The recent story of the Thai boys soccer team and their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, has been an incredible show of human spirit and community. One specific part of this story that caught my attention was the acts of the coach, who is a former monk, and his ability to use mindfulness techniques to persevere through those challenging times.
The concept of meditation can be confusing or even threatening for some people. When some people hear the word meditation, they associate it with Buddhism or other eastern religious groups. Although meditation is a part of many religious traditions, the practice of meditation is not only for religious purposes. Research has shown that meditation has physical, emotional and psychological benefits. One of the physiological benefits was demonstrated and served to possibly save the lives of 13 people in a cave.
It was reported that the coach who was with the soccer team taught the boys to meditate in the cave. Ekapol worked as a monk before leaving to join the Thai Youth soccer team as an assistant coach. The meditation served to keep the boys calm and slow down their heart rate and respiration. Since there was limited oxygen, food and water, conserving energy was a crucial survival tool.
In the S.A.F.E. (Somatic and Attachment Focused EMDR) model, we use present moment mindfulness as a resource, reminding us that the past is over and we are here in the present moment.
This use of mindfulness may not be as dramatic as saving the lives of 12 young boys in a cave, but it may serve to change lives and may ultimately save lives of desperate, hurting people.
Why is the present moment so powerful? What is it about awareness of the present moment that helps? Let’s imagine being in the cave with the 13 soccer players. It is dark, you are trapped and you don’t know if anyone knows where you are. In this moment, you are safe and alive. Out of this moment is where panic can set in. All of the worst case scenarios can run through your mind. Instead of noticing being alive in this moment, you are imagining the worst case in the future. Or maybe you are beating yourself up for going into the cave, living in the past. Either way, your mind is creating stress for your body, increasing stress hormones, heart rate and respiration. All of that will decrease the amount of oxygen in the air as well as in your brain.
In this present moment is this breath, then the next one. As the mind calms, so does the respiration and the heart rate. As you focus on your breath and calm your thoughts your need for oxygen decreases and you heart rate slows down. If you can’t imagine being in the cave maybe you can imagine being in traffic or another everyday stressful situation, remaining calm as another driver cuts you off or flips you off.
This is a powerful and extreme example of the practical and sometimes even life saving applications that mindfulness and being in the present moment can provide. Meditation is one tool to increase mindfulness.
There is power in being present and this moment is here for all of us.
Deb Kennard is the founder of Personal Transformation Institute, www.personaltransformationinstitute.com, where the mission is freedom and personal transformation for all!