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From loss of eyesight to professional Judo player

by Jonathan Drane

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Losing a significant amount of my eyesight over a period of four years demanded a great deal of changes and adjustments. One example is the closing down of my plumbing and heating business because my level of eyesight made me ineligible to drive. However, I found myself quickly swept into a lifestyle competing as a Visually Impaired Judo Player. Representing Great Britain in 2014, I won a bronze at the IBSA World Championships and, thus, the potential to compete at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro became a reality. It was at this point in my life that I found Headspace, a Christmas present from my brother and sister.

After such a result, your own expectations and other’s around you change. Suddenly, you find yourself having to constantly account for where you are and what you are doing. There are heightened demands on your concentration and you lose that sensation of being ‘in the moment,’ something which is hugely important in sport – a state of flow. Headspace has become a huge performance tool for me, especially leading up to a tournament. A week before competing, I reach a point of saying ‘I have done everything I can to be ready for this,’ all I can do is focus on how I ‘feel.’ That is, the build-up to an event becomes all about being submissive to the moment, and this is where Headspace plays its biggest part, particularly as an escape. One example of a potential challenge experienced in elite performance is other people’s behaviour and how it can change; whilst they are not coping, it is important that you do – insert meditation.

Headspace has become a huge performance tool for me, especially leading up to a tournament.

Most recently, Headspace has found a new position in my life. The journey for Paralympic qualification had been going exceptionally well, and among my weight class I was ranked third in the world. Yet, things took a dramatic change – injury. Consequently, I have had major knee reconstruction, of which a painful and slow nine months return to competition lies ahead. Subsequently, I miss out on valuable ranking events and could jeopardise my chances of Paralympic qualification. As I sit here, icing my knee, on the hour, every hour (deep sigh) it is very easy to feel down about things – and I do, regularly. With all this free time, my mind is inundated with ‘what ifs’, especially focused at the harsh reality that after I retire from sport I have no clue what I am going to do with my life, nor that I have not really had time to accept and deal with sight loss. Despite all my negative thoughts, it is reassuring to know that within Headspace, I can momentarily gain back those moments of awe in life and be fully present.

On reflection, the impact of treating yourself to a bit of silence can be simply incredible. The initial introduction of Headspace into my life was somewhat of a novelty. After all, what can you achieve doing nothing (simple terms) for ten minutes – WRONG, turns out doing nothing can be quite profound. Finally, whilst helping me escape the depression associated with my sight loss, my Headspace practice has also helped me to appreciate things that go unnoticed.

The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was not paid for their writing.