Aidan Sheahan: Mindfulness 101 (Extended Interview)
Whether on the mountain or off, Aidan Sheahan focuses on being mindful and navigating this world with two feet planted firmly on the ground – if only in the metaphorical sense. Below, Aidan shares his thoughts on his meditation practice and staying centered amidst life’s many distractions.
The tagline to your new film Insight by Vital Films is “the journey begins from within.” What does that actually mean to you?
I think everything begins within, and continues that way. How we feel inside projects onto what we see in the world. I can stand at the top of a jump line, afraid, because part of me has fear of getting hurt, or, I can be excited and full of joy because I get to hit jumps. This is where meditation has helped me: it has taught me to become an observer of my thoughts. It’s not wrong to have fear, but to be able to observe it so that I don’t act off of it is an amazing gift. As humans we are always at the point of choice. We can follow the negative thoughts which have been embedded into us, or we can learn to observe these thoughts, and choose the thoughts we desire to create the reality we want to live in. I am constantly applying this to my life and my skiing in the best way that I can.
How would you suggest someone learn meditation that has never practiced it before?
Start by following the sound of your breath, with your eyes closed or sitting down or both it doesn’t matter. You can definitely do it on the go and that should be the point! Observe the inflow and outflow of your breath and the sound that it makes. Now, begin to observe any thoughts that you have. Don’t try to get rid of them, just observe. After doing this, say in your mind: “What will my next thought be?” Keep repeating that. Continue to follow your breath and repeat, “What will my next thought be?” over and over again. I have found this to be the easiest and most efficient way to gain observation of your mind, and peace at the same time.
In what specific ways do you think meditation helps with your skiing?
On a practical level, with skiing, I use it in various ways. Skiing in a terrain park can be kind of crazy because there are so many people around watching, sometimes you get distracted. When I was younger I know I would try to impress friends and people who I saw on the lift and it would take me out of the zone of what I wanted to do myself.
As I learned to meditate, I would start to see that when I acted on these thoughts of trying to impress someone, I would always ski worse. As I’ve become aware of that, I’ve gotten better at getting in my own zone and skiing just because I love it. The same applies when I’m in the backcountry with a photographer or cameras are out – anything that can be a distraction.
I also use it in other ways to slow down and shift my focus to my feet. In skiing and running and other sports, being grounded can work wonders. When I focus on breathing and shifting my awareness towards my feet, in a sort of a grounded meditation while I ski, it takes me out of my head in a really great way.
As with anything though, I’m not perfect. I definitely can get out of that zone quite frequently, but that’s just an opportunity to remind myself to practice more.
MINDFULNESS PRACTICE: Breathe deep into the tailbone for three breaths, observe your thoughts, think of something you are grateful for. Now let’s go shred, something, anything!
Image at top: Aidan Sheahan. Photo: Jeremy Swanson
Interview conducted for The Drift, a collaborative publication between The Usual and Patagonia. Available in select Patagonia stores worldwide. To read online and for more information visit thedriftmag.tumblr.com.