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Peak Performance: Sports and the Mind
Hardwood Warriors Phil Jackson and George Mumford

Phil Jackson and George Mumford have known each other since the early '80s when Jackson took the head coaching job with the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association. Their friendship began at the Omega Institute, a holistic learning and education center in Rhinebeck, NY, where they each continued to develop their shared interest in the philosophies of mindful living. A year after winning the CBA championship, Jackson left the Patroons for Chicago where he went on to coach the Bulls to six NBA championships. From 1993-98 George Mumford worked as a consultant to the Bulls helping Jackson develop a team based on selfless awareness. Body & Soul brought the two together for a conversation near Jackson's home in Woodstock, NY.

Mumford: There's a lot of training involved, in terms of using the mind or clearing the mind to the point that you're more effective. Arnold Schwarzenegger said once about lifting weights that if he has one lift with total consciousness, it's equal to 10 lifts when he's not totally conscious. That says a lot. There's something about the quality of mind that enhances the experience.

What seems to be necessary is that we develop a certain skill level of paying attention, instead of the body being here and the mind being out in the stands. Or if you're at work at your computer and your mind is somewhere else. It isn't the same as when you feel your mind and your fingers being there, feeling that energy of being in the moment and really feeling connected.

Jackson: A lot of people want to equate spirituality with institutionalized religion, and it really has nothing to do with that. I think it's being capable of giving all of yourself to that act you're in. People like to talk about the mind and body being one, but really the spirit is the connecting force. You can be giving all of yourself but yet not connecting to people that are with you and the present energy. And so it's got to be something more than just using your whole connected self and mind and body, but trusting the people that are with you in this activity, that they're doing the same thing, too; so that the two of you have a connectedness that makes one person stronger. And that's where a team always wins.

Mumford: Let's say you're playing basketball or tennis. It may take numerous repetitions, but then you find yourself sometimes where the racket is doing its thing by itself or the basket seems very big, where there's a harmonizing with what you're doing. You're totally in the moment. For whatever reason, everything is in rhythm, working with each other rather than at cross purposes. We don't get that experience very often, but when you do, you have a sense that there's something wondrous happening.

Jackson: When Michael stole the ball [in the final game of the 1998 NBA Championship] I got up off the bench and waved him upcourt. Ninety percent of coaches would call a timeout and plan a play. Michael didn't even think about it. He knew intuitively [what to do], as everybody on the team knew. And it was like five guys, five fingers on a hand working together. That's how sweet it was.

Mumford: When we have that experience of being fully in the moment, it feels right. It's exciting. Then the question is: can you keep doing it? And can you keep doing it without looking for those moments? Because looking for those moments will prevent you from having them.

Program Description
Hardwood Warriors
Craig Lambert
At Play in the Zone
Tell Me More
Help YourSelf

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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