Episode 021

How to reach your peak creativity, inspiration, motivation, and drive

How do you make sure you’re always performing at your best, no matter what’s going on around you?

George Mumford, the former mindfulness coach to the championship-winning LA Lakers, Chicago Bulls, and other top-performers, shares how we can all achieve a state that enables you to reach your peak creativity, inspiration, motivation, and drive.

In this episode, we cover:

Today we’re speaking with George Mumford, the mindfulness coach to some of the world’s top performing athletes.

Over his 20+ year career, George has helped teams such as the LA Lakers, The Chicago Bulls, and the New York Knicks reach new levels of focus, flow, and presence.

Both Michael Jordan & Kobe Bryant directly credit George with helping them level up their game, and Phil Jackson, the coach of the Laker’s and Bull’s during their winning streaks, calls George his "secret weapon" that allowed him to win 8 NBA championships.

So why are we featuring him on this podcast?

Because the state of presence and flow that he helps athletes, Olympians, and global executives to achieve is a state that allows us all to focus our full potential to the moment at hand, free of the stress of what’s coming and free of the baggage of what may or may not have just happened.

In other words, a state that enables you to reach your peak creativity, inspiration, motivation, and drive.


PS - George is offering the first chapter of his book, The Mindful Athlete, for free here. Check it out!

Show notes
  • [00:01:19] George’s connection with Sharon Salzberg
  • [00:01:57] How George’s experience with chronic pain and addiction led to his interest in mindfulness
  • [00:02:56] What led George out of addiction
  • [00:06:04] The type of results George saw when he first started mediation
  • [00:09:23] How George went from learning about meditation to teaching mindfulness to sports teams
  • [00:12:19] What kinds of practices George helped the Bulls implement
  • [00:14:51] What George’s sitting practice looks like
  • [00:19:41] What George’s teachings enabled already top athletes to do that they couldn’t do before
  • [00:26:22] The importance of being able to let go of things
  • [00:31:40] How to overcome negative self-talk
  • [00:37:19] How to become aware of negative self-talk
  • [00:41:14] What someone should do if they want to start a mindfulness or meditation practice
  • [00:44:42] Books that George recommends

[00:00:04] David: Welcome to the Human Strike Back by Hotjar, the weekly podcast designed to help you succeed by putting people first. I’m David Peralta. Today, we’re speaking with George Mumford. The mindfulness coach to some of the world’s top-performing athletes. Over his 20 plus year career, George has helped teams such as the LA Lakers, the Chicago Bulls, and the New York Knicks reach new levels of focus, flow, and presence. Both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant directly credit George with helping them level up their game. Phil Jackson—the coach of the Lakers and the Bulls during their winning streak—calls George his secret weapon that allowed him to win eight NBA Championships.

Why are we featuring him on this podcast? Because the state of presence and flow that he helps athletes, Olympians, and global executives to achieve is the state that allows us all to focus our full potential to the moment at hand, free of the stress of what’s coming, and free of the baggage of what may or may not have just happened. In other words, a state that enables you to reach your peak creativity, inspiration, motivation, and drive. With that, here is George.

One thing that I really want to know is how do you know Sharon Salzberg?

[00:01:19] George: She's one of my teachers for over 30 years. Plus, I was on the board of directors at IMS with her.

[00:01:29] David: IMS is?

[00:01:30] George: Insight Meditation Society. That's one of the meditation centers that she founded with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. We go way back and we've taught together, but she was my teacher in my first three-month retreat.

[00:01:45] David: When was that?

[00:01:48] George: In 1990, I think, or 1991.

[00:01:50] David: How did you get into mindfulness?

[00:01:53] George: Chronic pain.

[00:01:55] David: Can you elaborate a little bit?

[00:01:57] George: Yes. Well, a bunch of things. I had a migraine, headaches and chronic back pain but I also was addicted to heroin and alcohol. I'm coming up on 34 years of sobriety.

[00:02:09] David: My understanding is you had an injury at the time. Is that correct? You had a sports injury?

[00:02:14] George: I was injured for my whole life. But in college, I had a career-ending injury and I didn't know who I was. That's when I got addicted to pain meds then illegal drugs and alcohol. It's a typical story now of a lot of athletes. That happens to them.

[00:02:34] David: How long did that addiction last?

[00:02:38] George: ‘til 1984. When I got landed in college, it was 1970, but I was dabbling before that. But really getting addicted because everybody did something. About 14 years?

[00:02:53] David: What was it that led you out of that?

[00:02:56] George: As we like to say, I had a spiritual bottom. I wasn't functioning but I was losing everything. I lost my car, and self-respect, and all of that stuff. A friend of mine came by and took me to an AA meeting, and I realized that there was way out. Once I realized there was a way out, plus I was ready because I was tired–I was all beat up–it was just about a week or two before he'd pick me up. I was in a hospital for a week because I had a strep infection.

