Archive for February, 2013

Life Lessons from the Super Bowl

February 10, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII is over and, hopefully, friends with loyalties on opposing sides have shook hands and made up. Now that the dust has settled and the commentary has been wrapped up, I’d like to offer an observation about the game—and it’s one you may not have heard.

The next time you are tempted to roll your eyes at the idea of stopping the whirling dervish antics, getting quiet, and taking a deep breath (an idea usually served up by shamans, yoga instructors, and mothers), consider Super Bowl XLVII. The game looked like a runaway, right through the first half.

Do you know what a group of ravens is called? A group of crows is a murder of crows, a group of owls is a parliament of owls, a group of larks is an exultation of larks . . . and while a group of ravens is sometimes called a constable of ravens (apparently dating back to their crowding around the Tower of London), these days, it is more often called an unkindness of ravens or a conspiracy of ravens. The 49ers might have given that some thought.

But whatever conspiracy was afoot and whatever unkindness had been served up during the first half, the Ravens’ momentum was brought to a halt when the power went out in the stadium. And they did have momentum before that. The players retreated to the sidelines. The smart ones stretched to keep loose. When the play resumed, the 49ers seemed to have absorbed the momentum sucked right out of the Ravens by the outage.

So what does this have to do with stopping the whirling dervish antics, getting quiet, and taking a deep breath? Everything. Moving at twice the speed of life has become the norm instead of the exception in Western society. Accompanying that warp speed lifestyle is a level of distractibility that has made sound bite, techo idiots of so many that, put on an island with their ilk, they might die before it occurs to them to rally together to build shelter, find potable water, and hustle up something to eat. Why? Because they’d all be trying to text their buddies back home or tweet the experience.

It’s hard to persuade folks to stop long enough to become aware of the world around them. Pausing is a major life skill, and a critical one if you’re in a fix. Momentum will keep you going, often down a road that has a Mack truck coming straight at you from the opposite direction. But if you pause, take a deep breath, and become aware of the natural world around you, something quite magical just might happen. You might be able to gather in a bit of energy and move it for your own behalf.

Shamans do this all the time—consciously. Of course, shamans have also usually done the hard work of clearing and healing their internal landscapes, which makes for a place to actually hold that energy. And, of course, when the shaman talks about power, she’s talking about energy. When the shaman needs to accomplish something, she pauses, gets still, becomes centered and grounded (more or less instantaneously), consciously harnesses a bit of energy, and changes the energetic dynamics around her.

I’m not an expert on Shambhala Warrior Training (for that, I suggest you search out Cynthia Kneen’s very fine audio series by the same name), but what I am describing is, I believe, sometimes described as “riding windhorse” in that system of spiritual warriorship. We all have the capacity to experience the world around us directly. That includes taking it in, responding to it, and initiating action. This capacity is what is known as basic goodness. Windhorse is the energetic nature of that capacity and riding windhorse is to consciously tap into this energy. Which, as I said, is exactly what a shaman does.

It is difficult to sense the energetic quality inherent in all things when you are unconsciously moving for the sake of moving and when you allow yourself to be jerked from one thing to another, changing directions endlessly, drawn by the next shiny thing . . . and the next . . . and the next. It takes a moment of pause. It takes the kind of conscious interaction with your environment you get from placing your attention on your breathing (if only for a moment).

The 49ers got that chance when the power went out. Have they been in Shambhala Warrior Training? Stranger things have happened, but I rather doubt it. Still, very good athletes have always understood, at a visceral level, that they can place themselves in a heightened state of consciousness and tap into the energy of . . . something. So whether they understand what shamans do or what Shambhala warriors do, they have been known to step into that same stream of energy. And when they do, magic happens.

Unfortunately for the 49ers (and fortunately for the Ravens), they didn’t ride windhorse to victory. But the next time you’re in a fix, exhausted from the lack of results associated with whatever you’ve been doing, try pausing for a moment. Take a deep breath or two. Become aware of the natural world around you. Maybe even do a few stretches (like the players did). And then gather in a bit of energy and make a tiny shift. You might find yourself shifting the energy of whatever has gotten you into the fix. You might make a little magic for yourself.

Copyright 2013 by Melanie Mulhall