Photo courtesy iStock
Big sports tournaments can remind us of our shared humanity. We are all connected to one another, whether we have met before or whether we are on opposite sides of the planet. Expand your connection to the globe through this 13-minute perspective-building practice that focuses on the breath.
Sports and Interconnection
Hey, this is Jay, nice to have you back. So, as I’m recording this, soccer, basketball, hockey, baseball, and a bunch of other professional sports leagues are hosting major tournaments and competitions - and it’s all thanks to new pandemic safety protocols.
Now, to be honest, I’m not a big sports fan. But I do appreciate the perseverance of elite athletes, and I appreciate the raw beauty of peak human performance. But maybe most of all, I appreciate the way sports bring us together. So I am hoping they can continue safely, because to me, sports are a symbol of peace.
It doesn’t always feel like it. But friendly competition - across towns, across groups, across borders… even across oceans and cultures - it all depends on a collective understanding of our shared humanity. So I thought that’s we might reflect on today. Ready?
Find a stable, grounded position. Notice your body’s connection with the ground or the floor. Find an upright posture, and take a deep breath. And on the exhale, release your legs, and your belly - release your shoulders and your jaw.
Now see if you can visualize a photographic image of the Earth from space. Notice how, from this perspective, there are no borders. Just land and water holding 8 billion people, going about their day or sleeping, trying to find a little peace and happiness, just like you. Hold that big picture in your mind’s eye and let it motivate and inspire you to commit fully to this practice.
See if you can carry this sense of shared humanity forward as you gently place your attention on your breath, wherever you feel it most clearly. Maybe your abdomen, your chest or your nose. Just notice the air naturally flowing in and out of your body. Notice how this breathing process has sustained your entire life and here it is now, still gently pulsing within you.
With each breath, you’re breathing in 25 sextillion molecules of air. That’s two and a half thousand million million million molecules of air. In other words, a lot. So these subtle sensations of breathing that you’re feeling right now are connected to an incredibly rich process that reaches further and deeper than we can even imagine. Let that sense of awe motivate and inspire you to stay with your breath.
As you stay aware of your breath, notice how it connects you to the people in your life. All the people you know are also breathing. Your breath also connects you to everything that came before you. This air may even include molecules that your ancestors breathed. Notice what it feels like to breathe a light sense of awe and gratitude for how this breath connects you to your family and your ancestors.
Now extend this feeling of connection even further. For example, you’re most likely breathing air molecules that were once inhaled and exhaled by people all around the world. Across borders, across oceans. People who speak different languages. People from different cultures. People from every corner of the planet, and from all walks of life. In a way, they’re all here breathing with you. Stay with it. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
Despite how incredible your breath really is, it’s perfectly natural to lose track. Thoughts, sounds, other body sensations, they all show up and pull us away. Our attention is a fluid thing, constantly shifting and changing. That’s perfectly natural. Whenever you notice you’ve been pulled away, there’s no need to be hard on yourself. Just notice and come back to this breath.
Some of the air molecules you're breathing right now were probably exhaled by people from every single age of history, too. We don’t even know most of their names, but many of them breathed some of the same molecules that you’re breathing now. Let this human interconnection over time inspire you to experience this next breath fully and completely.
Sometimes meditation can feel tense, like we’re fighting with distractions. That’s where a little reflection and awe at the big picture can help you stay the course. If it helps, you can also try counting your breath from 1 to 10, or even label “in” for the inhale and “out” for the exhale. If you’re a visual person, you can find a visual cue to help, like the image of earth from before - or picturing someone who inspires you, breathing along with you.
For these last few moments, see if you can go big. Cultivate a vast sense of open space and possibility with your breath. With each inhale, absorb the energy of the world around you into your body. And with each exhale, breathe out your deepest intentions for the world. Your highest aspirations for the human race. And feel free to bring in the plants and animals, too, if you want.
Okay, let go of all that now. And let’s take a moment to release the practice. Give yourself some space for the next few moments to do nothing at all.
When I see the latest sports news, I often don’t really care about the score. But I do let it remind me just how far we’ve come to understand each other. Professional sports are simply not possible across conflicted borders. Sports are a sign of peace. So whether you’re a sports fan or not, see if you can let the next sports news you hear, remind you of what’s possible when human beings cooperate and collaborate.
Thanks for your attention, take care.
Awareness. Connection. Insight. Purpose. We consider these to be four ingredients of a healthy mind. You can train yourself to improve these skills, just like you can develop any habit. This audio practice is provided by Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI), an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds. Want more practices? Try the Healthy Minds Program App.