Dec 1, 2011

Other people's stories - Tales of: Living in the moment

<< crossposted on the '30HomeGames' blog

On my return to Germany, I had a thought-provoking stay CouchSurfing in Düsseldorf. My host, 'German P*' was an avid poker player and philosophy student with an impressive collection of books. Some I owned and some I'd been reading. Most interesting was the literature he had on zen, it informed his poker play and extended to his approach to life. As I've been on a mission to have a basketball experience around Europe, I was naturally drawn to his copy of 'Sacred Hoops'. A book by basketball legend and famed zen master Phil Jackson, best known for coaching two of the greatest competitors and champions in Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

When in motion I prefer not to use a map. I enjoy feeling my way through, come what may. On the occasion I've had a running mate I've found myself annoyed when they've depended heavily on GPS navigation and maps even though I know its entirely well meaning. You could say its a pet peeve. I've often wondered why it aggravated me so, this passage from Jackson's book shed some light:
I find it amusing when people ask me where I get my ideas for motivating players. The answer is: in the moment. My approach to problem-solving is the same as my approach to the game. When a problem arises, I try to read the situation as accurately as possible and respond simultaneously to whatever's happening
I realised I enjoy being in the moment to be tested by it. I learnt several things during my stay with P*. With his perspective as a poker player and student, we had many discussions on the subject of gambling, life and the way we think (human behaviour and personal beliefs). What I came to appreciate was the importance of "living in the moment", particularly poignant as the year closes and my journey wraps up. Not only to look back and reflect but to also feel "present" in spite of the complacency and distraction that can overwhelm during eventful times.

With that I present to you this edition of Other People's Stories - Tales of: living in the moment:

VIDEO: Marc Maron talks to Norm Macdonald about his gambling problem

This podcast conversation on gambling resonated with me when I heard it months ago. I shared it with P* as I felt it was relevant to our discussion
WTF with Marc Maron Podcast: Episode 219 - Norm Macdonald
NORM MACDONALD: The only time I went to a psychiatrist was for gambling, cuz how do I get the f*ck out of this. He said "the reason you gamble is to avoid life". My thing was "Isn't that why you do anything in life? To f*cking avoid it"
MARC MARON: (agreeing) It's just too painful
MACDONALD: just lose by uh, its just like any escape... When I watch a game and I've got a bunch of money on it then I can understand what's going on. There's nothing ambivalent about what's going...
MARON: (adding) and there's stakes
MACDONALD: and there's stakes. You know exactly the rules. You're completely involved. You're completely escaped from your life. The real, real fear...

sacred hoops, phil jackson
'Sacred Hoops' by Phil Jackson
I devoured this book as soon as I found it on P*'s bookshelf. He suggested 'A New Earth' (Eckhart Tolle, 2007) was more relevant to me, I felt that with my 30HomeGames mission choosing the basketball book was a no-brainer
Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior
This is a book about a vision and a dream. When I was named head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 1989, my dream was not just to win championships, but to do it in a way that wove together my two greatest passions: basketball and spiritual exploration.

On the surface this may sound like a crazy idea, but intuitively I sensed that there was a link between spirit and sport. Besides, winning at any cost didn't interest me. From my years as a member of the championship New York Knicks, I'd already learned that winning is ephemeral. Yes, victory is sweet, but it doesn't necessarily make life easier the next season or even that day. After the cheering crowds disperse and the last bottle of champagne is drained, you have to return to the battlefield and start all over again.

In basketball as in life true joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment, not just when things are going your way. Of course, it's no accident that things are more likely to go your way when you stop worrying about whether you're going to win or lose and focus your full attention on what's happening right this moment
Life like, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game – and life – will take care of itself.

This was a winning essay P* entered into a competition commissioned by a German poker forum, It deconstructed the psychology of "tilt". When players let their emotions cloud their poker judgment, it is called going "on tilt".
In order to recognize tilt we need to be present. This is a matter of exercise and great results can be achieved long-term. The most intensive kind of exercise is meditation, which is pure presence...

A less intensive way of exercising is implementing small routines in daily life... "If you sweep the yard, sweep the yard. If you cut a carrot, cut a carrot" is a Zen saying which refers to this. Usually when we cut a carrot we are somewhere in the past or future, only when we cut our finger are we present. If we are fully present from the beginning we won`t cut our finger - you could say the same for tilt. If we are fully present we dont tilt
- Other people's stories - Tales of: Adventure
- Other people's stories - Tales of: Love
- Other people's stories - Tales of: Living the Dream
- Other people's stories - Tales of: Living in the moment

Find previous Maron podcast references here
- Marc Maron with Adam Carolla - On being sedentary
- Marc Maron with Doug Stanhope - On happiness
- Marc Maron with Norm MacDonald - On being in the moment
- Pete Holmes with Marc Maron - A question answered with a quote: Comedy Podcasts

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