I was in HMO at the time and they had this experimental program going on called Managing Stress and this woman, Joan Borysenko who was, at the time, one of the psychoneuroimmunologists –that's a fancy word for mind-body process–was teaching at this program where we did pre and post-testing and which meant I had to pee and spit in it] and then they would measure whatever they measured.

In that process, in that 10-week program–I think it was 8 or 10 weeks–I learned how to meditate, and they gave me a syllabus of books. It was really more about self-education, taking self-responsibility. There was a syllabus of books to read and then we were taught how to meditate. I learned about the mind-body process and how stress affects us and how we can manage stress. That was pretty much it. That’s how I got into it and, when I got into it, I read every book on that syllabus, which was probably about 30.

I'd say for the last 34 years, I've been averaging over a book a week, whether philosophy, psychology, spirituality or just about how to live life on life's terms. One of the books I remember was pain as motivator . I believe that was the name of the book. It was this idea of, "Okay, so you have this pain so it's telling you something so you have to learn to manage or regulate involuntary regulatory systems," which is the autonomic nervous system, how to manage autonomic nervous system indirectly.

That's how I got into it and then, obviously, it helped me with my pain and it also helped me in my recovery from substance abuse. I got to the point where the best way to learn something is to teach it so it just took off from there and they suggested I go to a place called Insight Meditation Society and do a retreat. I signed a retreat, I did that and then I found Cambridge Insight Meditation Society, which is right in the city in Cambridge, and I became a member there. I was practicing there. They have daily settings, and talks, and day-long non-residential retreats. That's how I got into it.

[00:05:53] David: What kind of results were you seeing when you were doing this initial 10-week course? What was it about your practice that made you realize that this is something you wanted to stick to?

[00:06:04] George: Well, because it worked and because it helped me calm my mind down. I calmed down but it also helped me to get intimate with my mind-body process and realize that the mind and the body are connected. That was the main and first thing. When you know that, you know that there's a way to calm yourself down through physical action or activity and there's also a way of calming yourself down by just being still.

I started to learn how the nervous system works, knowing the difference between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, knowing the difference between the flight and flight and the freeze and the rest and digest, and how do I access the rest and digest more often when I get in a high state of arousal. When there's not a high state of arousal, that's where I'm actually experiencing good stress, trying to accomplish something rather than feeling distressed, feeling like I don't have the resources to meet the demand; it's just coming in.

I learned that what you can do is you can develop more resources so when the demand is made, you're able to reach it. You're able to pay it. If you don't have the resources and something comes, then if you write a check, it's going to bounce. You need to have funds in it to cover the check. That's one way I looked at it, but it was really important because in recovery, we talk about stinking thinking or bold enough to a drink and a drug.

Once you get rid of the compulsion and the impulse to drink a drug, what happens is you get in a stinking thinking or your attitude gets negative. We talked about how angry, lonely, and tired–you tend to be more susceptible to actually drinking so we've called it budding, building up to a drink or drug. Knowing what you're thinking, knowing your attitude and having a plan so that you don't go to places where you get triggered because if you get triggered, you're asked to use. You realize you have to reflect on, "Okay, if I do this, then this is what's going to happen."

It was very aligned with the practice and, of course, part of the practice of insight meditation is if you take the five precepts, one of the precepts is not to take intoxicants. It was a natural fit to what I wanted. I didn't realize until I got cleaned that I had this need to be intellectually stimulated or I was seeking wisdom. That was the other part of it, is the quality of life changes but it's a lifestyle change. It's all about a lifestyle change and connecting the power or connecting the spirit. To me, it was obvious that working or being able to relate to my mind and body in a way where they were on the same page or aligned rather than at cross purposes.

[00:09:04] David: How did you go from learning about meditation through your recovery process from substance abuse and eventually getting to the place where you're teaching mindfulness to the Chicago Bulls, the LA Lakers, the New York Knicks? What was the bridge there? How did you end up there?

[00:09:23] George: Because I got more into meditation, I actually moved into the Cambridge Center and I lived there for six years. My teacher, Larry Rosenberg, knew Jon Kabat-Zinn very well and it was just a natural flow when I quit my job. I was a financial analyst for 16 years so I quit my job and for 2 years, I just meditated and worked on myself. During that time, I got introduced to Jon Kabat-Zinn and they had the internship where it was called the Stress Reduction Relaxation Program.

