Rowing and Spirituality


Jimmy Joy is a coach, author and host of the Joy of Sculling Conferences.  He is the “philosopher coach” of the rowing world – studying the mind and how it interacts with sporting performance.

Rowperfect sells his books:

  • The Quantum Sculler – for the sculling coach and the athlete and contains new insights into how to coach flow
  • The Mind’s Eye a successful method in the implementation of a mental training program for rowers
  • Hanlan’s Spirit, training for flow  – how to achieve ‘flow’ in your rowing and achieve effortless movement
  • How to Stop Worrying as a Coach – Jimmy contributed one chapter to this fabulous resource

Our Higher Self by Jimmy Joy

The major thrust of our thinking is to work towards recognizing and thinking as one, one mind and one flowing body. We begin to see the world as one. It is a spirit and that spirit contains the body according to the thinking of Plotinus, the late 2nd century A.D. Greek. His thought moves between matter and the higher reaches of the intellect and spirit. We don’t have to develop it as it is already with us enveloping our whole self.

We simply have to return to within ourself. We see this oneness all around us.

For the younger athlete this begins with his periods of Quiet sitting that become an important ingredient of his training. We experience it when we sit in the shell and hold the sculls and when the sculls hold the magic of the living water. We recognize this integrated picture as we slide fluidly up and down the slide bed.

This fluidity is present in the part, in the movement of the hips. This is the trunk swing that is so invaluable to the smooth flow of the shell. We are a sensitive integer. This wholeness has to be reinforced with our lives out of the shell. We can’t become distracted by the separateness in our daily existence. We must remain humble and concentrated. We are striving to experience Plotinus’s “Oceanic Consciousness”.

This is a state that is completely ephemeral. It is very difficult to maintain let alone achieve. It is best approached as a state of existence by our meditative moments when we diligently practice stillness, silence, solitude, and serenity. Achieving these qualities are helpful in developing the softer, sensitive, gentler athlete, and the cosmic consciousness where everything feels lighter, more connected, and more flowing….

This pertains to our walk to the grocery store as well as to our light hand hold of the sculls. The ultimate example of the great smooth sculler will always be for me Robert Pearce; he was truly effortless. However, the Oceanic Consciousness is the extreme high end our consciousness spectrum that we try to experience at least a glimpse. It is a target for the inner man. We live so much as an outer man so it is a nice change to do our daily sitting working on our inner persona.

Looking at the movement of persons I think of James Cagney, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Michail Baryshnikov, and Rudolf Nureyev from the world of dance. There was a lightness, a subtlety and power to their motions. Peggy Fleming simply glided above the surface of the ice and I am certain that she now does the same in her sculling moments at Craftsbury. From the sporting world came Mulhammed Ali, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, Sugar Ray Robinson, who would dance professionally. All were great physical specimens encapsulated in a huge spirit. From football my mind still sees Gale Sayers and the incomparable Jimmy Brown twisting, turning,and dancing past their opponents. They seemed to move with a minimum of light contact with the gridiron. Again great spirits.

Finally, there is the wonderful European mystic and educator Rudolf Steiner gliding effortlessly to the podium to make a presentation. He was always in a state of bodily and mental flow. He was a spirit on the move.

To be holistic we should begin with looking at the whole, the spirit of the person and the spirit of the endeavour. Instead we begin with an absolute preoccupation with the body. We forget the body is contained by the Spirit.


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