Written by Ségolène

March 3, 2021

Hello lovely Voices and welcome to your first Mindful Chat! 

This month, every Wednesday, you’ll be able to listen to a special episode, where I’m bringing on a guest for a little chat. A conversation, something fairly informal and cozy.

I couldn’t have wished for a better guest to get this new series on the road. Please give a warm welcome to one of the headmasters of School of Calisthenics, the Human Flag himself: Jacko!

We have to be in the right place
to hear something.

And thus, if something keeps on cropping up in your life, you’ll eventually
reach a state where you CAN actually hear it.

In many ways, this is what happened to Jacko on his breathing adventure.
Over the past 5 years, this… This “breathing thing” kept on tip-toeing its way around
his work and life. Yet, it wasn’t until 18 months ago, after following a workshop
with Richie Norton from The Strength Temple, that it became clear this was
something he needed to explore further. 

Questions fuelled by a thirst for more knowledge, prompted a deeper reflexion about
the recovering process Jacko had gone through, following a severe brain injury
towards the end of his rugby career. At the time, doctors had encouraged him to rest,
to do nothing. And it ended up feeling like being asked “to switch off the lights”
as Jacko puts it.
But, after devouring through research from Z-Health and The Oxygen Advantage,
Jacko started his nasal breathing and breath holds adventure.

I discovered Jacko’s work, back in 2018, through the masterclasses and online content of School of Calisthenics. I was training heavily on the rings at the time, and soaking up every ounce of knowledge I could find to complement my practice. 
Came for knowledge and content,
Stayed for the good vibes and invitation to PLAY.

That sweet state of play that makes everything flow so easily… Training was the one place where somehow, at the time, I could not invite in. As some of you may know from previous episodes, I didn’t embrace movement for years after my own injury. And having finally connected to something I enjoyed doing, my own nature kicked in, and I just needed to be good at it. Queue the competition, which eventually led to “training over-dose” and burnout. Because ultimately, this is what happens when you chase perfection, I guess? 

I was reassured to hear that this is basically a very human trait. In his breath practice, following the teachings of Patrick McKeown’s Oxygen Advantage, Jacko works on his breath holds. Why? It’s a very accurate way of measuring your body’s resistance to CO2. Because breathing, is just as much about oxygen, as it is about carbon dioxyde. 

Holding your breath, in a relaxed state, allows you to see your body’s resistance to CO2, and help identify if you are suffering with a dysfunctional breathing pattern. And speaking of chasing perfection and competing with yourself, Jacko confessed that it was something he was having to work on: not chasing perfection or running a competition with himself in his breath practice. Especially now that it has become his own barometer to check in.

“Why can I not just do something without necessarily being good at it?”. And this question came up…

Because the temptation of beating yesterday’s score had already made an appearance a few times. 

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Even in moments or practices that are beneficial to us, we have a tendency to bring everything back to a competition. To having to be better, stronger… Jacko did wonder whether it was because of our education. I think it’s definitely connected, but that on top of it, we’re often fed images and slogans that encourage comparison. 

I’m interested to hear your thoughts about this first little Mindful Chat. It’s a longer episode than what I’ve gotten you used to, and a very different format at that. But as a human that craves conversation and honesty, these felt like the right thing to present to you. 

You’ll find honesty a plenty in this episode. Jacko speaks his mind, bares it all out and follows each of his thoughts all the way to the end. We had connected about a year ago to talk about the Alexander Method and breath. Fast forward to 2021: we started on breath, and the flow carried us to question learning, our connection to it, walking barefoot, driving a camper-van and reciting european capitals, brain injury and being scared

My favorite line of this conversation with Jacko was, when we were discussing his compulsory rugby retirement after his injury. Jacko confessed to being scared of playing again, and was secretly hoping that the decision to not play again would be taken from his hands. And Ultimately, it was the neuro-surgeon who broke to him the news that he would have to stop playing.
She did not expect him to be relieved. “Bless her, she didn’t know the headspace I was in!”, Jacko laughed. This news at the time brought him relief because…
“I was worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to actually to admit that I needed to stop.”

Why did this line stay with me so much? I did wonder about it for a while…

I think it stayed with me this much, because it was both raw and deeply honest. 

Honest to the past version of the Rugbyman who was scared to go back on the pitch. 

Honest to the current version of the Coach and Human Flag helping people achieve their impossible.

Honest to the future evolution of Jacko, in contact with every single part of his mind, body and oh so playful spirit. 

And you? What was your favorite moment listening in? 

I hope this episode brought you a few nuggets of widsom, and good vibes a’plenty!
I’ll catch you tomorrow for the first episode on our “Emotions in the Body” series.

Much love,