I went there and then things kept happening and happening, and then I ended up working for the Center for Mindfulness, implementing an inner-city clinic Worcester. Then, from there, we had a prison project because I used to have a private contract with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, going to two facilities and teach meditation and yoga. When I joined the Center for Mindfulness, I ran the prison project and Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli who was the associate director, they used to do a training at Omega for mindfulness-based stress reduction training for health professionals and others at Omega. When they were there, at that time, Phil Jackson used to teach a program called Beyond Basketball.

[00:10:56] David: Phil Jackson, the coach of the Chicago Bulls at the time?

[00:10:59] George: The coach of the Chicago Bulls at the time, and they were there to gather and they knew each other. Actually, Phil's wife at the time, June Jackson, talked to Saki and Jon about wanting somebody to come to the bulls and help the guys deal with their stress of success because they had just won three championships in a row, '91, '92, '93. Phil looks at the whole person; he doesn't look at the basketball play. He's always focused on helping them be a whole person.

He brought me in to teach them how to deal with the stress of success and, in the meantime, Michael Jordan's father got murdered and Michael retired so they were in full-blown crisis when they went there in October, 1993, and the rest is history. We just hit it off and I continued to help the team and to create processes that helped them implement mindfulness into their routines and to their activity around being on a basketball team.

[00:12:14] David: What were those practices? What did you help them to implement?

[00:12:19] George: Sitting practice, number one, to be able to be still and know or the same thing I learned when I was in how to manage stress, is you have to learn how to self-regulate, how to relate to your mind-body process in a way that creates more peace and more ease and understanding. It's a process of both practicing the traditional practices. I didn't do walking meditation with them but I did tai chi and I would do yoga or I would call that mindful stretching or mindful movement, but it was really more about, once again, the way I worked with people at the clinic or anywhere else, is just meeting where they are and talking to them about the practice.

Of course, being athletes, they know what it feels like to be in the zone or be in the flow. When I talked to them about mindfulness, it's making them feel ready because you try to get in a flow or in a zone you want, but if you pay attention and you're mindful and you understand what the conditions are and how to relate to the conditions in a way where you're just flowing with things and you're not trying to make things happen, you're allowing things to happen, and it's an amazing experience.

Them knowing what that feels like and having the possibility of having more flow experiences, more zone experiences and also really getting to understand how their mind-body works and how they can enhance their performance. The big part of it is being able to make mistakes and letting go and learning from some mistakes. I can identify with mistakes. When I talked to them about being a spiritual warrior and I talked to them because that's what it takes to be able to overcome your impulses or the tensions in the body or the habits in mind that we have.

There are some habits that are conducive to performance and in be the in the present and there's other habits that are contrary to that. This whole idea of knowing what's helpful and what's not helpful and then being able to do what's helpful more consistently was not helpful. I had to create a way of relating language or relating to them in a way Of course, it helps that I play basketball One of my roommates in college was Julius Erving or Dr.J, so I had street credit with them because they knew that I knew how to relate to lead athletes. I was roommates with a couple of them.

[00:14:44] David: In terms of that sitting practice, how much would you have them sit and how often?

[00:14:51] George: It depends. The idea is I encourage them to sit every day, once or twice a day, but just to give them an experience of sitting. It depends on the situation, how much time we have, but it could be anywhere from five minutes to half an hour or whatever. What I talk to them about is getting beyond just the practice of sitting but how do you maintain the meditative approach throughout the whole day.

Now, you're playing in a game and there's a time out and a free throw, you can just be in your body, be at your breath and start over again. It was really more of teaching them part of the training but also the right thinking, like I said, to understand what your attitude and what kind of attitude is conducive to be in the present to your experience, whether it's a basketball court or home, talking to your little one or your kids, or just hanging out with friends.

This ability of understanding that you're separate but you're also connected with others and that how you think, how you speak, how you behave really matters–and your lifestyle that you have off the court is going to affect your ability to be on the court. It's more of a cognitive process as well as training the mind to be present, but it's also just seeing that there's cause and effects, and that you need to understand what you can and cannot control.

[00:16:31] David: The sitting practice was to help them to connect to what it felt like to be present. Is that correct?

[00:16:39] George: Yes, and to calm the mind down. The thing is the mind is all over the place. You have to train it. I don't care if it's sitting or doing some kind of tai chi or some kind of movement. You have to train yourself to not let your mind be like a monkey mind and be all over the place, jumping from thing to thing. We have this idea of multitasking. That's a myth. There's no such thing as multitasking; you go from one thing to the next immediately and jump from branch to branch.

The problem is or the challenge is when you jump from one branch to the other branch, you're still where you were instead of being where you are, and that goes on. Then, you go to the next branch but you're still back where you were before or you might be in the branch that you're about to go to. You're there mentally but, physically, you're not. There has to be this idea of knowing how to tame the mind or calm it down, or to slow things down.

