Zen Sports delivers a practical, easy path for athletes to manage the tremendous stress they’re under so they can perform at their absolute best: focused, energized and in control. Schmidt will share her expertise on mindfulness and meditation with both NCAA Division 1 teams competing in the Boca Bowl, so they can take the field with the most advantageous mindset.
I had a chance to interview her to learn more.
What was the inspiration behind creating Zen Sports?
I have a special place in my heart for sports; especially football and basketball, going back to when I was a little girl. I would watch the games on Sundays with my dad, who played college football for Purdue University. I grew up in the Chicago area, my family is from southern Indiana, so sports was a natural for me. I was the first born of 5 and I think my dad may have been wishing for a boy so I was his “partner” and sidekick in sports. I learned everything there is to know about football and basketball- maybe in my next life I will be a coach!! So it goes without saying much more that I am a huge football fan. I love all the particulars of the game! I have deep respect for athletes of all sports; I especially admire the passion and dedication they display on the field.
However, we are all familiar today with this truth, “how an athlete performs on the field doesn’t necessarily translate to how he or she behaves off the field.” Questionable, risky, and abusive behavior is certainly not limited to athletes, but our sports stars—many of whom achieve fame and fortune at an early age—are in the public eye.
With so much focus on being successful, really making it in this one area of their lives, I believe athletes have not received the tools and skills necessary to perform optimally in all areas of their lives.
Zen Sports endeavors to bring these tools for mindful, peaceful living to all athletes, coaches and trainers so that they can experience peak performance both on and off the field and enjoy all types of success.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is focusing one’s complete attention on the present moment. Athletes talk about “being in the zone,” which is a state of heightened, one-pointed awareness that allows for higher levels of performance. Being in the zone off the field allows us to respond to the best of our ability to others, our tasks, ourselves, and to life in general. That’s mindfulness.
How can athletes benefit from mindfulness and meditation?
In the same way an athlete practices, learns how to be “in the zone” for his or her sport, engaging in daily meditation is practice for life off the field. Meditation teaches patience, slows down the thoughts in the mind, and gets the athlete in touch with his or her inner coach, which is a never-ending source of compassion, empathy, support, courage, love, and peace. Practicing mindfulness helps the athlete maintain a deep connection to that knowing, where there is greater clarity about the next best move, both during play and in everyday life. Meditation is learning how to be in the moment- so this training helps athletes learn how to manage stress, navigate pressure and anger, and stay present to the moment at hand where making a choice exists. Meditation teaches athletes that we can create space, not react, but learn how to take an action that will be in the best interest of themselves and those around them.
Are these principles applicable to non-athletes also?
Absolutely. These principles are applicable to everyone and it is my life’s work to help all people have access to these daily tools for life.
Barb Schmidt is an international speaker, philanthropist, spiritual mentor, and best-selling author of The Practice. She has devoted more than 30 years to her studies with inspirational leaders such as Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh, Scott Peck, Buddhist nun Tenzin Palmo, Thomas Merton scholar James Finley, and Marianne Williamson.
In 2001, Barb brought a larger community into discussions on peace initiatives with her partnership with Florida Atlantic University’s Peace Studies program. In addition to speaking globally, she offers workshops and classes on spiritual practices and hosts events with many notable speakers including the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall, Caroline Myss, Dan Millman, Gabrielle Bernstein, Tara Stiles, and James Finley.
Believing that “outer peace begins with inner peace,” in 2011, Barb founded Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life, to further serve those who seek to live a meaningful, happy life, and to fulfill her passion to bring peace to the world. Through this nonprofit, she teaches The Practice—a three-part guide to practical spirituality in today’s modern, and often chaotic, world. She lives in Boca Raton, Florida, with her husband, Dick.