First of all my grandma is a one-eyed Collingwood supporter and she is so excited that i’m interviewing Heritier Lumumba, aka Harry O’brien, today! She says, “gee he’s a lovely boy.”
I find it so comforting talking to people about consciousness and awareness. It reminds me that i’m not alone. I remember having my first experience of space when I was around 12. These strange thoughts entered my head, “what if nothing existed?”, “why am I here?”… These questions seem to be accompanied by a silent and still moment of separation, before I snapped back into reality and got on with my childhood. Later in my teens I started experiencing anxiety and it wasn’t until I was 18 that “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle fell into my hands at a second-hand book store and this, I would say, marked the beginning of understanding who I really am. Then came Deepak, Dr Wayne Dyer, Neale Donald Walshe, Louise Hay, Dan Millman and now Heritier Lumumba.
I like to think we’re naturally attracted to like-minded people and I definitely think the man we are meeting today is like-minded. Heritier Lumumba is an AFL football player here in Australia. “A champion.” as my grandma would say.
I remember a story my fiance told me a few years ago about Heritier that made me think, “wow, he’s a spiritual dude”. My fiance is a musician and had a gig at the corner hotel. I wasn’t there at the time but he told me that before he went on stage to perform infront of about 800+ people, Heritier took him into a little huddle, closed his eyes and said a prayer to god to bless him and make sure he had a good show.. What a legend! And then I saw him meditating on the front page of the newspaper. And then finally, to confirm that he was really into this stuff, I listened to him talk at the “I Can Do It” Conference in Melbourne, before Neale Donald Walshe. So I had to know who is Heritier Lumumba and when will I meet him? …Today!
When did you first start meditating and why?
I learnt how to do transendental meditation in 2009. It was during a time when I was facing a lot of adversity. I wrote in my book about having to deal with the suicide of my step father and a whole other series of complications from that and life became really complicated for me. I noticed that my mind was racing and full of negativity and bad self talk and I think that was a direct result of the trauma of dealing with death and grieving. So, being the person that I am, who is constantly looking for ways to improve, which I think comes from being a professional athlete as well, I thought that finding ways of proactively improving my mental state would be crucial not only to sport and playing at a high level, but for my life in general.
At the time I was reading a lot of books on self-help and the theme of meditation was something that just kept recurring and I decided that i’d give it a go. I started off with guided meditation cd’s. I was doing it on and off and it wasn’t until I learnt the transendental meditation from a qualified teacher that I was able to find a technique that worked for me.
What is transcendental meditation?
So, the transdental meditation technique is a practise where you’re given a mantra that you repeat over and over again in your mind and what actually happens when you’re sitting with your eyes closed and you’re repeating the mantra is that you’ll realise that a lot of thoughts will arise, but because you’re constantly repeating the mantra, the thoughts and the mantra, sort of blend into one and then they just cancel each other out and you will experience moments of complete stillness and then you’ll go, “Oh i’m doing it! I’m doing it!”…. “Oh shit i’ve just started thinking again..” So you come back to the mantra. The more you do it the better you get, like with anything else and I certainly notice a huge difference when I fall out of routine and when I do really focus on my meditation, it just enriches every facet of my life.
Do I need to go to a qualified transendental meditation teacher or can I just start meditating now at home?
I think if you’re to invest in going to someone that’s a qualified teacher thats always beneficial. But you don’t have to start meditation that way, I was just fortunate enough that that was my path. But there are so many different technques out there and I find that meditating in a group is probably the most powerful thing. There’s something about the group consciousness that really makes the meditation so powerful and there are so many different meditation groups or classes, there’s so much out there now on the internet so its quite easy for people to find a technique. What ever it is i don’t think it really matters its just allowing yourself and treating yourself to that stillness. Giving yourself a chance to cultivate peace and serenity. Find what works and what doesn’t work as long as you commit to it.
How easy is it to be still and meditate?
I think if you were to pick out 100 random people in society and say “stand still and be silent and close your eyes”, it takes a lot of people out of their comfort zone and because of the constant stimuli that we have in our society, particularly living in a big city, people never really get to experience stillness or you know, that silence, and we don’t allow ourselves enough time to experience that. So it is a challenge for a lot of people, particularly in todays age of social media, instagram, facebook and twitter, we’re constantly being stimulated. Some of us become some what addicted to that way of living so when you shut everything off we’re out of our comfort zone.
Heritier’s Tips on meditation:
- For Transendental meditation you do it first thing in the morning after you way up.
- You should get a little active before you start so you don’t go fall straight back to sleep, so maybe get up and have a shower or stretch for 10 mins and wait til you’re awake, meditate for 20 minutes and then again 20mins before you have dinner when you get home from work.
