Performance: Sports and the Mind
Lambert grew up in a small town in the countryside of New Jersey where
seeing someone row so much as a dinghy was an event out of the ordinary.
Sportsminded but even more studious, Lambert made his way to Harvard
University in 1966 where he became the coxswain for the freshman crew.
He has rowed ever since, and like a watermark it defines him -- in his
life, his pursuits, and his writing. The author of Mind Over Water,
Lambert's passion for rowing has led him to a deeper understanding of
some of life's fundamentals.
is a very rhythmic sport. It's one that requires you to perform the
same motion over and over again. And it's a very unitary motion when
you're doing it right. It's done in rhythm with your breath. And because
of that, the rowing stroke can become almost like a mantra in meditation,
a fixed point that you go back to over and over again. And to do that
for awhile settles your mind down terrifically.
are very narrow boats. They can weigh as little as 31 pounds. They don't
have keels. So they're very tippy, they're very unstable. So when you
are in a single you have to bear in mind that balance is something you
have to achieve.
we see lots of different balances. There's a balance between individuality
and teamwork, between discipline and freedom. Cooperation versus competition.
And so balance is not only a physical thing, but it's something that
pertains to really almost all aspects of individual and social experience.
"So much of
high performance in any sport, including rowing, comes from being really
present, really being in the here and now, being with your boat, with
your oar, with your crewmates, being where you are and not having competing
chatter in your mind going on. I refer to it as the signal to noise
ratio. You want more signal and less noise.
is an index of how your mind is doing. If you have a wiggling and waggling
shell it will mean that your mind is wiggling and waggling, too. If
you have a calm and settled boat it reflects a mental state that's calm
and settled. And so you can actually look at your boat to see how your
mind is doing.
the term 'swing' to refer to that magical kind of condition, those moments
when the boat seems to fly over the water. It can feel as if there were
just one oar, one rower, and you are so unified that there is no friction.
You can almost feel the bow of the boat surging up out of the water
as if the boat wanted to fly.
"Swing is a
state where the distractions of the ego kind of melt away and the separation
between crew members can melt away. You're rowing as if with one body;
you are rowing as if with one mind. And when you're rowing with one
mind there is no resistance.
"The idea that
I think is fundamental to any spiritual practice is the transcendence
of the individual ego. That's the state of spiritual growth, and there
are many paths to that. Meditation is one that has been used for thousands
of years. A path of service is something that can do it. And athletics
offer a certain kind of path to service."
At Play in the Zone
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