COLUMN: The Ultimate Eyes Open Meditation: Long Toss
We know meditation, in all of its many forms, should be a daily part of our lives.
Taking the body and mind off the daily highway of thoughts and into a quiet rest stop is good for all of us.
Finding the time and level of commitment continues to haunt most of us in attempting to change our daily habits, even though doing so could have long-term benefits.
How great would it be for meditation to be part of your daily practice schedule? Long toss checks that box!
You should ask yourself or your players why they feel so good after long tossing.
There are several reasons. The body and mind crave open space as an environment to live and play in. There are reasons why we feel less stressed when sitting on a beach, watching a sunset, or paying attention to the space around our bodies.
Alan Jaeger expands on this notion:
"Meditation is about getting into a clear, quiet, instinctive, and expansive state so that the person can feel a deep sense of freedom and naturalness,” he said. “It's about trusting the ‘non-thinking’ or instinctive part of us. Long toss has a similar mission -- by trusting our feel, instincts, and athleticism."
In any meditation practice, awareness of feelings and freedom from overthinking start the journey.
Most meditation techniques suggest keeping your eyes closed. My advice to players is to start with your eyes open so that the real world becomes the backdrop in which your meditative state lives. The eyes-open approach also makes for a natural transition into real performance situations.
Jaeger explains how long toss reinforces this approach:
"In Long Toss, you are not trying to be ‘technically perfect’ with every throw,” he states. “Quite the contrary -- the emphasis is on feel. As you move away from your throwing partner, and back in toward your throwing partner, your release point (and body movements) changes as you gradually move uphill, and then gradually downhill. This ‘variance’ in your release point (and body) allows the athlete's highest intelligence to take over because the athlete has tapped into a feeling that is in space -- the outside environment. And by incorporating this approach, the athlete's most natural feel and movements can manifest because he or she is tapping into the no limits of an ‘open space’, rather than the potential limits of a technical or limited space."
A recent session with a few MLB pitchers reinforced Jaeger’s explanation.
When I look at nothing, I feel everything.
Pitchers see the catcher’s glove but stay away from the over-target fixation focus that plagues many young players. Locking in on the glove works for some, but for others, it cripples in-game command.
Long toss reinforces this mindset as the "feel" becomes the main task.
Jaeger says it best:
"We are again positioning ourselves to trust the higher intelligence of our body to take over,” he says. “Again, this is significantly aided by the concept of throwing the ball with feel, gradually uphill and then gradually downhill in Long Toss. And because we are trusting our release point and athleticism in space (rather than a technique), we are allowing the benefits of this space to free us up and activate our most inherent movements. In short, in both cases, we are trusting the non-thinking part of us to take over -- a sense of open focus versus the potential limitations of narrow focus.”
Long toss ( in whatever distance you believe in) is part of every team and player's drill package. Meditation should be part of every player’s daily drill menu. Get the best of both worlds by long tossing and staying connected to the space between you and your partner that makes you "feel" good, and that feeling will be there when competition starts.