“We are limitless in what we can achieve…”
…despite being continually conditioned by society, the media and the world around us to think otherwise since the day we were born.
And so begins our fascinating conversation with Danny Donachie, former Medical Director of UK Premier League football club Everton, and highly sought after coach and consultant for leading CEOs and sporting stars alike.
As Danny goes on to explain, we are immensely powerful beings that arrived in this world with far more potential than we have been led to believe, restricted by a paradigm that we can only run so fast, climb so high, and achieve so much. We burden ourselves by the boundaries we set.
His empowering words emanate from his calm and thoughtful presence.
“When we’re born, we’re not limited at all. Our consciousness is open and we’re completely connected to everything. But gradually over time we unlearn this, becoming conditioned and shaped by the people and experiences we encounter as we grow. And I think the process of life is about relearning, or remembering, the truth of who we truly are, dissolving the limitations that have built up and unlocking our full potential.”
This is what Danny is here to do.
Help those who already perform at the top of their game, whether on the pitch or in the boardroom, to reconnect with something beyond their current limitations. To empower their potential and their experience of life.
The yogi of professional football
Danny made a name for himself by introducing a new, yet ancient, dimension to professional football. In a time when physical ability and skill was the primary focus, he helped players tap into something greater than themselves through the power of yoga and meditation.
His approach delivered incredible results for individual players and the teams as a whole, as he expanded the concept of health and wellbeing beyond traditional physiotherapy and psychology in what is often a very stressful environment.
His interest in Eastern philosophy was influenced by his father, 1970s Scottish footballer and Everton Assistant Manager Willie Donachie, who introduced him to mindfulness and meditation at a young age.
Such early curiosity resulted in many informative and inspiring life experiences. This included silent retreats with modern day Indian mystic Sadhguru, over 20 years of yoga practice with leading teachers such as Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, and the intriguing study of phenomenology (you might need to Google that one).
Danny’s not your everyday health or mindset coach, that’s for sure!
Several years ago, he launched Embodyism: a transformative coaching business that combines the best of neuroscience, mindfulness and spiritual development to help entrepreneurs, business leaders and a wide range of athletes reach new heights in their life and career.
He continues to work 121 with many high profile professional footballers, as well as leading athletes in other sports, such as tennis player Ana Ivanovic and boxer Tony Bellow.
The power in the present moment
Credentials established, we start to explore the practice of meditation, which has become more mainstream over recent years and increasingly accepted within Western society. We asked Danny why he thinks this is the case.
“It’s becoming more common because people are desperate,” he explained. “Anxiety is a huge problem in the modern world.”
Citing a recent study from the World Health Organisation, he reflected on the fact that depression is now the biggest source of disability in the world, ahead of cancer or any other illness. It’s a shocking and sobering fact to hear, but maybe not that surprising when we consider the challenges the world has faced of late and the impact technology is having on the human condition.
The more device driven and digitally connected we become, the more the pace of life seems to accelerate. The more time and attention we give to apps, social media and self monitoring tools, the more we become disconnected from ourselves and our true nature.
The evidence for this is all around us, and Danny is clear on the antidote.
“Enhancing our awareness of the present moment is the key,” he says. “And the way we do that is through the body. Letting go of the thinking mind, which is continually projecting us into the past or into the future, and dropping into this very moment by bringing our awareness and focused attention into the body.”
The practice of meditation is an important tool to help us do that. But as Danny goes on to explain, it’s not the only way to become present.
“Practising meditation isn’t actually meditation. Meditation is a state that you come to. Meditation is presence, however that is achieved.”
For a lot of people, meditation looks like sitting in a room on your own, eyes closed, trying to empty your mind by focusing on your breathing. Not necessarily the idea of a good time for the thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies amongst us!
In reality, it can be anything that calms your mind and brings you into the now with full awareness and attention. And if you’re doing that in the midst of nature it can be even more powerful.
This is great news for outdoor sports enthusiasts, as Danny agrees that such activities literally force us into the present moment by their very nature. If you’re into climbing, hiking, trail running or thrashing down the slopes at speed we’re sure you’ll know exactly what he means.
Feeling into flow
It’s at this point our conversation turns to what is known as the flow state. A subject we covered in a previous interview with author and researcher Steven Kotler.
When we’re in flow, we are truly immersed in the present. It’s that sense of fluidity between your body and mind that allows you to be 100% absorbed in something. You’re not thinking. You’re not ruminating. You are right here, right now.
It’s a powerful state, where time seems to disappear, or slow down, and you feel completely at one with everything around you.
All great athletes and top performers know what this feels like. And if you’re into the more extreme stuff, it’s an essential part of the whole experience. Because you let go of fear in the process. You have to, because fear will hold you back. Fear will cause you to make mistakes, the wrong move, and not believe in your own potential.
When you’re in flow, you have no fear.
“The flow state is truly being in the now moment, which is what most sports are really about,” says Danny. “When you watch the top performers, they’re not thinking about anything else, they’re completely focused and absorbed in what they are doing. It’s just like during a meditation, releasing you from negative self-talk, clearing the mental fog and bringing a great sense of clarity, peace and oneness.”
He goes on to explain that when we’re in the great outdoors, we’re naturally immersed into a deeper state as our bodies sync with nature’s vibrations. When you’re truly in the moment, you allow yourself to switch off, making it easier to connect with something deeper.
And this is how we return to the topic of transformation and maximising human potential. This is his mission in life and the reason his clients engage him.
The spirit of transformation
Historically, sports performance was focused on the physical, the body, and fine tuning it like a machine to extract its most efficient performance.
Then came sports psychology, understanding one’s mind, and how to develop that extra edge through self belief.
Both of these aspects still matter. But the true edge is found in the realm of the spirit, the unseen, the greater consciousness that many top performers are now starting to fully embrace.
Danny’s work lies in facilitating this awakening.
“Through a dedicated and consistent meditation practice, I finally experienced something beyond the body and the mind,” he tells us. “I fully embraced and accepted that we are something far greater than we could ever imagine.”
He’s here to help people tap into that. And he helps athletes and business people alike understand how to let go of their conditioning, and expand their awareness beyond the limited self to not only boost their careers, but fill their lives with more ease and joy.
Just talking to him makes you feel good. It makes you aware of something more. And that’s both inspiring and comforting at the same time.
Paradigms are there to be shifted.
The 4-minute mile was only an unreachable goal until someone smashed past it.
Mohammed Ali became the greatest boxer that ever lived by proclaiming it as so.
What paradigms do you want to break out of in your own life?
What limits do you want to smash through in the sports you do?
Take Danny’s advice and feel into the present moment as often as you can.
“Remember what it feels like in the body when you’re out there on the trails, down the tracks, skimming the slopes. And bring the memory of that feeling with you into your day-to-day experience. Drop into your body, and then use that awareness to sense something beyond your body and mind, something greater than the self, something that can move through you and expand your experience of life and power all your achievements.”
You can find out more about Danny’s work on his website – embodyism.com