Why Sports Aren’t a Replacement for Mindfulness Practice

The weekend warriors and polar swimmers among us may know how to access flow, but it's not translating to other areas of their lives.

anyaberkut/Adobe Stuck

Jackson Hole is full of athletes—from weekend warriors to professionals and the extreme. It’s the kind of place where your second-grade teacher is an ultra-marathon runner and your doctor is currently training to ascend Everest.

As a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher, I walk around this relatively small town and run into people who know what I do for a living. Often the first thing I hear is, “Oh but, I don’t need training in mindfulness. Running/skiing/climbing/biking is my moving meditation.”

For the most part, I believe that answer.

The self-awareness and mental precision I learned from my years as a competitive skier and mountain biker were my doorway into contemplative practice. I can consistently count on finding flow and feeling at ease within myself when I take part in those sports.

I once spent all my weekends out in the mountains, completely ignoring the fact that my career was depleting me and the stress of it was negatively impacting my relationships and family life.

Rather than being a substitute for mindfulness practice, I look at sports as one medium for integrating mindfulness and encountering “the full catastrophe of life,” as Jon…