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Gaming Meditation

Two weeks ago, Doug Brien, kicker for the New York Jets, made a crucial field goal in overtime to win a playoff game for his team. Acclaim followed, along with the New York Times article, "Thinking Man's Kicker Tries Not To," about Brien's approach to the game:

As the big moment neared and Doug Brien was called upon to kick the game-winning field goal in overtime for the Jets last Saturday, he disappeared into his bubble.

With nearly 70,000 spectators roaring at the wild-card playoff game against San Diego, he walked to one end of the sideline as his teammates moved aside like the parting of the Red Sea. Standing alone, he began breathing deeply. His face went blank as he tried to empty every thought from his brain.

Suddenly, the objects and people in front of him became a blur. Then the deafening noise in the stadium cut out with the quickness of a snapped finger.

From then on, Brien cannot remember what happened. But millions of people who watched him can.

Brien walked onto the field and calmly and instinctually kicked two 28-yard field goals - the Chargers called a timeout before the first one - giving the Jets a 20-17 victory.

"I can't tell you anything about it because my mind was completely blank," Brien said. "Thinking is always a problem when you're a kicker. I know that makes me sound a little crazy, but it's true."... Every day, Brien wakes up at 6 a.m. and sits cross-legged on his bed. Then he closes his eyes, and for 45 minutes to an hour he meditates, trying to stop his brain from working. He is more than happy to explain how alpha and beta waves in your brain are flat when you are in "a zone" or meditating, but is sure to say that he is "not some guy from Berkeley who sits at home and burns incense."

Speaking as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, it's fortunate that meditation doesn't create the perfect kicker. The following week in Pittsburgh, Brien missed two game-winning field goals in the final minutes of game. The Steelers went on to win in overtime and end the Jets' playoff run; Brien was transformed from hero to goat in the press.

From the above article we get the impression that meditation is a form of concentration that consists of blanking the mind and blocking out the world. What's more, the writer describes Brien's goal as "trying to stop his brain from working."

It's fortunate that meditation doesn't stop the brain from working, as without a functioning brain we wouldn't be alive. The brain coordinates all activity in the body-mind from the "voluntary" to the autonomic. Had his brain been incapacitated, Brien wouldn't have been able to walk on the field, let alone kick a field goal.

As to the questions of how meditation relates to thinking, concentration, and whether it is a device to shut out the world, we'll continue the discussion in future entries. In the meantime, here are some words on the subject by J. Krishnamurti:

Meditation is not concentration, which is exclusion, a cutting off, a resistance, and so a conflict. A meditative mind can concentrate, which then is not an exclusion, a resistance, but a concentrated mind cannot meditate.

January 20, 2005 | Meditation | Permalink



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