The story of the Thai boys soccer team trapped in a cave for two weeks has captivated millions of people around the world. Lost since June 23rd, the group spent ten whole days without any contact with anyone in the outside world. Their plight was finally discovered on July 2nd and they were rescued on July 10th.
It turned out that Ekapol Chanthawong, the 25-year-old coach of the 12-player Wild Boars soccer team, is a former Buddhist monk. He spent a decade living as a monk and is a practitioner of meditation. It is that skill that has been credited with keeping the boys calm during this ordeal. In fact, when the British divers discovered them after ten days, the group was meditating.
Aisha Wiboonrungrueng, the mother of the 11-year-old Chanin, who was trapped in the cave, thinks the coach’s background definitely helped in this situation. Watching the video of the moment the boys were found, she thought it was very noteworthy how calm they were.
“Look at how calm they were sitting there waiting,” she said. ”No one was crying or anything. It was astonishing.”
Leah Weiss, a Standford expert taught by the Dalai Lama, told CNBC that meditating played a key role in keeping the group alive. It’s a kind of mental training that improves focus and compassion, according to the expert.
“For Buddhists, meditation is a go-to when distressed or in danger,” Weiss said. “Cognitive resources that would otherwise be hijacked by the threat can be accessed once again, meaning that problem-solving capacities increase.”
In particular, she said that not enough “air and food was a major issue for the trapped boys, meditation is actually a very practical response to both of these concerns.”
Meditation works by creating a calming effect by slowing down the heart rate, breathing and metabolism, says Weiss. It also helps to lower the levels of cortisol and oxygen utilisation. A meditating person would also actually emit less carbon dioxide.
More details about how the boys got trapped inside the cave in the first place are yet to be uncovered, but it looks to be a very dramatic real-world demonstration of the power of meditation and meditation in action.
The incident confirms a steadily growing body of research that supports how meditation and mindfulness practices lead to lower stress levels, improved positivity, and creativity as well as clearer focus and protection from depression.