[00:17:39] David: Whether it's a sitting practice or whether it's a moving practice, the goal is to connect with the experience of what it feels like to be present, to have the mind calm and to have the mind slow so that you can start to recognize that all the time in all aspects of your life, whether you're performing on the court, working in the officer or in your presentation, or at home with a loved one.

[00:18:02] George: In my book, The Mind for Athletes: Secrets to Pure Performance, I have talked about the process of the five superpowers or whatever but what we're really doing is being engaged in the process, whether you want to call it mindfulness, insight meditation or whatever, that there's no space between stimulus and response so you're going to react to things in a habitual way. What the process does is it creates space between stimulus and response and, in that space, we get to choose how we're going to be or make wise choices. That's the whole point of it.

Then you hear players, even when you hear them when they're rookies or they're new and then they get experienced, they say the game slows down. The game didn't slow down; they slowed down. They create space and it actually affects time. When you're in the zone, it's like time, it's not there. Things go quickly because time and space have been altered because you're in it without having the self-consciousness that I'm doing this. I would say the whole purpose of the practice is to get clear and to be present, and to make wise choices.

[00:19:14] David: One question that I think that some people might have is you've worked with Michael Jordan, you've worked with Kobe Bryant and you've worked with a lot of top-level athletes. What did this enable them to do that they couldn't already do before? Because they were already top performers when you met them. What did this ability to respond to stimuli and this space between stimulus and response, what did this enable them to do that they couldn't do before?

[00:19:41] George: It enabled them to go to another level. A lot of times, it's just like if you take a regular clock. A regular clock, if it's broken, is right twice a day. The idea is, like the clock, instead of being right twice a day, how about being right multiple times a day? It's like everything else: nothing is stationary; you're either getting better or you're getting worse because things are in constant flux. How it helps them, it helps them to be able to clear about how to deal with the new, unfolding situation in a way where they don't lose who they're being or what their goal is.

There's always this challenge of continuing to grow and evolve. The thing that the lead athletes have in common is they learned this. They understand that they have to keep getting better, keep learning, practicing and to enhance their performance. If they're doing the things this year that they did last year, they're going to get the same thing they got last year, but if they wanted to get different results, they've got to do things differently. It's a constant change, constant flux.

Phil Jackson says he likes learners. He got to ask somebody who's learning, growing and evolving, and that's what I've learned in my recovery process. The George that went into the Detox, that George came out of the detox is going to be the same thing he did so that George had evolved and now I had to change how I related to my pain, related to my substance abuse, related to what I was doing, who I was being and so I had to change my lifestyle with what's consistent with being able to have less stress or more peace.

It's that simple. It goes beyond basketball and beyond everything. It's really understand how can we continue to grow and evolve because things are constantly changing. If we're not cognizant of the change and adapting to the change, we're going to get left behind. I don't care who you are. You can see a lot of people who were great or they were living on their lows. If they don't continue to evolve and to keep getting better–and that's what I learned, that I was in a process of continuous learning, growth and development–it doesn't matter.

34 years later, I'm still doing that, probably even more because I understand that the best way to deal with change is to decide how I'm going to be in that change but I've got to recognize a change is happening. If you're moving around and you're relating the things as they were, you're not able to see the difference between what was and what is now. It's all about the immediacy of experience. It doesn't matter what you're doing.

To a degree, you can be present and be able to slow things down enough where you're not habitually relating to things in a mechanical way or you're seeing things based on what you already know rather than seeing things based on how you are open to seeing it and letting that speak to you in some language. It's really about the joy of discovery. It's about learning for learning's sake. It's about understanding that sometimes you turn off notifications and it doesn't work.

"What's up with that? That wasn't supposed to happen." You get what I'm saying? That's the thing. It adds so much value. It doesn't matter what you're doing; what matters is how you are being and the way the quality of your mind is going to enhance the ability to learn and to experience the joy of the moment. What we talk about is the journey, not the end-result. When we're so focused on the end-result, we're not even there for the journey; we can't even tell you what the journey experience was because we're focused on that.

That's a habit pattern so that we've got to change so that we can be present for each moment, and each moment sets up the next moment. That's the whole idea. The whole idea is you're doing this so that you can live more fully and you can embrace the transitoriness of life, which is we get old, we get sick and we die. Things change. You can love what you're doing or hate what you're doing. It's going to change.

If your attitude doesn't change or if you keep seeing things the same way you were seeing them then, you're going to keep seeing what was there, not what's there, seeing what was there or what might be there but not what's there, and even that is like stepping into a river. It's always changing. If you step in the river, the next time you step is a different river. Life is like that. Life is flowing. The question is, do we know that and can we ride the waves of change in a way where we're still being true to who we say we are, we don't lose our humanity and we're still able to make wise choices because we're seeing things clearly?

