Meditate and Destroy
“We talkin’ about practice. Not a game. Not the game I go out there and die for, and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talkin’ about practice, man.”
AI is and always will be my favorite athlete. No one else even comes close. Was it because of his tattoos? Cornrows? His rap album? The fact that he wore hip hop clothes to press conferences instead of a suit?
Yes, to all of the above. I mean, how silly is it to see a guy who earns a living by the sweat he leaves on the floor standing in front of reporters wearing a suit? Where are you going, is there a board meeting tonight at 11 pm? Shouldn’t you be wearing sweats, your knees wrapped in ice? Maybe it’s just me. I have a suit. I wore it to a wedding once. It’s in a garment bag under my bed, just in case I’m ever forced to wear it again. Who knows, maybe I’ll wake up next week and I’ll be a lawyer. Stranger things have happened.
But why I really loved AI was the way he played basketball. At six feet tall, this dude ran down the lane, hit impossible shots over guys a foot taller than him, and got knocked to the hardwood for his trouble. And he did that time after time. Game after game. Night after night. He got hurt and played hurt. I watched this dude get up from the floor and do it again so many times it was staggering. He did it with broken bones, bruises and sprains. In 2001 I think the guy was held together with band aids and duct tape. And he won a league scoring title. League MVP. He put the city of Philadelphia on his back and took us to the NBA Finals. He never did get a ring.
But a Philadelphia fan wants a hard worker. A blue collar, take no shit attitude. A guy who carries a lunch pail and goes to work. We respect that more than all the championship trophies you could give us. Which is lucky, because we don’t have many. AI embodied that hard nosed attitude. Even my dad, grandmother, hell, your grandmother loved to watch him play. He was that exciting. A real life, in the flesh Rocky Balboa was taking the court every night.
Heart. That’s what it’s about for me. There’s beauty there. And a lesson, I think.
Watching Allen play some nights I just knew he was gonna find a way to win. Nights when it seemed like no matter where he threw up a shot from it was gonna go in. Nights where he was in the zone. What they call “flow state” now. Where does that come from?
Well, for me? I have a meditation practice. (Weird segway I know, if you stick with me I just might tie this all back up).
Five years ago I was introduced to a Vedic Meditation teacher and it changed my life. Whoa dude, really? Cliché much? Sometimes even a term pummeled into the ground by internet bro science dudes is the only one that applies. My life is completely different since I started practicing, so yeah…
A simple technique, passed down thousands of years, I was lucky enough to learn from one of the few teachers in the United States at the time. Twice a day, for twenty minutes I sit with my eyes closed and meditate. I don’t have to cross my legs. No fancy finger positions. No app on my phone. No headphones. Simple, sustainable, and I can do it anywhere. Once I learned the technique, my favorite thing about it was how easy it is to do, and that I’m not dependent on any program or setting or special music. Just sit quiet and drop into another state of consciousness.
Ok cool. But why? What does that have to do with basketball?
Well, nothing at all. Or everything.
In the Vedic practice there is the idea of a collective consciousness, an underlying creative intelligence at the root of all evolution and change. The meditation practice allows us to turn our thoughts off and tap into that state. The mind is still, the slate is clean. From there, we open our eyes and we see clearly. Rather than being led around by our busy mind, and all of it’s incessant worry, we can feel our way to what suits us best. What right actions to take. The mind is naturally drawn to what it finds most charming. We can follow that charm and lean into it. We can live our most authentic life.
Like Iverson. Like the heavy metal god Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Like my wife Juliet. Some people shine so bright you just want to watch them do what they do. When they’re tapped in there’s nothing else like it.
I guess I’m saying follow that spark inside, throw some more wood on it and fan that shit. Watch it grow. I want to see it. And when you do that, just know even if you have a Shaquille O’neal sized obstacle standing in your way and you know he’s gonna smash you, just throw up the shot. Either way your gonna have to scrape yourself off the floor. It’d be a whole lot better story to tell if the shot goes in than if you just lay there with the ball still in your hands.
Til then I’ll be be talkin’ bout practice, man.
Jai Guru Deva