How Boxing and Meditation Feed Each Other
by Sophie Browner
“In truth, there is enormous space in which to live our everyday lives.” –Pema Chodron
I never anticipated that the beginning of my journey as an athlete would also mark the beginning of my own spiritual practice. Four years ago, I began to learn the basic skills of boxing and with a new physical regime also came a desire and necessity to meditate. Professionally, I work as a birth doula. I support women through the process of childbirth, bringing my knowledge and energy to them during an intense and transformative life experience. The most important lesson I have learned throughout this work is that if the mind is not at ease, then the body will not be able to do its work. No matter how physically fit or capable a body is, if there is fear or anxiety, it will prevent the birthing body from releasing. This is a lesson I carry with me always and try to apply to myself during boxing and meditation. The mind follows the body.
As a western culture, we are particularly apprehensive to the idea that thoughts and emotions can affect one’s physical health. But we have seen the devastating affects of divorcing the emotional from the physical; when we separate the inner from the outer, we are forced to treat symptoms instead of looking at the root of the problem. If we are going to shift the medical paradigm away from unnecessary medical interventions and overprescribing, our culture must learn to treat the human body as a holistic whole. When we begin to understand that everything is connected, that the mind influences the body and vice versa, we connect with ourselves on an ecological, spiritual level.
Dedicating time to listen to my body has been one of the greatest challenges that I have faced but I continue to renew my commitment because I have seen the way that it has transformed my relationship to myself. The more consistently I train, the better my relationship with meditation becomes. Boxing not only frees up mental space that may otherwise be filled with anxious clutter, it also provides the blueprint for meditation itself. To box is to draw on all of one’s inner sources to a single focal point. It means bringing breath, body, mind, and attention to a fixed point of clarity. On certain days it easy to summon and hone the inner gaze; on others, the external noise is simply too loud to concentrate.
When I first began my meditation practice, I didn’t understand how it was possible to empty the mind completely. As I have worked to build stamina, I have learned that meditating is not about emptying the mind, it’s about retraining and tonifying the mind. When you box, you enter a mental state that is both concentrated and clear; your only job is to anticipate your opponent’s next move and act accordingly. We witness others, we witness the world on a daily basis. But how often do we truly witness ourselves? To be present in the way that boxing requires is exactly how it feels to successfully meditate…You are not empty, you are simply fixed, poised, ready, and waiting. Without boxing, I am not entirely sure I would have found the patience or ability to meditate. These two practices nurture and strengthen each other; they have taught me grace, resilience, resolve, and endurance. They have also made me a better doula, a job that requires strong emotional instincts. Boxing and meditation have given me the gift of being able to move through the world with more mindfulness and that is all I can ask for.
About the Author
Sophie Browner is a writer and Doula based in NYC. She has been training & studying with Sacred Warrior founder, Vanessa Chakour for over 4 years.