The Zen of Refereeing

by Sw Anand Sonam

Right awareness means attention without tension, a relaxed kind of watchfulness, just seeing, not making an effort, not striving: an effortless awareness. In the beginning it looks very paradoxical – effortlessness and awareness – but once you start working on it, slowly slowly the knack is learned.

Osho, Sermons in Stones

hese words of Osho have always held a special meaning for me, but I only realized how precious they are over these last few months. That’s when I decided to temporarily trade in my mala for a Fox 40 whistle and joined the British Columbia Basketball Official Association to become a referee.

I am not and have never pretended to be an athlete. I’m more of what you would call a “granola” artist meditator. But after carrying this identity for about ten years I decided it was time to work on my “hara” and I joined the world of “jocks.”

I attended the classes necessary to teach me the fundamentals of the sport. I went to various seminars with other candidates and then, after four intense months, I took the provincial exam and was ready to referee... or so I thought.

Refereeing a high school basketball game requires running down the length of the gymnasium about every two minutes for 1½ hours. At the same time, the ref must stay focused on the game and look out for possible violations. If he sees any, he must blow his whistle, stop the game, give the necessary signals to the officials table, administer the penalty and then restart the game.

“It sounds like quite a challenge but nothing too impossible,” I said to myself. Well let me tell you that I was totally wrong! It was absolutely impossible! Officiating my first basketball game could only be compared to trying to control the movement of ten wild horses while at the same time making sure that I wouldn’t get trampled. I couldn’t catch my breath. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going and went home feeling wrecked from the experience. The next few games were still very difficult. Although I was getting in better physical shape I was hurrying my calls and the coaches and part of the audience were beginning to complain.

Here was a situation where I had no choice but to be total. Finally one day, during a very important AA tournament, I just “relaxed.” It was as if I stopped thinking with my head and decided to let my training take over completely. It was an exhilarating moment. Everything started running smoothly and I actually felt energized by the end of the match.

As the season progressed I continued to apply this newfound wisdom to my work and surprisingly enough, I was able to carry on in a much more playful way.

Now that the season is over, I am truly grateful for the experience and I find it very exciting to have found a niche in the world where the Zen stick of Osho’s wisdom was able to come out and lightly nudge me over the head. Thank you Osho!

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