After the recent shock of this world losing a great man too soon, Dan Vickerman. I am writing the following words to share with whoever wants to read, some of my own experience. It is not commonly spoken about but I know it is of huge importance.
There was a point in my life where I thought often of suicide. I felt low all the time I was constantly looking at ways outside myself to make me feel better; drinking, gambling, drugs and so on. It was a downward spiral and I was caught in a misunderstanding of where my experience was coming from.
For a long time, I didn’t speak to anyone about my thoughts and feelings, I believed that people wouldn’t like me anymore If I opened up to them about what I was really feeling and was trying hard to hide. I believed they would think I was weak, attention seeking and so on. I wanted to be strong and well liked, so I kept it to myself.
Within this time a high school friend of mine committed suicide and I also found my cousin hanging in a tree. Some thoughts resonated within me after these events that said— What if in time their views/thoughts/feelings could have changed? They could have seen life differently and none of this needed to happen this way.
I am thankful that I was able to eventually reach out and speak to someone and see that there is another way. Through connecting with people who pointed me to my true clarity of mind and freedom and the journey that has unfolded for me since then I have come to an amazing understanding of the mind that has changed my life.
It is possible to move past these feelings, to feel free again, to feel hopeful and optimistic to know that every single human being has a purpose on this earth even if we don’t know what it is right now.
If you can’t see that right now it is hugely important to know that you have the power to let your negative thoughts pass, you don’t need to act on them, clarity of mind returns when we know our thoughts have no power over us.
There are plenty of people that struggle and I know my fellow professional athletes may struggle with the fears of the direction of life after sport. I wanted to share some of my views and the understanding that has completely changed my outlook on life.
Moving Past the Fears
I have been playing this game for a living since the age of 19. Before that, I worked a few shifts down at the ports of Auckland. Those were some long and often lonely days, unshackling cars from the holds in the massive car boats. That was my only experience of working life outside of rugby.
Before I started a career as a rugby player I can’t remember having any worries about money or my status in the world. We didn’t have much at home but we were happy as with what we did have. I also was happy going with the flow of life, I didn’t have too many big expectations I had a knowing inside that things would always be fine.
Then the possibility of a professional career became real and the striving began, along with the beliefs that becoming a pro would set me up for life, that I would be living the dream.
Before you know it in the professional sporting environment it is very easy to become innocently attached to our ego and the belief that our feelings are coming from our career. We start to have an identity in our head of ourselves as sportsmen- this usually happens without even realising as our whole life can turn into a competition and always striving for something;
- Winning the game
- Winning the competition
- Getting the starting spot
- Making the national team
- Getting the new contract
- Beating your scores in the gym
- Getting back from injury
We are taught to constantly strive and compete for more and it seems our worth is based on outcomes and results.
Also added to this is people seem to take a special interest in what we do and I guess they find some of the traits of athletes admirable, I am sure this attention can add to this made up identity we have and the illusion that our value as a person comes from our career.
In my experience and from lots of conversations with other professional athletes I have come to see that a lot of fear and worry comes along with this made-up identity.
- What possibly can I strive for when my sports career is over?
- How will I make anywhere near the money I make as an athlete, to support my family and keep this lifestyle that we enjoy?
- No one will know or care about me after sport.
- The environment and being around the team is so much fun, what can I possibly do for a living that will be that enjoyable?
One of the greatest blessings in my life has been the understanding and 100% truth that no circumstance on the outside of us ever has the power to make us feel more valuable as a human, more empowered, more important and so on. The thinking that we feel good and free and secure because we have a contract and are doing well and are in the limelight are 100% an illusion believing that myth can lead to the fear and worry of no longer having these things.
The problem is this illusion seems real when you are caught in the illusion that your feelings come from circumstances.
We always have the capacity to feel good, it comes from understanding that we only ever feel our thought and never circumstance or anything outside of us. Knowing that the depth of our true essence as a human being is far beyond the identity we have for ourselves (which is made up in our thinking) is truly liberating.
There is nothing to lose. You are and always have been YOU and that’s it. Not your career or anything else that comes with it. You are ALWAYS enough.
The same creative capacity that came from within that some how allowed us to create a 10–15 year career out of a game we all started doing as little kids with not a care in the world for what it meant or what it could bring to our lives, is the same capacity that is always within us to continue to live a good life and make things happen long after our sporting careers are over. We are designed for success, resilience and love.
When our mind is clear those made up expectations and comparisons drop away and that same innate resilience and creativity that allowed us to make a career as an athlete points us to the next step in life with more joy and ease.
Comparisons and discontent come from the ego. Truth is we all have ego, its not an evil thing, it’s just that little voice of self-importance telling us how things should be. The more we believe those thoughts of the ego rather than letting them pass, the more our mind is cluttered and with a cluttered mind, we miss the feeling of gratitude for all the beautiful, amazing things life is giving us in this very moment.
All athletes know the feeling of being in the moment, that odd time in a game or sometimes a full game where we are completely present, very little thoughts whatsoever and a performance flows through and things unfold, it is like a higher power is playing through us- we didn’t think about stepping that guy or throwing that offload they just happened….
This is our true nature as human beings. It is how we operate when our minds become clear. I know for a fact that this clarity is always within us on and off the field. It is in every human being whether you’re a current athlete, retired or never played sport in your life. It is from this clear mind that all these concepts fall away, we become more compassionate and understanding of ourselves and others.
Whatever direction life takes us in, just know that we are always far more than we appear to me. Nothing outside of us can ever validate our worth.
It is the same for every single person reading this.
Understanding how we truly operate is the key to life.
There is a new paradigm in the human psychological experience that points to the fact that we all experience life from within via the principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. We become clearer on what we are experiencing moment to moment and see that mental well-being is our default state. There are plenty of people who share these principles and the implications of hundreds of thousands by coming to understand them are truly life changing.
It is no longer needs to be about coping, it is possible to truly flourish.
If I can help in any way please get in touch.
Rest in Peace Dan Vickerman, Love and Condolences to family and friends.