[00:24:45] David: I think another important aspect following up in what you're saying is also it allows us to accept when things don't go the way that we plan. On the court, I'm sure that's really important. When you make a shot and it doesn't go the way that you wanted, are you stuck on that shot that happened two seconds ago and are missing the ability to follow up and do something else or are you present enough that you can respond to the situation now?

[00:25:12] George: Yes. I was listening yesterday to Golden State Warriors. Last night, they beat the Houston Rockets and Steph Curry was talking and he said he has to have a short memory, takes a shot and makes a mental note of what he needs to do so maybe he shoots and maybe he didn't keep his elbow in or he didn't stick it or he didn't use his legs. He mentally notes that then lets go of it. Then, the next shot, he starts again. That's what life is; it's beginning again over and over. Things happen. If you see it as who you are rather than just an event and you learn from the event, you've got to let it go and grow.

[00:25:52] David: That's really the power of mindfulness and the ability to see in the present because in a basketball game, it's one thing. You make a shot, you move on, but if you didn't let go or, for example, if you're in life and you didn't let go of something, something happens that doesn't go your way–a meeting doesn't go your way, a presentation doesn't go your way–if you don't let it go, it sticks. It's like a little mental baggage that you kind of carry. Then, the next presentation doesn't go your way, it sticks and, suddenly, you're carrying all this weight of things that aren't going the way that you want them to.

[00:26:22] George: Right, and you're not really here. You're back there. There's a story about two Zen monks and they're crossing a stream. There's this beautiful lady that needs to get across and so one of the monks–of course, this is a story–picks her up and carries her over to the other side and then the other monk is complaining that you picked up this young lady up or this person up and you carried them to the other side, and you did that, and you carrier her.

The monk who carried her said, "Yeah, I carried her but you're still carrying her because you keep thinking about it instead of letting it go and not making it a problem." This is what we do. We have a sticky mind. We take something, we make a mistake and we say we don't forgive ourselves or we don't forget about it instead of saying, "Okay, I made a mistake," apologize and then just get back on the horse. That is the whole key. The whole key is to keep moving forward no matter what and that you are going to experience difficulty. I have a quote that I developed last month, visiting some folks and I found myself saying to this team, "No struggle, no swag."

[00:27:41] David: What do you mean by that?

[00:27:43] George: If you aren't struggling, if you don't make mistakes and if you aren't experiencing discomfort, you're not going to have confidence. You're not going to have the swag. People will say, "George, you got swag." They're like, "How can I get that?" You've got to struggle. Not that you have to do but to get what you want to do, life is a struggle. It's suffering. Things change. Things don't work out the way you want it to work out. People don't listen to you when you fuck it up.

You're going to be a parent and maybe kids are going to talk to you or your parents will talk to you, but it's always going to be some–and I call this struggle but it's really more about life. If you're not struggling, if you're not uncomfortable, you're not growing. If you stay in your comfort zone, you're giving up comfort for truth. You either have the truth or the way things are or you can be comfortable and just say, "I'm straight. I don't want any discomfort." This doesn't work like that. You've got to get comfortable being uncomfortable because you grow and you've got to get out of your comfort zone. You might say you're playing in the area between comfort and discomfort. That's where the game is played. That's where life is played. That's discomfort but you can get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

[00:29:00] David: That's the zone to be in so that you can respond to whatever's happening. You're not stuck in your mind about how you want things to be. You're able to respond to the situation the way that it actually is.

[00:29:12] George: Yes, and you realize that, a lot of times, we don't know that we're upset about something until something happens and then we're upset. We don't know we're going to be upset but we wanted something but we weren't clear about it. If you think how children are when they learn how to walk, they're going to crawl, fall and, at some point when they get it together and they can walk, they're going to be excited.

They see the journey. They see that this is great and they're not thinking about, "Who saw me fall?" or, "What are people saying about me?" They say, "No, I'm just going to learn how to walk," and this is how we have to do it. We have to learn how to live and we have to go by trial and error. It's what we call our error attribution, whether you attribute the error to you not being strong enough, fast enough or whatever, or just attributing the error to there's some knowledge, there's some skill, there's some process you have to learn to be able to consistently do it.

We can let go of all that and just be and enjoy the moment and just let it go because the only time we live is in the moment. We're in the moment, and we're living, and it's not like we're not concerned about things that we don't have to plan but you're saying you plan but then you have to take life as it comes and make choices that are consistent with having more peace, having more understanding or having more expertise about something.

