Oprah and Phil Jackson


Holy Roller. Student of Philosophy. Truth Seeker. Zen Master. One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. Best-selling author of Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success. Tallest guest on Super Soul Sunday.

Born in a strict religious home, Phil Jackson recalls spending most of his time in church. While his parents groomed him to become a minister, Jackson found his true calling in sports. Basketball and baseball were his doors to freedom and a college education. During his first semester at college, he received a rude spiritual awakening. Learning about Darwinism threw a monkey wrench into the mind of the good catechism student who had memorized 175 scriptures. He changed his major to philosophy, psychology and religion.

During the telecast, Jackson shared some of his experiences as player and coach in a world filled with “a lot of tall egos and money.” He has firsthand knowledge of the harsh realities that exist within the NBA. The players live in a constant state of anxiety, worried that they will be hurt or humiliated, cut or traded.

As a coach, Jackson focused on building up the mental strength of the players. He provided opportunities to explore by introducing them to yoga, Tai Chi and meditation. In the end, meditation stuck.

Three Zen Principles that have shaped Phil Jackson’s life…

Giving up control

He begins each day with a quiet mind and prefers to sit back and observe. A tactic that served him well in his dealings with Dennis Rodham, the rebel and rule bender who was well known for his aggressive plays and his antics off the basketball court.

Trust in the moment

Even in the tensest moment, Jackson is able to center himself. He advises anyone struggling with this principle to ask themselves the following question: Is what’s happening at this moment going to destroy your life?

Living in compassion

When Oprah commented that it is difficult to be compassionate about our competitors, Jackson countered with, “I’ll bring out the best in you and you bring out the best in me.”

Quotable Quotes…

Basketball is a spiritual game.

One breath | One mind

A leader has to create the space for other people to step in and be bigger.

That’s what stardom is all about: Making everyone else better.

Some of us are doing our best and don’t even know it.

The difference between religion and spirituality is doctrine.

Let it go, like a cloud passing through the sky. Breathe through it.


4 responses to “Oprah and Phil Jackson

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