Mindfulness and Movement
Mindfulness. Not really a concept I was very familiar with. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure what it actually meant. It’s something you hear everywhere and everyone talks about it. But I didn’t think it was anything that I necessarily needed in my life, until a few weeks ago when I tore my ACL… again. And this time, just like the first, I don’t have an exciting story to tell. No big jumps or scary movements. No balancing on a high bar or vaulting over an obstacle. My first ACL tear happened when I helped my friend’s daughter up on her skis after her last fall during a very long day of skiing. I was tired and not really present when I accidentally put her skis across mine and we got stuck. After a graceful looking pirouette, I heard an awful plopping sound which I learnt afterwards is a good indicator that something inside your knee is not very happy. Five years later, I had the unfortunate opportunity to hear that sound again.
I didn’t want to go to Friday Jumps. I was in a completely different part of town, it was games night, and I knew I’d have to rush back from Sam Smith Park to be on time for it. For whatever reason though, without actually making a decision, my car was moving toward Sam Smith Park. After an hour of slowly creeping through rush-hour traffic I eventually got to the park. The fact that I couldn’t find the group worsened my already bad mood by several degrees to “almost exploding”. I think I might have even left a slightly angry message on the FB group “Can’t find anyone. Where are you???”. By the time I finally joined the others, it was almost time to leave again for games night with my friends (in the part of town I had just come from). My mood had hit rock bottom but I thought it might improve if I just climbed up that thing that looked a bit scary and therefore very tempting. I needed to do something slightly intimidating to take my mind off my bad mood. Curt wanted to show me a way to get up there but he just very quickly went to do something else. So I was waiting, and to distract myself from myself and my bad mood, I got onto the handrail at the stairs. Not to do anything in particular or anything at all. I didn’t want to balance. I had no idea what I actually wanted to do. I played around with my foot on the railing, mindlessly. I guess you can see where that is heading … And then my foot got stuck. I was taken by surprise. I guess that’s what happens when you are mindless. I didn’t know what my body was doing and I didn’t have time to react. So I fell probably no more than 3 feet. But my foot didn’t get unstuck quickly enough. So I heard that noise again.
Why am I telling you this? Because in my personal experience – literally ALL my accidents and injuries (and I’ve had quite a few …) happened when I was mindlessly doing something. I tripped over a curb during my first race in Paris, because there were too many people around me and I tried to get out of their way without paying attention to where I was actually going. I ended up in the hospital tent with a big hole in my shin. Another time, I was sitting on my bike waiting for someone, I was bored and all of a sudden fell over and cut my chin (it looked really dramatic). Over and over again these things happened because my brain was somewhere else.
When I moved to Seattle, I had no idea what mindfulness even meant. I decided that this whole “mindfulness thing” was not something Germans do and was perfectly happy to ignore it until it finally clicked a few days after my last accident. What all my accidents had in common was me being in a state of mindlessness. My body is somewhere where my brain isn’t. My brain is wandering around looking for something interesting and exciting, leaving my body behind and it’s now left without a brain. And it looks like my body isn’t super thrilled about being alone without the support of my brain. Especially when my brain moments earlier decided that it wants my body to move or do something active. So, here is my non-expert advice: keep your brain where your body is when you are being active. Even though this doesn’t sound like rocket science and maybe it’s even somewhat obvious, I find it super hard. My brain seems to have it’s own mind and keeps wandering off doing whatever it feels like and I constantly have to reign it back in. Not sure if that is what’s called “mindfulness training” but I decided that it might not be a bad idea to integrate “keeping my brain where my body is” training as part of my workout. Not being able to move the way I want to for many months is not much fun. So it’s worth the extra effort to hopefully avoid exposing my body to another accident because my brain is elsewhere.