I’m no sports fan, but that didn’t stop me from being fascinated by Phil Jackson’s book about spirituality and basketball. Jackson was coach of the famous Chicago Bulls, and Sacred Hoops is not only the biography of a spiritual seeker, but details how Jackson introduced the Bulls to Buddhist meditation practices so that the players could quiet their minds and concentrate on the game, and to practice non-reactivity in response to on-court violence. The team even developed a playing strategy based on Taoist principles!
How did it work out? Some of the players found it hard to get into meditation, but under Jackson’s leadership the Bulls won three NBA championships, which suggests that more teams should try combining meditation with basketball.
I was occasionally baffled by the basketball terminology — I never did work out what a “steal” is — but the points Jackson makes aren’t dependant upon knowing the rules of the game, and in fact the beauty of the book is that the lessons Jackson transferred from meditation to basketball can just as easily be applied in any other sphere of life. For example, when he says,
“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 attention on what’s happening right this moment”
that’s a lesson that can be applied in anything you do, whether it’s being with your kids, filling in your tax returns, or conducting a meeting.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the sometimes unexpected ways that eastern philosophies and practices are effecting western culture. The book also contains important lessons for anyone who wants to learn how to be a better leader and to learn how to create a coherent and effective team. Sacred Hoops explains that “selflessness is the soul of teamwork” and powerfully illustrates the collective and individual gains to be made by “surrendering the ‘me’ for the ‘we’ “.