. and no pain in my knee. Stretched hamstrings like mad, and so much less strain on my back. Use the breaks to stretch, and bring a belt or something like that with you to stretch your hammies in your room.

  4. Eat meals outside if you can. It’s quiet and peaceful and worth being a little cool or wet.

Walk around barefoot. There’s something that just feels so right about it, along with recent theories around the benefits of negative ionization of the body that come from grounding.

HOW TO TRANSITION BACK TO LIFE

With Vipassana especially, you may need to ease back into life. Let the people around you know this. Have people who you can chill with who “get it” and need nothing from you other than your presence. Also try your best to be around positive people when you come back - you’ll be a bit more sensitive to other peoples energies and it can throw you when all the walls are down.

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, you’ll think flow comes from being in situations of equal parts challenge x ability.

But that’s a scientific explanation that doesn’t do you much good - because it’s based on scientific observation, and not the earned wisdom of the truths of the practices of cultivation.

Here is what it actually is.

The zone is a state where you’ve basically become awareness itself.

That space is beyond thoughts. But don’t worry about letting them go, because it has abilities so much more powerful that thoughts. And the more you let go of thoughts, the more you get aligned with the truest form of “You”.

It has the power of what could most closely be called an unconditional love for existence and for the intentional flow of existence which is called creativity.

And if you’re trying to do ANYTHING, your ability to create an ideal flow of a potential situation into an optimal situation is the only way.

Anything else is luck, and there isn’t an athlete in the world who practices luck. They abhor it.

So that means every athlete, whether they know it or not, is trying to do two things:

1. Access this state as often as possible,

2. And prepare their bodies/minds to be as consistently helpful as possible when they perform.

Which means that it’s a space where ultimate performance lives.

And it is always living there. Waiting for us.

Waiting for us to let go of everything

Ok, how the fuck do I do that?

One word that you’re all deeply familiar with.

Practice.

Whatyou talkin about, practice?!

“How the hell do I practice this…. I usually just hope it happens when I need it to.”

Not many gyms will teach you. And frankly not even many coaches will teach you.

The closest you get might be learning from martial arts, especially Kung Fu - because Kung Fu holds a guy named Bodhi Dharma as their revered inspiration, and Body Dharma is the founder of Zen, and Zen is the purely distilled practice of what the Bhudda taught as the Way to realize the ultimate potential of being human, and Vipassana is the distilled truths of both Zen and the Buddha. And Vipassana is a super accessible, non-dogmatic, by donation, constantly available super-gym to practice it for 10 days straight.

Vipassana was brought to the world buy a guy who was a “house-holder” AKA not a monk. He was someone who lived a real life with wife and kids and was a successful business person.

He distills this stuff down to a super simple, super practical, non-dogmatic, non-religious, tangible way of practicing this intangible super-skill. While still keeping it respectful of where these universal truths came from.

10 DAYS OF SILENCE? THAT WILL HELP ME MY WIN MORE…

One sentence:

It teaches you to be hyper aware, in the midst of pain, and to be calm and totally ok with that pain. AKA totally free to remain in the state of flow when shit is going sideways or lactic acid is peaking.

SO many athletes “put their head down and grind”. But if you’ve ever boxed, you know that you have to be so open and willing to take a punch in the face, while being hyper aware, so that you can both take a punch, doge a punch, while intuitively calculating 2-3+ steps ahead, to throw (and land) all the right punches.

You just can not throw the right punches if you’re not hyper aware. You’ll literally be shadow boxing with your own mind and emotions while facing an opponent = trying to dodge and slip your own internal struggles, and throwing haymakers at your own cravings vs. actually being in the moment.

And you can’t be hyper aware if you’re not completely eyes wide open, embracing the inevitable potential of impending pain.

If you’re an amateur, your opponent will be doing the same internal shadow boxing. So that process might work for you.

One of the major requirements to jump into professional capabilities, is to realize that you can’t do that anymore. And most people learn by having the shit kicked out of them, in whatever sport it is.

Doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn to lay down the internal fight by practicing the

But if you can do that.. everything seems to slow down, you absorb so much of the environment you need to adapt to instead of getting stuck in your head “trying hard” to process the internal feelings and impulses trying even harder to make your external performance come together.

It’s just a massive disconnect that you can’t overcome by more effort into the same shitty processes.

You have to get out of your head. The only way to do that, is to be 80-100% OK with all of the sensations and feelings inside - All of them. So that you can stay in that state of pure awareness. Or flow. Or the zone. Or stay “out of your own way”. Whatever you want to call it.

That way they won’t hook you when it’s time to perform. You won’t try to escape them when you’re struggling and it’s painful, and you won’t get lost indulging when the ego makes a convincing case to juice itself when you turn a corner and start to do well.







Meditating for like 8 hours a day will help me win more competitions?

It teaches you to be hyper aware, in the midst of distracting desires that take you out of the moment, and to totally let go of those cravings.

It teaches you to become “the force”, which is pure awareness, so that you learn how to keep going back to that place, and can handle anything that comes at you.




Here’s what goes down: for 10 straight days, your silent. No communicating, not even with glances or gestures. You meditate.. a lot. 4:30AM - 6:30AM [Breakfast + Rest] 8:00AM - 11:00AM [lunch + Rest] 1:30PM - 5:00PM [Tea/Fruit Break] 6:00PM - 7:00PM [Video Discourse] 8:30PM - 9:00PM.




“It’s not for everyone”




The food: don’t worry about the evening meal. you Won’t miss it after the second day.



















Gordon SwensonComment