You’re a breath away from a cliff. Within the space between skin and bone, you can feel your nerves pulse with an anxious tide. To let go of what you think may happen would be to fly, whereas to never give the utmost effort would be to refuse to glance over the edge. As you step towards the expanse before you, as you cross the limit where you’d previously scrubbed the mission—a tremendous thing happens. It’s pure and reminds you of how you felt as a child at night when you heard an empty house move. The ingredients are all reasons to cut bait and bounce. To find the adult equivalent of camouflaging your terror with a quilt. But success is only found across the threshold. Fear in these moments should an accelerant, as victory is like watching a burning house from across a river.
The barbell gets heavier the more you shake your head No at it. The universe abides, man. Every breath has data behind it. A defeated exhale sounds different than a productive, sharp nasal intake within the third lap of Helen. One is a chest full of distress, while the other is an athlete at the practice of mindful intentionality. Meditation at a high heart rate. Descartes famously said, “I think therefore I am.” That’s baloney. How you think is how you are. And how you think structures what takes place in the physical world around you.
Everything you put into the universe you get back from it. Evil, tenfold. There is no cliff, only the border of a horse stall mat inches below the chalk and blood topsoil of a well-burdened utility of self-discovery. Maybe you’re one to chase the barbell once it ricochets off your pubic bone, instead of a masterful redirect you hunt it, trying to find it a home as a trophy. With enough weight, at the high end of anyone’s percentages, that dog won’t hunt. And failure arrives like a world champion, like a household name.
Just yesterday, I missed my Helen PR by 74 seconds and I didn’t go home and kick the dog. That’s not a typo. Seventy-four seconds slower. In the boxscore that falls under the losses column. As it’s written is not how it must be read, though. A loss is a mechanism of growth, a heavy foot to the gas pedal, a catalyst. If you do not quit, you cannot lose.
When an athlete approaches a lift, or when a person encounters an obstacle or an opportunity their inner monologue is alight with either constructive self-talk or wasteful, purposeless bullshit. In my experience, as you ascend towards the higher percentages of your capability you encounter more of the latter narrative than the former. This is where the frustration begins to supersede clear rationality, and where the application of mindfulness can save lifts, or allow you to fluidly skirt or at least manage interferences, hinderances or hardships.
Mindfulness — simply put — is the practice of paying attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally. Our contemporary CrossFit civilization is one of the smartphone app, analytics at our fingertips, programming for profit, and the pseudo-famous Instagram hordes stanning high-level contenders in pursuit of the next viral moment. We’re all seemingly chasing the proverbial rabbit for nothing. It’s all false stimuli, bad weather if you will. Mindfulness is the capacity to live above the clouds. And it’s available to all of us free of charge.
Want to know how? Whatever you’re doing, do just that. Turn off expectations as you approach your lift and APPROACH YOUR LIFT. If you miss, you’ve missed. The rep is as salvageable as cities covered in ocean. If you begin to daydream of other things, as soon as you’re aware you’ve drifted, go back to the lift to come. If you start to wonder what some other athlete is attempting, as soon as you’re aware you’ve drifted from your efforts, focus on your process and once you’re rested and ready, approach your lift. Whatever you’re doing, do just that.
To quote the Buddha, “Inner calm cannot be maintained unless physical strength is constantly and intelligently replenished.”
Well consider this: it works both ways.