A Brief Moment of Zen

A Brief Moment of Zen

Feb 12, 2017

A Brief Moment of Zen


By Josh Hunt


When I was younger I had a terrible problem of living in my own head. Thoughts would come to me and I would be caught in a maelstrom of possibilities, questions, inadequacies, near-revelations, and various other concepts that bounce around a person’s head. I can remember being as young as a first grader balancing on an eighteen-inch retaining wall, walking back and forth watching each cowboy booted step moving forward along the grey cinder blocks, with the thought of ‘why am I me’ reverberating in my skull. As I got older this problem would plague me in social situations wherein I felt as if I was a third party watching my actions transpire. Often times I would feel like a moviegoer yelling at the screen ‘don’t do that’ or ‘why would you say something so stupid?’ There was a little part of me watching as I crashed and burned every time I would try to pick up a girl or make a new friend. Then after the event was over I would replay each moment in my head reliving the mistakes I made. Like I said this used to be a terrible problem, now it is only a problem. I still have issues with living in my head and being in the moment. It is incredibly hard for me to take a step back and consider what is going on as it happens. I have made a point of trying to think about every little aspect of my walk from my truck to the front door of my office building. It seems easy enough, all one has to do is observe whether the sun is burning brightly or it is a cloudy day, what the temperature feels like on exposed skin, how the air smells, and so on. This seems really basic and an easy thing to do, but for me it is not. I’ll take a few seconds to ruminate about one of the things that I just listed, but by step ten away from my truck I am already thinking about what I need to accomplish by 10:00 am, how my training is going to be after work, what plans I have for the weekend, and on and on. It is actually pretty amazing how hard it is to do something that should be easy, like live in the moment and observe what is in front of you now.


Generally, my mind is always racing. I know that this can be a good thing because it makes me future focused and ambitious. If you can’t perceive yourself bench-pressing seven-hundred pounds one day, then how can you imagine bench-pressing six hundred pounds? When is good enough good enough? These thoughts can be used to transcend our personal beliefs about our limitations. However, they can also create angst and negative feelings. Like many men I am told from time to time by my significate other that I have problems listening. Some of this I can attribute to not being in the moment. It is hard to hear about someone else’s day when your mind is turning and working on a problem that you encountered at work, how that last set of squats just didn’t feel right, or how you’d like another ground turkey sloppy joe because three just didn’t seem like enough. If I were able to detach from the constant chatter and conversation in my head, I’d be a much better listener. That being said, I have been working on being more available for some time. For the past four or five years, I have been trying to keep a yoga and meditation practice. It’s funny because if my twenty-four-year-old self heard me say that I would be ridiculed without mercy for being a hippy and ‘crunchy’ for hours. But, at my current station in life I feel like these concepts are necessary in order for me to function properly and not be the miserable angry metal-head I used to be. I find it funny that even though I find benefit in something as simple as meditation, it is one of the first things that I drop when I get pinched for time. If I am running late in the morning, that gets cut from my schedule, and I am not apt to make up for it later. This type of mindfulness practice is a struggle for me.


Now that I have spilled my guts, I can now discuss my epiphany, which is sports is a reflection in mindfulness. It is easy to dismiss athletic competition as just a game, but from my experience it is something much more. When I am at a powerlifting meet, I find my mind quieting and focusing at the task at hand. I’m not thinking about the mistake I made on the phone last week or the eye-opening conversation I had with a new friend yesterday, I am thinking about executing. The focus gets tighter as I prepare myself to approach the platform. I am thinking about wrapping my wrist wraps just right, getting the calk on my hands the way I want it, and what the bar is going to feel like in my hands. As I lay down on the bench my aperture tightens even more, I am thinking about getting my set up as tight as I can get and pushing as much air into my stomach as possible. Then when I get the hand off and I take the weight there is almost nothing. I can’t hear anyone in the audience, I can think about the execution of the exercises, I can’t feel my hands or my feet. The only thing I can hear is the head judges three commands; start, press, rack. That’s it, everything else just fades away, it is the closest thing that I have experienced to being completely in the moment. Like meditation where you are only supposed to think about the air entering your nose and leaving your mouth, while I am taking an attempt there is only the exercise’s execution. My reptilian brain kicks in and I am in a brief moment of Zen. There is no future, no past, no mistake there is only the bar moving down followed by an attempt to move it back up. There is a simple beauty to this that is seldom replicated in my life.


From me, this potent distillation of mindfulness typically only happens during a competition. But, it is emulated during my training regiment. When I am taking heavier weight off the rack in my training the outside world tends to fade way. I can’t hear the music on the radio nor can I hear the internal dialogue that usually runs through my head. My training program is almost a walking meditation in mindfulness. When I am executing my lifts, I am as in the moment as I can be. In between lifts when I am at the gym, I am not usually concerned with the errands I need to run after I get out of the gym or other distractors. I am there to lift and to some degree participate in the fellowship that my gym mates offer, because non-powerlifters/competitors never fully understand. This scene of peace that I get a few minutes a day, four days a week, that is accompanied by several hours of near-piece (time under the bar vs time in between sets) is incredibly important to me. It makes me realize that mindfulness is an attainable goal, I just have to work at it and create a system/schedule that works for me. In fairness, I have experienced a sense of being in the moment with other sports be it: football, soccer, rugby, etc. I just have never felt the deep sensations from other sports that I get from getting under some iron. For me powerlifting is a gift that can help me become a better person, not just a stronger person. This routine that I follow and have been following for years has helped me balance myself out. I hope that somewhere in your life you can also find a moment this intense for yourself.

-We are primordial sound
Outward and in; omnidirectional
We are existence- The Contortionist


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