August 23, 2009
It’s boules in French and bocce in Italian, and both are names for the metal balls used in variations on a game commonly played in France and Italy. I used to like to watch the old Italian men in empty lots and on playgrounds after school hours rolling the balls around and sipping liqueur. I never figured the game out, and it certainly never occurred to me that boules would one day be declared a helpful aid to meditation practice. But here you have it, from one French Zen Master Keisen, who "believes that similar qualities are required for la pétanque [a form of boules] and Buddhist meditation — such as an ability to ignore outside distractions," according to the Times (UK):
“Excellence is achieved by letting yourself go and by not identifying yourself with illusory aspects,” [Keisen] said. “At a certain moment, there is a unity of body, soul and breathing. You forget yourself and others. You’re not here, you’re not there, you’re everywhere."
But hey, that sounds a lot like the theory of flow—so wouldn't nearly any activity do? Not to rankle the Gauls, but didn't we know this? Anyway, editor-at-large Andrew Cooper did, and lived to write about it in the pages of Tricycle. Pretty interesting stuff, you can read it here.
And about boules—I have no doubt it can be a meditative experience, depending on how much pastis you consume while doing it.