my sports fantasy: moving from ‘new age’ to totally normal

when sports teams have success with visualization, yoga and other mindfulness techniques, the media marvels at the potential impact of 'new age' thinking. People! It's not new's really old, and it's super duper effective.

I cringed when I read this headline in yesterday’s Star Tribune: New Age thinking helped turn this North High team around. I knew right away what the article would say: that yet another sports team had experienced great success after supplementing their practices with a little inner reflection…also known in the media as ‘new age thinking.’

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled every time a team publicly reveals the impact of creative visualization in the locker room. What gets under my skin is the way these ancient and proven techniques are often billed by the media as ‘new age’ – a term originally coined in the 1960s to describe a new approach to spirituality, merging Eastern and Western philosophies and traditions. Over the years, the term ‘new age’ expanded to include everything from A to Z (astronomy to Zen) – and, in the eyes of many mainstreamers, a whole lot of crazy. I know many people for whom the term ‘new age’ carries a stigma; more hippie-dippy and out-of-touch than holistic and centered.

The article I saw yesterday profiled North High, an inner city basketball team that took last place in their conference last year. Coaches hired meditation teacher Jane Barrash to lead visualization sessions with the players, and this year, the team went from worst to first. In part, the coaches say, because Barrash worked closely with the kids to help them release fears, breathe deep, visualize success and realize their potential to co-create their reality. Yes, of course! Young people are still developing their perspectives on the world and themselves; to show them how to imagine themselves at their best and believe they’re capable of it? So powerful.

Every success story like this makes my heart leap and gives me hope that all youth athletic teams (and academic, too – why not!?) will one day incorporate these mindfulness and self-realization techniques into their programs. Countless pro athletes have employed the power of mental imagery, from Muhammed Ali to the 2014 Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks (whom ESPN profiled last year for their “unusual techniques” off the field). It baffles me why major media seems startled every time another sports figure or team reveals this is part of their routine.

Reporters, producers, athletes and coaches: we need your help to move this from ‘new age’ to totally normal, from alternative to mainstream. 

I have a kid who, like many, idolizes great athletes. He wants the foods they eat, the shoes they wear, the equipment they use, the shampoos they endorse. And he’s cool with visualizing success before a big game only because his dad and I have made sure he knows many of his favorite athletes do that, too. But we could use some back-up; more media examples of coaches talking about meditation as a must-have for teams, more players loudly and proudly endorsing the practice, more youth coaches incorporating guided imagery into their skills training.

The North High basketball players have already seen how mindfulness boosts their chances of winning on the court – and maybe even in life. Imagine if all of our kids knew how to breathe through stress, to believe in their power to succeed, to listen to their bodies, to feel connected to something amazing within them and bigger than them. This is my sports fantasy, but I’m visualizing it becoming a reality. Join me?

Aw, that's my hubby...coaching his team to be their best. :)


Here are several great sites to turn to for help encouraging your kids (and maybe yourself) to embrace the power of visualization.

Imagery for Kids: Dr. Charlotte Reznick offers great guidance for parents and recorded meditations for kids.

Parenting with Presence Summit (March 18 – 21):  This free upcoming summit features online interviews with thought leaders including Jane Goodall, Marianne Williamson and Arianna Huffington. (I’m an affiliate)

Left Brain Buddha: My childhood friend Sarah Rudell Beach grew up to become a teacher and an expert blogger on motherhood & mindfulness. You’ll love her posts, full of humor, great research and cool ideas.

The Ultimate Sports Parent: This site offers helpful posts about sports psychology & kids, like this one on visualization as well as audio programs that focus on stumbling blocks like anxiety and lack of confidence.

Athletes Who Meditate: Walk your kid through this slide show of current sports stars who meditate and visualize success. I especially love this quick video of basketball superstar LeBron James meditating during a time-out. 🙂


walk with me: is planning ahead stealing your joy?

Minnehaha Falls - kids watching falls

Spontaneity is not one of my strengths. I can have a lazy day at home without a schedule, but if there’s going to be socializing or a family outing, I like to have a plan, people. Maybe it’s the HSP in me. Honestly, I’d rather be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda girl than the guess-who-thought-of-everything girl, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.  And yet I adore when joy catches me by surprise or a little detour in life turns into a mighty path. So when something pops up that’s not part of my plan, I have to step back and make a choice: do I stay calm and comfortable (sometimes, the answer is yes) or do I need to mindfully, consciously step outside my comfort zone?

The other day, after running planned errands with the family for a couple of hours, Brad suggested we drive over to Minnehaha Falls (yep, the city of Minneapolis has a real-life waterfall in it!). A visit there is an excursion. In ten seconds flat, my brain raced through the reasons that was a terrible idea: we had no bug spray, no tanning lotion, no swim suits, no dinner, no hiking shoes, no camera, no backpack, no band-aids. Brad let my wheels turn (he’s used to this, bless him)….and watched as I brought those wheels to a screeching halt. We had nowhere else to be. The boys love it there. And there’d be so. much. beauty.

So we went. On a whim. And it turned into a wonderful lesson for me.

Ready to skip rocks!

I mean, seriously. Is that JOY or what? We walked for two hours on trails near the Falls, and along the creek that empties into the mighty Mississippi. And the whole time, the boys were tickled pink throwing rocks into the woods or skipping them across the water.

Family at the Falls

We adored taking our time, enjoying each other finding treasures along the way.

beautiful white flower

We marveled at the beauty around us – from woodland flowers to river rapids – and I loved snapping pics of each one with my cell phone.

making friends, meeting turtles

We made new friends – the human kind and the turtle kind.

daddy and little boy

I melted over scenes like this.

selfie of live

And I forced myself to find beauty in my sweaty, windblown self.

Brothers walking

By the time we were done, I was so in love with our spontaneous side trip that I didn’t even flinch when the kids had a splash-fest at the base of the Falls (definitely not planned!), riding home in the car soaking wet and bone tired.

The path to bliss...

The planner in me almost caused us to miss this bliss. I’ll likely never be the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants girl, but I’ve grown far better at allowing the possibility of beauty and the potential for joy to override my need to plan ahead. I am able to leave my best-laid plans behind when I remember this: Bliss doesn’t care which shoes you packed for the journey. Just start walking.  


Note: A nature walk like this, planned or unplanned, is one of my favorite ways to re-engage with the magic in my midst and choose to see beauty in my life. We’ll be virtually walking hand-in-hand through playful prompts and exercises like this during The Art of Choosing Beauty, but we’ll dig much deeper, too. How do you find beauty and magic and fulfillment on the hardest, darkest days? What if your daily pace is so fast you feel out of breath in your own life? I’d love to have you join me on the journey (we start Monday!) – and invite a friend, a soul sister, to walk with us for free. Details here.