Have you ever heard the expression “Go to the balcony”? I first hear it in a negotiations course I was taking years ago. It was an expression they used to help you pull back from an intense negotiation, so you can take a different perspective, and see what was happening over all to shift your perspective and manage your emotions. This is especially useful in negotiations as you need to be able to see the other sides view to better position your own and keep your cool. That was probably 10 years ago, and the expression has stuck with me.
It came up again out of nowhere this week during a meditation session. I have recently committed to doing 20 minutes a day to really practice it, vs dabble in meditation. I didn’t want to be a “trunk player” (the athletes who only take their equipment out of the car for games and their weekly practice), when it came to meditation. I see my boys with a lacrosse stick in their hands everyday. I needed to do the same with meditating.
One of the foundational steps in meditation and mindfulness is to focus on your breath. Watch it. Get curious about the flow, what do you see, feel, notice. As I was doing this, I started to notice a tightening in my lower diaphragm. I was taking nice slow deep breaths and couldn’t figure out as I was watching it, why was I having this slightly awkward and uncomfortable feeling. I would watch it come in, see the gap between the stop and the start, and see it flow out, etc.
Then it hit me. “Go to the balcony”. What I discovered was, that what I thought was watching my breath, was really more about controlling my breath. I was doing what I thought I was SUPPOSED to do instead of letting it flow in a naturally. When I stopped controlling it and let it flow naturally, my breathing change to a completely different rhythm. A whole new beat to the dance and it felt a lot better.
Sometimes when we watch our kids in sports, we think we are watching their game but really we are trying to control it. You see it and hear it all the time. The play by play commentary by a dad, or a “why doesn’t that kid pass the ball more” by a mom. We feel the need to tell our players what to do from the stands – even if it is just in your head and not the out loud yell or grumble. Because they are not doing what they are SUPPOSED to be doing (according to us).
What is happening here is that we are actually on the dance floor and not “in the balcony” at all. We are trying to change the rhythm of the dance, the same way I was trying to change the rhythm of my breath and it didn’t feel natural or right or very comfortable for that matter.
As parents watching our kids play whatever sport, we need to practice “going to the balcony”. Learn to take in the whole game, get curious, see the rhythm of the game that is unfolding in front of us.
Meditation and mindfulness is becoming main stream for professional athletes, Olympians and aspiring athletes. My neighbour, playing in Jr. A hockey could tell me it is a part of their training camp, because the mental game is just as important as the physical game.
As parents we have the opportunity to embrace mediation and mindfulness practice for 1000 different reasons. One reason is to help you “go to the balcony” and watch the rhythm of the game. Let go of the control, and let it flow as naturally as your breath does. It is a lot more comfortable for you and the players!
Try this: The next time you find yourself giving instructions as a spectator, take 3 deep breaths, nice and slow and watch them flow in and out. Then go back to watching the game and notice what the players are doing right. It is a great way to help get you closer to the balcony.
Enjoy the Game!