Bianca Thomas is on a global journey competing and training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Bikini Fitness Bodybuilding. With a a strong academic background in Molecular Biology (MSc) and Strength and conditioning (MSc), Bianca also has plans of starting a PhD.
Bianca is a big believer that sport should be used to improve lives and wants to share the knowledge she has learnt along the way to mentor and support others.
After a recent blog we published by regular blogger Coach W called Meditation could transform your coaching… Bianca wrote more about the topic and how regular meditation has benefitted her life.
To read more blog from Bianca, visit her website click HERE
My Thoughts on Meditation
A lot of what I write through my blog has come about from daily meditation and mindfulness practice; it allows me to concentrate, extract information and piece together all the things I’m experiencing on this trip. It has become my favourite tool for learning and whilst I am in no way any kind of leading authority on
this, I can write about my experience.
Over the course of 20 years, I have developed my own rather strange practice of cultivating a ‘still mind’ and this has come about from cherry picking things I have found to work; from staying in Ashrams to participating in adrenaline sports. The ‘Mind’ is like ‘physical limits’, it changes all the time. Just as I train much more intuitively now, I also do the same with my meditation practice. Sometimes I go for a walk and other times I sit and chant for 30 minutes; the goal is the same but the wrong meditation strategy at the wrong time is like a one-way economy ticket to a mental health institution (and not as a visitor). It is this I wish I had learnt a long time ago.
I can remember 20 years ago, going to an Ashram retreat in the United States, waking up at 5am (without coffee) sitting in meditation for an 1hr and thinking I was going to go insane. It was a bad and uncomfortable experience and I suspect I’m not alone. Training our minds as beginners needs to be done with kindness and patience. This is where I get very weary of the offerings of lazy advice such as ‘meditation is good’, because this is a half truth. It has the potential to be an extremely transformative process if done with care, but on the negative side can also be dangerous and put people off for a lifetime.
“Find an activity you love and do it often”
These days I select how I’m going to meditate solely based on what I think will feel good in that moment in time – the path of least resistance. I can’t instruct on how to mediate but becoming aware of options really helped me find my own way. Whilst focusing on breathing and other methods typically found in yoga practices are out there, there are other things too. There are many levels of meditation and I have found mindfulness (essentially just being mentally present) is the least tricky and brilliant for honing concentration. One of my best discoveries was actually just to find an activity you love and do it often. This is one of the easiest ways I have found to help facilitate a ‘present’ mind, because usually a person can immerse and completely focus with ease, which in turn stills the mind no end. I’m not a big fan of efforting through meditation because I think it creates a lot of resistance. In truth, any activity will do as long as there is enjoyment – hiking, swimming, painting, knitting, colouring in books – the list is endless.
“Decision making – use everything you have”
There is no doubt I am grateful for all the scientific degrees I have acquired. These include an undergraduate degree in Medical Microbiology and both a MSc in Molecular Biology and Strength and Conditioning. I have enjoyed learning and accumulating knowledge and these degrees have taught me a lot about critical thinking and the scientific method, but science is only one part of many tools we have to make decisions. Meditation has offered me access to different tools and that is getting in touch with the more ethereal aspects of life. It has helped me fine tune the ‘gut instinct’ – that illogical feeling of ‘knowing’ something without evidence. It also helps strengthen my belief in a higher power. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant because it forms part of my personal belief system – my own placebo effect. This has served me well because it gives me hope and security that the dots will connect, and everything in the end will be ok. I guess I can call this ‘faith’ and I need this at the moment to be able to create a learning environment where I can always put curiosity before fear.
Knowing what information (if any) to use to make decisions or to give advice is necessary. I have often made decisions in my own life based on gut instinct and it has worked out well, which encouraged me to start doing this when I was coaching others in Sport and it also worked well. It did however get me thinking about how we use the word ‘mistake’. A mistake would probably be giving advice that was going to kill or maim your athlete, but actually this is pretty hard to do. The rest of advice lies within a very shady spectrum of helping or hindering performance. The problem of dealing with human beings is we can’t know how people will fare with training until we try. If it doesn’t produce progress, this is simply just information upon which to work. I can’t help feeling the pressure on coaches and athletes to perform, removes the freedom to play and experiment and it was for this reason I stopped conventional coaching as a paid job. I wanted to play and create training with a whole range of tools I have learnt including mindfulness and meditation. These mental skills have allowed me to partake in really challenging situations, which therefore means I can put myself in a position to learn new things even if that is simply a new way of looking at something. For me, it really facilitates original thought (not always good!) and allows me to create solutions in training which in my experience rarely comes from intellectualizing or overthinking things but rather from allowing the flow of information.
This trip and this blog is about wanting to explore the idea of using sport as a tool to achieve not only conventional success, but also to become a better and happier person in the process. I like to think I am succeeding. Not every day is easy but I have come to understand that happiness is a skill, which can be cultivated. With care and attention I am learning how to do this; it has not been a walk in the park and neither has this process been fast, but it is getting faster. I can say lately I am happy every day and I know how to take responsibility for my happiness. Not every day is cheery and full of laughter, far from it but I also know peace and contentment is never far behind because I have learnt how to excavate and rescue it from the depths of despair.
Mastering emotion is an absolute necessity for human happiness. This doesn’t however mean repressing emotion; on the contrary it is simply understanding and accepting the full spectrum of human emotion and knowing how to use it.
We exist in a culture where life is handed to us in quotations about mental strength and conquering fear. This doesn’t help anybody or anything because it is far too simple. All emotion (both the positive and it’s negative partner) is good; strength, weakness, fear, fearlessness etc. Negative emotion is only there to get us back on track; we don’t have to be scared of it or deny it and this is what we can learn through healthy mental practices.