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Equanimity and the Final Four

What what! Isn't sports all about passion, aggression, and achieving a goal (to defeat the other team)?

Not just. How about equanimity -- holding your (metaphorical) center in the most chaotic environment imaginable?

In the barely officiated first half of last weekend's Sweet Sixteen game between the University of Connecticut and the University of Maryland, things were getting rough.

Like our meditation practice, officiating can be too tight or too loose.In too tight, officials call every ticky-tack foul, and the game moves like a snail. In too loose, the officials call almost nothing and the game gets out of control. (You can apply the metaphor to your meditation practice: how's the officiating mind calling the session?)

Seconds from the end of the half, a Maryland player undercut a UConn player who was already jumping to make a shot, a dangerous move because the person in the air has less ability to control her body. We're not cats.

The announcers were incredulous. As the half ended, they started to discuss how players deal with a badly called game. If they talk back to the ref, they get called for a foul. If they react to the aggression, they can get ejected.

"Equanimity," Doris Burke said.

What?

"Equanimity," she repeated. She said something like, "You have to be able to stay in your center, play your game and not react."

"Equanimity," she said again. "I like saying that."

Basketball, especially as UConn plays it, is a fast game. There's set plays, but there's also unexpected bounces, slips, and crashes. You practice a lot so that your muscle memory takes over -- there's no time to think for a lot of the game. Sometimes you get to walk the ball up, to pass it around, to execute -- but then you shoot, the ball bounces, the bodies go up, and you respond.

That's where the rubber (or the chemically created rubber-like substance that's on the bottom of sneakers these days) meets the hardwood. Thousands of people watching, your coach screaming (it's UConn), bodies crashing, a game to be won, and you have to stay in your center and not lash out.

Take that metaphor into your meditation practice. Even if your thoughts are battling, even if they're crashing the boards or jumping over each others' backs to get to the prize -- your attention -- can you hold your center and rest in awareness of what's going without getting into the scrum?

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