Aug 16, 2010


Mindfulness is a concept in Buddhism and psychology that exhorts a person to be aware and accepting of the present moment. Aldous Huxley used the concept in his novel Island, where even the birds were trained to say say "Here and Now Here and Now" to remind the denizens of his utopian community to be fully "present."

I use a form of mindfulness when I teach--I ask the skaters to feel the blade slipping across the ice, to understand what their arms and feet are doing through conscious thought, and not to get into what I call "The Zone," a kind of skater's highway hypnosis where you zone out just moving around the ice. I want them to think about what they're doing. I laugh at myself about this--teaching 6-year-olds mindfulness.

My cognitively disabled student Miss E is brilliant at mindfulness. Yesterday I watched her seek out ice that was bumpy; she liked the feel of her skates skittering over the slippery bumpy ice. She's recently been fascinated with the feeling of cold on her hands-- all ways of getting her in the moment.

Parents need mindfulness even more. If you're sitting in the stands, don't focus on the skater. Focus on yourself--are you comfortable? bored? anxious? annoyed? Be aware of how the moment is making you feel. In mindfulness, the focus is first on you and your presence in the world, and then on the things around you. You'll find yourself less prone to gossip, less likely to get competitive on your childs' behalf, less annoyed at Perfect Mom with the recent manicure and the pink iPhone.

A skater uses mindfulness to focus in on technique rather than outcome-- to think of where the shoulders are, and how the blades leave the ice and how to create a torque rather than just trying to jump. When they're not aware I tell them they're in The Zone, not a good place to be on the ice, because The Zone is either the mindless repetition of non-directed movement (also known as skating around in circles) or the noisy brain phenomenon of worrying too much about the landing before you've even started the take off. You want to stay in the moment, make it long, and understand what you're doing every foot of the way.

So here's a challenge--watch out this week for moments when you get in The Zone and either forget what you're doing, or let your noisy brain lead you somewhere you don't want to go. Then try to stay mindful for the rest of the session, and let us know how it goes!


  1. Noisy brain is called monkey mind in Buddhism. I love the image of a little monkey running amok in my head causing havoc.

    Silver Blades

  2. Great post, Xan! The only thing I would do different is use another term than the Zone. As opposed to being “zoned out,” being “in the Zone” is usually thought of as an ideal state of mind for competition where skaters are enjoying the moment and letting their bodies do what they know instead of over thinking. My kids’ best competition experiences were when they felt they were “in the Zone.”

  3. Deb, I know, I thought about that, and tried to come up with something else, but it really describes what I'm talking about and the kids get it.