Remember when Cam Zink did a 360 off that huge drop in Red Bull Rampage? Or when Kelly McGarry back-flipped the 76 foot canyon gap? They both stomped their tricks and put down impressive runs, but that doesn’t change the fact that people still think that guys like Zink and McGarry are completely insane for doing what they do. If you were to ask these guys how they feel when they are sending their bikes off huge jumps, they would say that they are super focused, and completely in control of what is going on (well, maybe not always in control, but you get the point).
Let’s say your girlfriend drags you to a meditation class. You don’t have a choice about it (as usual). If you actually tried to meditate, you might find yourself extremely focused, and as if you are in control of everything happening at that point in time. Okay, maybe those feelings wouldn’t come around the first time you meditate, but if you were a Buddhist monk, you would feel these things. Throughout many different studies about meditation, and even from actual Buddhist monks themselves, meditation can be thought of as just existing in the moment. Does this sound familiar to the story of Zink and McGarry?
When it comes to athletes participating in a sport, like Zink competing in Rampage, these feelings of being super focused and in control are known as flow states. We’ve all been in some sort of flow state at one point, whether it be while we’re biking, skiing, or playing beer pong. In a flow state, you don’t think of anything except what is happening right now. Being in that flow state is how you were able to gracefully float over that ten foot tall chain link fence last weekend while running away from the police after that rager got busted. It wasn’t a superpower, or the booze, it was just that you were focused and knew what you needed to do to get yourself over the fence.
Now, those monks have spent years of practice to be able to meditate the way that they can, just like Zink practiced for years and years to be able to ride a bike the way that he can. Being good at both meditating and getting yourself into a flow state aren’t simple things to do. They take practice. So here’s another thing to think about: could you give Zink a lesson on how to ride a bike? I’m going to go ahead and say no. Could you teach a monk a thing or two about how to meditate? No way. These guys have figured out how to teach themselves to get better at what they do all by themselves, because there isn’t anyone better than them. Maybe when they were still amateurs you could have given them some pointers, but that’s no longer the case. These folks at the elite level have figured out how to teach themselves the skills they need to get even better at what they do. And, with some practice, you could too. I’m not saying to give up all your possessions right now and become a monk in order to be able to throw yourself off a 30 foot cliff on your bike and roll away safe and sound. Let’s be reasonable. You would crash.
What I will say is that you can get better at biking, or whatever sport you may participate in, just by practicing and thinking about concentrating on the current moment. Ignore everything around you, just feel the rhythm of the trail under you, and let it absorb into you. You’ll be flowing in no time. I personally find this easier when I’m riding alone, because if I’m with my buddies out on a ride, a chunk of my attention is on what they are doing and not what I’m doing. But in this aspect, meditation can definitely occur while you are participating in an extreme sport. You don’t need to be sitting in the middle of a Zen garden with birds chirping around a Bonsai tree, and a weird tiny water fountain splashing nearby. You could be absolutely hauling down a steep mountainside on your bike with Rage Against The Machine blasting in your headphones, and still be meditating.