Just Show Up and Play.
By Grayson Hart –
I’m buzzing from the caffeine. Nervous, full of adrenaline and excitement. The crowd of 40,000 is pumping, yelling, singing.
I can smell beery breath coming from the famous south stand at Hong Kong Stadium, home to the biggest Sevens Rugby event in the world.
So many thoughts are flickering through my head during the warmup:
“Wow, this is absolutely amazing.”
“Man, it’s hot.”
“The opposition are freaks. How will I stop them?”
“I’m worn out already and it’s only the warm-up. I am not fit enough for this!”
“My fiancee and family is watching; I want to do well and make them proud.”
“Don’t stuff this up!”
“Shit, the ball is slippery. Don’t drop it!”
“I can’t believe I’m here!”
The knot in the pit of my stomach tightens as the referee blows his whistle.
Real as it all seems, I’m fortunate to know that what I am feeling is NOT coming from the things outside of me, from the fans, the stadium, the opposition.
It looks that way, but that’s the illusion we all live in every day of our lives.
The fact is all I am feeling is the creative energy of thought flowing through me.
The thinking I’m experiencing is absolutely 100% neutral.
Every result I’m concerned about. Every instance in the game where my thinking drifts into the future is not a reality.
And there is one thing my personal thinking cannot predict about the future—the invisible power we all possess only in the moment to just show up and play.
Truth is I cannot control what thoughts I have and when I have them.
Even if I tried to, it would take a shitload more effort than it is worth.
Trying to control thought means more thinking and a cluttered head.
In moments like that first game of the Hong Kong Sevens, the understanding that my feelings come from thought in the moment is the one thing that allows me to flow.
I know that beneath every up and down of thought and feeling, beyond the excitement and fear lies an underlying peace and ease.
Deep down I know that whatever happens, my life is great and things will keep unfolding exactly as they are meant to.
Show up and just play. That’s all you can ever do.
During the game, in some moments my mind is almost completely quiet, and some moments I have thoughts flickering away, but it is so powerful knowing they don’t matter.
Either way I know I have the capacity to show up and just go for it.
I am so thankful that I have seen past the common misconception that many people have: that we need to be in a particular state of mind to perform at our best.
Innocently believing that the feelings we are having come from the game we are about to play or some other life situation.
Then believing that we have to get our unruly mind under control in order to perform otherwise we will have a shocker.
This is simply not true. Understanding the nature of thought is enough.
State of mind is a variable.
Our capacity to perform is constant.
People (myself included in the past) often revert to mental techniques handed down by coaches and sports psychologists to try and quieten the mind.
My best performances tend to show up when my head is clear.
From experience I know that trying to ‘clear my mind’ takes a lot of energy and only tends to lead to more clutter.
Our freedom to perform at our absolute best both on and off the sports field is felt when we let the system (the principles behind our psychological functioning) work as it is designed to do.
By letting it be. By understanding that it’s not what we are thinking that we are feeling, but the energy of thought itself, we can show up in the moment and overcome whatever life throws at us.
This game is fun. It’s the same one I have been playing since I was a little kid in the backyard with my dad and brother.
The opposition aren’t scary. They are human beings like me.
The crowd can’t cause me anxiety; that’s impossible.
Some moments I feel absolutely comfortable; some moments I’m shitting myself.
Not because of the crowd or the results that are on the line but because that is simply the way thought works.
Everything is perfect. I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.
The game comes and goes; the scoreboard goes back and forth, as do my feelings.
We lose the game. I’m disappointed with the result, but I’m still buzzing with the experience and being In this moment.
It was tough out there, but I loved it.
The ball was slippery, the opposition were amazing athletes, my lungs were going to explode, and my legs felt as if they were in quicksand.
But, out there, in the moment, that was the only way it could be, and it was all great.
We head back to the changing rooms.
For a moment, I forget that my feelings only come from thought, not circumstance, and I hear the little voice in my head pipe up;
“Phew, that’s over; I can relax now.”
An insecure feeling comes and I feel the knot in the pit of my stomach tighten again.
It suddenly hits me that I am playing a Sevens tournament—six games over two days.
The next game is in three hours.We will be up against another bunch of athletic freaks of nature with the same huge crowd screaming, the loved ones supporting, the keyboard warriors criticizing.
This time my body is hurting; my legs are tired; the caffeine has worn off.
“How do I do that all over again?”
In the past I would’ve looked outside. For a massage, a can of energy drink, for a positive thought or words from a coach.
Then a comfort and ease flows through me.
It’s impossible to feel anything outside of me ever. I know that whatever task is at hand I can always show up and play, no matter what my state of mind may be in the moment.
I am only ever experiencing the universal energy of thought that flows through every single one of us.
The same ebb and flow of thought and feeling is what follows, some insecure thinking and some clear easy flow. Some feeling states I enjoy; others not so much, but I know it’s all good.
The same underlying love for life is the constant within me throughout every single moment.
The weekend comes to an end.
We won some; we lost some.
I made some blunders and had some nice touches. At times I felt broken and small. At others I felt on top of the world.
On occasion I felt isolated and lonely. In other moments I felt the brotherhood of my team.
Truth is, all I experienced was the spiritual energy of thought in the moment.
A connection to an invisible intelligence far greater than we can ever imagine.
The more I understand this, the more I see that beyond my own personal judgment everything is unfolding as it is meant to be.
And all of it is perfect.