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 thousands of 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 beats too fast, my energy would be gone. My nerves, aka excitement to perform, were an Achilles heel for me.
This is when I started practicing Zen meditation. I took a three-month beginners 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 medication technique called Vipassana.
With my coach during the NZ Championships.
The comforting experiential benefits helped 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 high performance. The benefits have extended to work where I think faster and clearer, am more creative and communicate better. It also allowed my heart to be calmer.
I found that I didn’t perform as well if I missed my morning meditation session. To make sure that a busy day wouldn’t get in the way, I planned ahead and made time for meditation before commencing any 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 burn out. Being mentally fit helped me become more aware of myself and others, have happier thoughts and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Taken during practice