It was the usual routine this morning - wake up, do some work, do my exercises, do some studying which is not very interesting for you to read. However, one of my appointments was cancelled and that got me to thinking.
Imagine being cooped up for 11 months on a 70 foot long, 18 foot wide boat that's been stripped down to the bare essentials needed. You have a bunk to call your own, and there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 14 to 22 other people sharing this boat with you. You're sleep deprived, cold, wet, and working hard, with no way to get away from people who may have rubbed you the wrong way or that you may have rubbed the wrong way.
While there's no doubt to me that this race will be physically demanding (they speak of burning through 5,000 to 6,000 calories per day), I think that one of the hardest things will be the mental aspect, especially in the go-go-go, high-demand world of ocean racing. So how do you prepare and train yourself for this? Physically you can get into shape. You can run, lift weights, do functional exercises, etc, but how do you prepare your mind and emotions? How do you develop mental resilience?
In my case, I've started learning how to and develop the habit of, meditation. I don't expect a metaphysical experience... some sort of touching of the diviine. But I do want to learn how to regain a sense of calm... of developing a place where I can retreat to even in the midst of a bunch of fellow crazies in the middle of a storm and learn to let things flow off into the winds.
So what does this meditation consist of?
Basically, it's sitting quietly, regaining control of my breathing and then slowing it down. It's trying to focus on that simple act. Of course, being a human and especially being who I am, the mind will wander off and start thinking of other things. That's Ok. I just make note of it (which is, itself, a stray thought, but it's necessary) and then without getting down on myself, without thinking that I've messed up, go back to the purpose.
I'm trying to do this every day. I admit that I've not quite built up that habit fully yet. I guess I'm averaging every other day, and I'm not doing it for very long. I find it more difficult to do this by myself than with my teacher. However, with practice, it should become easier.