Getting Inside the Heads of Chris Sharma, Steph Davis, and Dean Potter

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Meet Mark Coleman, Prana's mindfulness ambassador. The Indian-sitting, mono-talking, easy-smiling, poetry-writing, meditating, Englishman-moved-to-the-United States-who-then-discovered-he's-a-nature-lover is the clothing company's zen adviser to athletes and employees. He sits down with everyone at Prana, from the rock climbers to the sales team, to unlock their potential by opening them up to mindful living, or, being in the present. Coleman is a Buddhist teacher at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, the founder of The Mindfulness Institute, and the owner of the website Awake in the Wild. His core belief goes something like this:

My passion is leading meditation workshops and retreats deep in the heart of nature. My aim is to help others discover the depth of what is possible when we go into the natural world with a contemplative spirit –- in silence, receptivity and a curious spirit. For the past 20 years I have been exploring what it means to be awake, to meditate with presence in nature. It has been the richest journey of my life and continues to nourish me as well as bring renewal, purpose and a deep love of the earth and all its sublime teachings. I look forward to meeting you on this journey.

Right about now you may be questioning why an American clothing company would hire a mindful living instructor. Prana's core message will give you the answer you seek: “prAna, an ancient Sanskrit word for breath, life and vitality of the spirit, has helped guide our actions and lift our aspirations since day one.”

Recently, Prana released three videos showing how Coleman works with the company's biggest athletes:  Chris Sharma, Dean Potter, and Steph Davis. Don't dismiss the videos solely because you believe the work of someone like Coleman is mumbo jumbo. The series shows how outdoor icons who regularly push the limits of their sports think about fear, excitement and obstacles. Coleman talks to Chris Sharma about why, after years and dozens of attempts on the same obstacle in a climb, things can just click and he accomplishes his goals. Steph Davis admits she's scared all the time and thinks that there are two types of fear. Dean Potter talks about the internal feelings he gets from slacklining, BASE jumping, and climbing. “The danger for me activates higher awareness,” he says. “And I have sensations and feelings I don't have otherwise. That's why I'm out there.”

It would be easy enough to also brush these videos off as a company initiative. The truth is, athletes such as Potter have always said that sitting down and meditating helps them clear their heads of all outside influences so that they can focus more on the details when scaling up a route in which failure often means death.

Still, I get it, you might have been seeking something more out of this post. For a more scientific description of what's going on in the heads of extreme athletes, check out “This is Your Brain on Adventure,” by Florence Williams.

–Joe Spring

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