What I like to tell people I'm pursuing isn't not just wisdom but grace and ease. Now, I added the grace and ease because I've done it for years without the grace and ease and it was this warrior raw effort and forcing things instead of just having grace and ease to say, "Okay, easy does it, but do it. Slow motion gets you dig quicker and just show it but form the intention and just keep moving forward." When you fall off, get back on. You move too father right, go back to the left and start over again. That's the whole thing. It's too freaking simple, but that's what life is. Life is a learning process.

[00:31:23] David: I think something that a lot of people face that really holds them back is negative self-talk, really beating themselves up about mistakes that they made or opportunities that they missed. How do you recommend and how do you help people overcome negative self-talk?

[00:31:40] George: First of all, you've got to listen. I've heard one guy refer to it as the inner roommate. I call it the negative committee because if you have a negative mindset–I was reading his book and he said that the mind is a reflection of god and speech is a reflection of mind. What does that mean? That means that your self-talk is a reflection of your attitude or your mind or your belief system.

I'll be talking about something and saying, "Okay, doing this mindfulness stuff is hard for people." Now, when I use the word "hard" for people, why would I say it? Because people think when they sit and meditate, everything's going to be quiet and there won't be any thinking. Good luck with that. They don't know how crazy the mind is and you don't want to see that. The idea is can you see it and embrace it and say, "This is how it is, and how do I effect change? How do I change it?"

When I use the "word" hard instead of saying, "It's going to be a challenge," that's a totally different attitude. When I say it as a challenge, it's going to be more easy . It's going to be more graceful. I'm saying, "Yes, this is what happens. It's like when you learned how to walk, you're going to fall down." If you think that you'd trip and fall down or you're a bad walker, that's just crazy. That makes no sense. Just do it instead of saying, "Listen," if I say it's going to be hard, I'm already putting that mindset and my self-talk is going to be consistent with that belief.

You can change the talk or you can change the belief systems behind it. Gandhi said our beliefs become our thoughts, our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, our actions become our habits, our habits become our values, our values become our destiny. That's an equation. You might not know what your belief system is but your self-talk is telling you what it is. The self-talk is the most important because that is creating what we experience. That is a reflection of the mind. If you change the main, you'll change the self-talk.

[00:33:58] David: For people whose self-talk has just been ingrained for years, how do you change the mind?

[00:34:05] George: By looking at it and saying, "Okay, how is that crap working for you?" because if you don't have enough pain or, as they say in the Bible, you have to be weak in spirit to do that stuff. If you're not weak in spirit and you don't have no sense of urgency, you're bound to keep doing what you're doing and complaining. It's got to be like me, I call it AOF, the message of meditation, and, of course, I apologize: that's ass on fire.

When your ass is on fire, you say, "Okay, this does not work and I'm willing to try something new. I'm willing to see if this works." Without the sense of urgency, I don't have to have AOF, I have the adventure, I have the the joy of discovery. What is this? This is going to be exciting. This is going to be interesting. There's something for me to learn here. Let me get to that. That changes the whole game. I talk about this in my book.

There's an old Cherokee saying when the grandfather is telling his grandson that there's this amazing battle going on inside of him between two wolves. One wolf, we'll call it fear and the other wolf, we'll call love. The grandson says, "Grandfather, which wolf is going to win?" He said, "The one that I feed." If you're feeding fear, then your self-talk is going to be certainly . If you're feeling love and you're opening to it and saying, "Okay, how can I be more loving?" or, "How can I be more compassionate with myself?" because of the self-talk I'm experiencing, if someone talked to my friend like that, I would be all over them. "You can't talk to her or him like that," but we do it to ourselves.

The self-talk is really important and how to change that but the first thing is you've got to be aware of it, then accept it and then change it. You change it by asking and talking about subjects like, "What do I want?" If I want to get better at something, then maybe I should encourage myself and say, "Okay, that didn't work. Let's change something else," or, "You're just not really good at this. You suck," and all that language instead of saying, "No, the only thing that happened is it didn't work. What do you need to do it make work? What's the basic fundamental?"

Then, you start to think about and you realize that, "Okay, unlucky goal. I'll get the next one or, "What do I need to change?" I call it directed thought so you know you've got to keep your elbows in, you've got to stick it and use your legs. You do that but you've got to practice that so now when you go shoot, it'll happen. You can't just say, "Man, I can't make shots," then get upset and then keep shooting like nothing matters. You've got to recognize what you need to change. Once you get into the discovery, the investigation of experience, now you don't have time to be talking about, "I didn't do that and I'm not very good," and all that negative self-talk but that negative self-talk is usually self-talk with somebody else that we're agreeing with.

[00:37:06] David: The first step to change this is you've got to be aware. You've got to even be aware that this negative self-talk is happening because I think maybe a lot of people aren't even aware that it's happening; it's just so automatic. It's just so habitual.

