The Gentle Tackle

In the early part of this decade a rugby player called Johnny Wilkinson was the name on every sportsman’s lips. His famous boot took the English Rugby team to their only Wrold Cup in Australia.

johnny WilkinsonΒ When taking a kick at goal, he would stop with his hands in almost a prayer posture. He said he focussed his mind at the centre of the body, and then let the power surge from there out through his boot, and on to the spot between the goal posts where inevitably the ball would end up passing.

At the time – this sounded uncannily like some form of meditation. Especially the centre of the body which is where the mind gathers when is has no object.

He has always been a perfectionist, driving, and blaming, himself hard. Now 30 years old and more comfortable with himself it turns out that he was indeed using meditation to ground him before those fabulous goals…. Reports the Guardian:

Wilkinson’s impossible pursuit of sporting perfection has forced him to seek serenity in different fields – from Buddhism to quantum physics to studying French and music. “Definitely. I’ve been searching for tranquillity in a world created by obsessive thoughts. The panic and doom that comes from thinking ‘if I don’t get this last kick it means this or that – and if I don’t do that well enough today I’ll regret it the rest of my life.’ Those feelings went into creating a world induced by fear of failure. The whole search was to break away from that.”

Does Buddhism still help him achieve tranquillity? “Yeah, definitely. It’s a philosophy and way of life that resonates with me. I identify with it. I agree with so much of the sentiment behind it. I enjoy the liberating effect it’s had on me to get back into the game – in a way that’s so much more rewarding because you’re enjoying the moment of being on the field. In the past it was basically me getting into the changing room, wiping my brow, and thinking, ‘Thank God that’s over.’ I just managed to keep my head above water.”

Wilkinson will always require something beyond the banality of sport to maintain his equilibrium. But in the past he seemed less comfortable discussing Buddhism. “I was still worried about what people thought then. I’m aware there is this faddish feel of people diving into these things and trying to find immediate escape. But it has become part of my journey. That’s not to say you don’t need to look in the mirror.

5 replies on “The Gentle Tackle”

  1. Thanks for that article….

    As a fellow sportsman and long time admirer of Jonny it is inetresting to hear his views. It also helps as I sometimes question myself on the morals of using the things learned from Buddhism & meditation to enhance my professional goals.

  2. I don’t think meditation is an unfair advantage. Sports psychologists are in big demand right now – I think the UK rugby team made history with that…
    In fact, any sports teams who want some meditation training … I am open to offers πŸ™‚
    Only down side is they might not want to win any more.

  3. I have a sports psychologist I am working with right now…..

    I think I will stick with her for the golf and you for the Dhamma, maybe safer….. 55555 lol

  4. Where can one find out more about this gathering of the mind at the center of the body?


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