Updated: Feb 15, 2020
The Thailand soccer team’s heroic rescue and safe homecoming has beaconed a bright light around the world. It is a story full of complexities that thankfully ended in a way that was uplifting, as well as being a testament to the power of miracles.
Everyone I talk to in regards to this story seems to have one aspect in particular that they are fascinated by. From the detailed escape to the mechanical logistics to the challenging weather conditions, these young warriors were facing so many different obstacles.
The entire story has left me in awe in many ways, but the aspect that I have been most fasinated by is the fact that the coach, Ekapol Chantawong, was once a monk. The strong meditation practice that he shared has been revealed to have played a part in how all of the boys survived the 16 days in a cave, in beyond terrifying and dangerous conditions.
Immediately upon hearing about Ekapol’s past, I wanted to learn more. So, of course, I went to where we go: Google. I stumbled upon an amazing piece from The Washington Post, which covered this exact topic in a very profound way.
In her piece ‘Thai soccer coach meditated with boys to calm them in the cave. We can all learn from them’, writer Kristin Clark Taylor discusses how Ekapol approached this extraordinary crisis utilizing his background and skills in mindfulness and meditation. He was able to model stillness and peace for these young boys, and this was ultimately a factor in helping to keep both their mental and physical health stable.
Taylor writes: “Ekapol helped keep the boys breathing and emotionally balanced during the crisis, and also readied them for their hours-long treacherous escape guided by expert cave divers. In the process, he also gave them vital tools they needed — specifically, teaching them how to tap into their own tranquility and inner stillness. He taught them how to keep themselves calm; a minor but magnificent distinction.”
There was a collective breath felt around the world when all of the boys and Ekapol were saved. It was a miracle! As challenging as this event was, it left us with a model of how teamwork among nations, ingenuity, creative thinking, and meditation can all be woven together in a harmonious way.
The collective prayers around the world have been another example of beauty within this story. There are so many lessons to take away here.
Another aspect of this story, which I respect tremendously, is the fact that the Thai government intends to continue caring for the team and their coach now that they are in safety. This care will include making sure that they continue to stay emotionally well as they re-adjust after this crisis. From what I have read, the team will continue to live together, with complete access to their families and the outside world. This treatment and observation is intended as a way of making sure that if symptoms of PTSD do occur in any of the boys, they will be treated individually, but they will also be surrounded by the support system of their teammates who can relate to their trauma.
The power of meditation demonstrated in this story motivates me to continue my work promoting meditation while continuing my own daily practice. Both in times of peace and in times of crisis, meditation is something that we all have access to, if we allow ourselves to go there. Hopefully we all are familiar with the benefits of meditation, and how spending a few minutes throughout the day to catch our breath has the ability to preserve our spirit while allowing us to be the best versions of ourselves.
Although most of us know on an intellectual level of the genuine benefits of meditation, we still sometimes resist, or are skeptical. As meditation continues to become more popular and normalized within our society, my hope is that these stigmas might lessen.
There are tremendous resources available that can help kids, teens, and adults learn how to meditate in the hopes of reducing anxiety, stress, and overall emotional angst. Children who begin to learn about meditation at an early age show greater emotional resilience, less hyperactivity, and better frustration tolerance.
The young warriors and their coach Ekapol are symbols of so much positivity and hope. Again as we reflect on this story and this miracle, there is so much that we can take away.
I encourage everyone to think about how meditation can help improve our own daily lives. What would it mean to take a few minutes everyday, to check in and feel your breath? What would it mean to allow yourself to be still? What would it feel like to have a few minutes to clear your mind?
In the case of Ekapol and his young warriors, finding their breath during their time of crisis helped them to not only survive but thrive. In many ways, by finding their breath through meditation, they were able to catch their breath once they were rescued. At the end of a very long and traumatic experience it seems that these warriors will continue to thrive while using this experience as an opportunity for continued growth. I have tremendous respect for them all, including Ekapol, who helped them survive amidst these arduous emotional and physical conditions.
Next week, I plan on posting more resources for learning about meditation at all ages, including a few easy steps that we can take towards formulating a regular practice. Until then, I urge you in the biggest of ways to think about how meditation can help us all live more peacefully, and give us the chance to catch our breath.
Till next week,