- Make a commitment. To get into that routine it takes a lot of commitment because you’ll find that there’s that many different distractions out there but its something that if you commit to you will certainly see the benefits. It is still hard for me sometimes, but that’s why its so important to stay connected to your purpose cos’ for me I know what the benefits are.
- And prior to engaging in a practise like meditation I encourage people to really have a look at it, look at the science behind it and see that it’s something that will really benefit their life.
Do you like to cook?
No, but my girlfriend is a fantastic cook though.
How important is eating healthy/nutrition to you?
Food obviously for athletes is such an important thing. In terms of elite sport in Australia, I think we really get our wisdom and sports nutrition handed down from europe and USA, but i feel as though the existing paradigm that’s used is becoming less relevant. I think the next level of optimising performance will come through nutrition as athletes begin to realise that the existing paradigm of carb loading and wasting your calories, so to speak, on foods that aren’t nutrient dense is not the best for your preparation or optimising performance. So for myself it’s an education process.
What foods do you like to use in preparation for a game and during your training?
A simple one, just for hydration which is extremely important for us, is coconut water. Gatorade is a thing of the past for me. I choose to hydrate using coconut water, which is an easy substitute. Sport is fueled by the corporate world and there is a lot of money in sport and marketing companies like gatorade, coco-cola and powerade and there are far more superior products out there that are natural. For me, being in the football world where we’re taught by the so-called authorities that something is good for you and accepting that, means that you are disempowering yourself. I’ve always been someone that’s been inquisitive, i’m always looking for new ways to do things, to innovate and reinvent and im certainly on that journey at the moment with nutrition.
Being conscious about what you eat in the way that I am, goes hand in hand with my spirituality because I think it’s all inter-related.
What book has had the biggest influence on your life?
That’s a good question. The first book that pops into my mind and also being an athlete the book that really did shape my life was “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman. It’s just such a beautifully written book. It did show me that spiritually is such as huge part of being an athlete and in actual fact without the spirituality, there is no real power and the more you sort of wake up to the spirit and start to find ways and modalities to use and enhance the power that you have, everything in your life improves. After reading that book, football wasn’t just sport for me it became a spiritual practise just like a martial art. So thats a book that made a profound impact on my life.
How did you create success in your life?
My perception of success isn’t necessarily measured in terms of what your occupation is or what you’re earning but my definition of success is whether or not you’ve found that thing that you were born to do. What I mean by born to do, is that when we come into this world we’re just pure potential that has a unique trait and that unique trait, whatever it may be, is what makes you who you are and no one is better at being you than yourself. I think the whole journey of life is about finding out ways in which you can use those unique traits that you have to enrich other peoples lives. So that’s the journey that i’m on and I think the best way to go about finding success is to seek experience. Work out for yourslef through simple trial and error, what resonates with you and what doesn’t resonate with you. So that would be my biggest bit of advice.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Hip Hop is a big part of my life. I’ve been listening to a lot of older stuff like wutang clan. For a lot of people hip hop has a certain stigma attached to it, but a lot of people don’t realise where the movement originated and the wisdom and the elements of hip hop. The Wu Tang Clan were certainly torch bearers for those elements. Im currently reading a book called The Tao of the Rizza. It’s an amazing book. So far it covers all topics from divine mathematics to chess and metaphysics. I think the best thing about music is you might have heard a song a thousand times before but as your awareness expands it just hits you and sort of slaps you in the face and its like, “OMG, I didn’t realise this whole time i’ve been listening to this song how profound this was.” I find i’ve been doing that a lot. To chill out I listen to fat freddy’s drop they are like a ska reggae group from new zealand.
What’s one thing you’d like to add to your life to make it even better?
I think just constantly staying connected and trying to be as peaceful as I can and making that a priority. Cultivating inner peace.
Do you drink alcohol?
I actually don’t. Alcohol is something that I eradicated from my life a couple of years ago. I must admit there has been a couple of occasions where i’ve had the odd social drink. To me alcohol is probably the worst drug out there.
It’s Cool to be Conscious:
Harry O’Brien is widely recognised as an elite professional football playing in the AFL. Less known is the fact that . . . deep down . . . Harry is a philosopher by heart.
There have been many obstacles in Harry’s personal life. In dealing with these, Harry has developed an appreciation that his story may inspire others to overcome their own challenges.
It’s Cool to be Conscious, includes personal stories from Harry’s life, both on and off the field. He shares the four pillars that he believes can help anyone to achieve their very best:
- Seek a wide range of experiences
- Believe you can control the outcomes in your life
- Be open to the potential that life has to offer
- Mediate to clear the mind and calm your thoughts
- With the same passion that he applies to AFL football, Harry now wants to help others. His frank and engaging story just may be the inspiration you need you to follow your dreams, forge your own path and kick some goals!
You can get Heritier’s new Book It’s Cool to be Conscious through the any of the following links in paperback or digital format: