By Lucille Keen and Vanessa Desloire, BOSS AFR
I think there is a trust component to meditation: you just have to trust that it works. It’s not like if you run, then you can time yourself, 10 seconds better around the Tan [Track in Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens] today, or you go on a diet and lose weight. So there really is a trust component. Like anything in life if you value it, think it’s worthwhile and continue to do it then it just becomes a part of what you do.
There are those who will believe it and there are those who need evidence. You need to explain it to two groups of people: those who’ve heard of someone who’s meditated who seems pretty calm, but they don’t know much about it and they are happy to do it; and there are others who say, “Hang on, what do you mean sit there and think about nothing?”
But there is so much factual evidence now that meditation actually helps: it cures diseases.
People say, “Paul Roos is very calm” and I obviously meditate; it’s sort of the chicken or the egg thing. The calmness comes from meditating and I’m also a naturally calm person; I understand in a high pressure environment where results are posted at the end of every game. I tend to cope reasonably well with it naturally because of my personality, but also [because I practise] meditation and mindfulness.
For us at the Sydney Swans, and now at the Melbourne Demons, meditation is never compulsory. We see it as just another tool for our players, we just provide it as a service to our players like we do with a dietician and with a weights guy. There’s probably 10 players that regularly meditate; not everyone is doing it and I eventually think it will be part of the program, but we’re a fair way off that.
It’s early days at Melbourne [Football Club]; they’re still learning how to do it. In Sydney, the guys would come up to Tami and say, “I haven’t meditated for two weeks, I’m not feeling as clear.” Player welfare and balance is paramount and there is no doubt [meditation] leads to better performance.
We used to have a saying in Sydney that we not only wanted to make them better players, we wanted to make them better people. That’s what I see as mindfulness, and meditation is the practice that comes under that.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the next stage in football, and for companies, is that meditation becomes a habit. A lot of people know sport is 90 per cent what happens above the shoulders.
There are so many similarities between business and sport: everyone’s looking for balance, for clarity and focus. We’ve never been busier as a society, so it’s not unique to footy clubs. There’s no doubt it will grow. Businesses are worried about their staff: they’re working long hours, having a lot of sick days; we don’t seem to have a lot of balance.
We all meditate whether we understand or not. You might go into a room and sit before a big meeting; you don’t know that you’re meditating. For me, after a loss you’ve got to go and talk to the players so you need to take that opportunity to ground yourself and focus. There’s a lot of everyday practice in the collecting of your thoughts.
Football has been pretty traditional but it’s not just football clubs you’re seeing meditation introduced into, but corporations and schools are introducing it and you’re seeing different apps coming out, because the reality is everyone in general is recognising this is something we need.
You talk so much about diet and exercise and getting enough sleep, but the mental side has really been forgotten. People realise they’re going to give themselves this time out and hit the pause button. Meditation allows you to hit the pause button and refocus.
Paul and I learned meditation together. In October 1999, we did a chakra sounds meditation weekend workshop and it changed both of us. We found balance, a lot more energy and things just worked out a lot better. I found it so beneficial I went on to do my PhD dissertation on meditation. I really did a big swing in momentum because of the benefits I was experiencing and I became incredibly passionate about teaching that to others. Meditation is not about a religion, more spirituality. I try to really emphasise this is a tool to help you create resilience, a tool to find balance and clarity in your thinking, clarity in your life. We both embraced it and embarked on daily practice and made it a routine.
I tend to meditate every morning, but it’s not something I try to limit to a certain slot.
The best way to meditate is sitting up. If you lie down you tend to fall asleep, and your posture is incredibly important with meditation, having a straight back and having your palms upward. It’s an open pose so your muscles aren’t engaged because the idea of meditation is to relax, so as you relax the body, you relax the mind. That’s how it works, so the more relaxed your body is, the easier it is to quiet the mind.
There are a lot of stereotypes about it. Once you get past that initial hurdle, which is “I’m open to this, I’m open to exploring it,” then the benefits definitely far outweigh the negative if I engage in this practice.
Football teams and the players become a bit of an extension of your family: you see them every weekend and you’re going through highs and lows. So for me you actually want to help them for themselves personally as well as on the field.
Regardless of whether Paul was coaching or not, because meditation is such a non-negotiable for the two of us, it’s not something that you’re going to quit. Paul’s not mediating because he’s a coach, Paul is meditating because of the benefits he feels all of the time.
The change that Paul and I are seeing, not just in businesses but in schools, with anyone you speak to: people are looking for a way to learn how to quieten down; they feel rushed and frantic and feel their life is a bit chaotic. They are looking for a way to relax and this is, as science has proven, the most effective way and the research shows that it works and that it’s natural.
Paul Roos is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.