My meditation practice started as a sports requirement. I was training Taekwondo with the goal of qualifying for the Athens and Beijing Olympics. I was spending over a thousand hours of training per year, and yet had only six minutes of competition time to perform.
It had been incredibly stressful and challenging to perform at such a high standard with so much to lose. My nerves would start and my heart would race before each bout, making it hard for me to eat the night before. The morning before the competition, my thoughts and emotions would be uncontrollable. I badly needed to calm my mind and heart because once my heart would beat too fast, my energy would be gone. My nerves, which I came to learn were my excitement to perform, were an Achilles heel for me.
This is when I started practicing Zen meditation. I took a three-month beginner’s course, where I spent an hour to two per week learning how to effectively calm my mind. Eventually, I took the next course level and spent a challenging ten-day retreat just outside of Sydney in complete noble silence. No speaking or even eye contact for 10 days learning an ancient meditation technique called Vipassana.
With my coach during NZ Championship Tournament.
The comforting experiential benefits helped me turn meditation into a daily habit. Meditation is challenging if you don’t understand why you’re doing it. In my case, doing it helped me train and most importantly perform at an elite level. The benefits have extended to work where I think faster and clearer, am more creative and communicate better.
I found that I didn’t perform as well if I missed my morning meditation session so I plan ahead and make time for meditation before kicking off my day at training or work.
At home, I found that meditation helped me sleep better, build better relationships with my family by simply being more present in the moment. In Taekwondo, meditation enabled me to perform at a higher-level during competition, when it counts. I noticed I can work harder and longer before burning out and am conscious of when burn out is around the corner. This is often the case given I love my sport and am super passionate about the work I do, so it’s easy to push too hard and get close to burn out. Being mentally fit helps me be more aware of myself and others, have happier thoughts and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Taken during practice