2.8 Editor's Pick
January 5, 2009

Hail Mary! Sports is Spiritual. [Sharma, Jordan, Magic, Bird, Babe, Dr. Joseph Parent: Zen of Golf]


When you are completely mindful in the present moment, mind and body are synchronized. Here, synchronizing mind and body is connected with developing fearlessness, in the sense of being accurate and direct in relating to the phenomenal world.

~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Shambhala

What’s the difference between being good at a sport, and being great? I asked this question of golden boy of climbing Chris Sharma, some months ago.

What’s the difference between winning and winning sometimes? It’s not physical, merely—anyone who watches the NBA (where everyone’s incredibly fit, as fit as Michael Jordan, and yet where some are far better than others) or Baseball (where some of the best have potbellies and gangly arms) knows that half of sports is in the mind.

My friend Dr. Joseph Parent has taught this for years, in the arena of golf (see videos below)

The Bulls of the Jordan era practiced meditation, a bit, and Coach Phil Jackson (who authored Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, no less!) was a confirmed Zen-head.

It’s many a football player who, scoring a touchdown, offers thanks to his God—and while I thing God might got more important things to do than root for one team or the other, being in harmony with the present moment, and the universe, has gotta help one connect with a ball, y’know?

Anyone who plays pool, or swims in a pool, knows the mental game is half the battle. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, an American Buddhist guru who runs marathons, weightlifts and golfs, is inclined to agree.

Buddhism, which I grew up with, is all about synchronizing body and mind. What happens when your mind and body are in two different places—you’re walking down the street, say, but thinking about how your girlfriend yelled at you—is painfully magnified under the pressure of sports, when your body is far more active, and the pressure far greater. We all know that Jordan, or Magic, or Babe Ruth, or any great clutch player could somehow focus when they had to, and pull off miracles (see first few below vids) unknown to we mortals.

So I put this question to you, America: if meditation helps synchronize body and mind, could success in sports be encouraged by meditation?

Chogyam Trungpa defined enlightenment as when body and mind are fully synchronized. In sports, it’s a temporary state called “the zone.” What can the human body do, when synched with the heart and guts and mind?


You can see that awareness played a great part in Magic Johnson’s groundbreaking passing game:

Time and again, fourth quarter, Jordan flipped a switch in his brain and went from great to the best:

Infamously not buff and agile, Bird was all leadership, savvy, guts—a mental champion:

Top 10 Larry in the Clutch…fugghetaboudit, that’s what Greatness is made of:

Babe Ruth, despite his infamous paunch, was far and away better than any player of his day, or any player in history. Something was special about him:





Bonus, one of my fave movies of 2000, The Cup:

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