[00:37:19] George: It's happening all the time. That's why be still and know. That's why you've got to settle back and keep the body still so you can become aware of it and then, at some point, you'll figure out how it arises and how it fades away. If you decide to see that that self-talk comes from nowhere, comes from an image, or a sound, or a thought then it triggered something, then it's usually some association with have with something.

When we start to see how these things arise in the mind, then you can nip it in the bud and you can start to see. I'm seeing this situation and I'm saying, "Here we go." Last time my team was playing or I was doing something and this happened, you're being in the past instead of saying, "Wait a minute. This is a different situation," and we know this. We call it positive genes. When you mind is in a positive mind state, its cognitive functioning is enhanced.

In other words, instead of being a little tunnel, you open up, and that's where the solution is, outside of the box. It's really important to have an open mind and to realize, "How do I keep my mind in a resourceful state so we can take in information without blocking things out or without aversion?" because the nervous system is programmed. If it's pleasant, there's approach. If it's unpleasant, there's avoidance. If it's neither and is indifferent because there's no interest, space it out, so what will you do, it's not personal. Everybody's nervous system works that way.

We can see, if we approach it too much, we approach it without having the space to see what it is and how to approach it in a way that's consistent with what we want. The slowing down is huge to being able to think about the brain. Say you're right-handed like myself . The left brain is the linear part. The non-linear is where the intuition is. You might say, "These are the words to the song," on the left side and, on the right side is the melody but the left side is dominant.

As long as we keep moving, and shaking, and chasing, the right side doesn't have a word in, edgewise but when we be still and know, we settle down and when, you get quiet, now that left side calms down and then the right side gets a word in. That's where our intuition is. That's where the melody is. That's where the whole picture is so that we understand it. From a scientific point of view, it makes sense that you have some ways, some practice, whether it's prayer, meditation or whatever ritual you do where you actually can let that left brain, if you are right-handed, settle down and let yourself start using your whole brain and then you have access to more information you have and ability to see more clearly, to see holistically, to see systemically, and you can start to make the connection between what's happening and what are the conditions in which this happens.

Now, if you know how to condition, what conditions do you need so that you can be at peace? Then, not knowing that, you can start to develop that but, a lot of times, unless we get quiet and get still, be still and know it–you see it in the Bible for a reason–or, "Be still and know I am God," or, "Be still and know how I'm feeling, know how I'm seeing things or, yeah, what's going on?" We need to know. When you can see it, then you can hit it. The clarity will actually enhance your choice, your decision-making.

[00:41:06] David: For somebody who wants to start mindfulness or meditation practice, what practical approach would you recommend that they take? How can they get started?

[00:41:14] George: Well, a friend of mine, her name is Elizabeth Lesser. She wrote a book and she talks about meditating. She's the co-founder of Omega. Lesser is her last name, I believe. She has a book about meditation. One month, she just meditates for a minute.

[00:41:38] David: A minute a day?

[00:41:39] George: Two minutes. The research says that if you watch your breath for two minutes, it would change your brain–just two minutes. It's not the length of time; it's the quality of time and it's the continuity of time. Even if you sit with your eyes open and you just sit and consciously breathe, breathing in, breathing out, sitting and knowing I'm breathing in, knowing I'm breathing out, you start to see things and you start to be able to have a little bit more sense of just sitting and being in your body and being still.

Everybody's different. For me, I was more kinesthetic so, for me, doing some kind of movement could help me to be still. I'm kinesthetic but, at the same time, I learn. Even if I don't move, I can be still because I know how to go in the other door now. I trained myself this stillness in movement and then this movement in stillness through my entire chi, my shifu taught me that, that sort of moving center. It's the eye of the hurricane, all this turmoil but, in the eye, everything is straight. Everything is calm, quiet, collected. There's a blue sky and there's ease. The hurricane is out here. If I can hang out in a hurricane, I can hang out in the eye.

[00:42:52] David: What was the name of that book?

[00:42:54] George: My book is The Mind for Athletes: Secrets to Pure Performance, but you can take "athlete" out and then put "mindful person" or "mindful dad" or "mindful corporate warrior" or "mindful husband" or "mindful dad".

[00:43:07] David: What was the name of the book with the one minute a day for one month?

[00:43:15] George: I don't know why. I'm having a senior moment because I actually know her. If you Google one minute meditation. Elizabeth Lesser is who it is. That's right. She's going to kill me for forgetting her name. But there's all sorts of books, and apps, and other things that are available for people. Even I sometimes talk about listening meditation. If you listen to not rock and roll or heavy rock but gentle easy music like symphonic classical music, you can actually just sit there and practice just listening with your whole body, just listening.

Even for some, just sitting on this and let the sounds of the birds or even the sounds of fire engines if you live in the city, you can just notice that they come and they go and it’s your relationship to it, how did you stay in that eye of the hurricane so that you can just see what's a day without reacting. Even if you react, if you just noticed a little, showing you just ease back. You get to the point where you're, "Okay, it's just a fire engine," or, "It's just sound," and, "How do I relate to the sound? Can I keep it as sound or do I make a noise?"

[00:44:28] David: You mentioned that you've read almost a book a week for quite some time. If you could pick one book to recommend to our readers to help them succeed by putting people first, by being more mindful in their lives, what would it be?

[00:44:42] George: The Bible.

[00:44:43] David: The Bible?

[00:44:45] George: Why do I say that? Yeah, because it's always in the hotel rooms. If you look in the Bible, it talks about the breath. It talks about a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it shall be open to you. Want me to keep going? You get what I'm saying? I say that because it's there but, obviously, I could take my book or there's a lot of different books out there.

It depends on what you want for the situation but, ultimately, you'd have to understand that there's a lot of books. I can name a lot of books but it depends on what you want but as far as the practice, any book that you can read about the Eightfold Noble Path would be really, really good. There's a lot of my teachers, my friends like Joseph Goldstein has a book on mindfulness, Sharon Salzberg has books, Jack Kornfield has books, Tyler Brock has books, Jon Kabat-Zinn has books out there that talk about the practice in one formal fashion.

I would say try several and see which ones work. But the main thing is, even if you read books about neuroscience, how you create plasticity. If you want to read books–there's a lot of different books. It depends on what you are interested in. I tend to go with–I have an existential event so one book, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm, is a really good book. It's an oldie but a goodie. There's a lot of books of that were all made.

Men's Spiritual Health for the Courage to Create or the Discovery of Being. There's all sorts of books. Viktor Frankl's book on Man's Search for Meaning, there's a ton of books out there and they are all speaking about spirit in one form or other. There's a lot of books by Neville Goddard on the Power of Awareness. There's David Hawkins and his books on Power vs Force. Eddie Cayse has a book, River Runs through It, and his idea of teachings. There's just so many books. Hans Selye, The Stress of Life. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living.

There's a ton of books out there but there's a lot of books that I would say you go to the basic, to the classics like the classic books on Buddhism. It depends on how deep you want to go. My book is a really good book just to get started, and I have an idea of how I overcame my substance abuse and how I worked with lead athletes. That's obviously just one of them but there's a book called The Three Laws of Performance. There's a ton of books. I could send you a syllabus–if you want–of books that I would recommend. The Way of Man by Martin Buber. That's a really good one.

It depends but storytelling or folks–there's just so many books on psychology, philosophy, religion. But what I like about the Bible is, like I said, if you're traveling, it's right there and there's something for you to get there if you interpret it in a particular way. Like I said, a double-minded is unstable in all his ways. That's mindfulness. I could tell you that. As a man, thinking so is he. There you go. It's just funny that, all these years, all of that Sunday school classes that I had just kind of popping up in my mind.

[00:48:51] David: Right, a lot of timeless wisdom still relevant now more than ever.

[00:48:56] George: It's a wisdom literature. It doesn't matter what religion it is. If it's speaking about do good, avoid evil and purify the mind and the heart or love your enemies like Jesus Christ talks about, meet everybody with love and blessings, continuous forgiveness, compassion, the Dalai Lama–I mean, in books, he talks about, "My religion is kindness ." That's what he says. There's a lot out there. A lot of great women authors, even storytelling. Maya Angelou. A lot. There's a lot of different out there.

[00:49:36] David: You just gave us a waterfall. I think that would be enough to keep most people busy for a long time.

[00:49:43] George: One book that I think is really important for now is Tom Friedman's Thank You for Being Late: An Optimized Guide in a Time of Accelerated Change. That book talks about how to deal with change and how to begin to cultivate the community one person at time the old-fashioned way. That challenge is inclusion and adaptability.

[00:50:05] David: Those are all great recommendations, especially that last one. I hadn't heard of that one so I'll definitely be checking it out. Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and the work that you're doing?

[00:50:17] George: My website is georgemumford.com. You can find out a lot there. It's funny. It's amazing. If you Google my name, all kinds of stuff will come up. There'll be a whole bunch of videos and stuff that's out there because I've been around for a while. I've been doing stuff out there. I've been sort of in the closet for the last 30 years and not to minimize the closet, but now it is okay to talk about mindfulness and spirituality, people can have access, but I've been around for a minute.

[00:50:51] David: George, thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with us and your perspective. It's really been great.

[00:50:57] George: Thanks, David. I appreciate the invite and thank you for all your listeners. Love and blessings to you and your family and all those listening audience and all the folks and not just the listening audience but all the folks that inhabit this planet. Love and blessings.

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