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Monday, April 23, 2012

it's how you play the game

I had a big AHA today.  I have a tennis lesson every Monday morning.  This morning, I was telling the pro that sometimes I zone out mid-point and fall apart, especially during lessons and clinics.  But in matches I can usually turn my mind "on" and keep it "on" b/c I want to perform well for the sake of the people I'm playing with.  The pro was like, “Well, and b/c you want to win.”  Then I said, “Honestly, I really don’t care about winning.”  A perplexed look crossed on his face.  

This is a recurring conversation for me - this debate about winning - b/c winning is something in which I place very little value and many people cannot relate or understand.  
Today, I connected a few dots between my apathy about winning and the spiritual teachings I’ve worked on recently and wanted to share why I think the coveted W is so grossly overvalued.  
To be clear, I’m not discouraging sport or success.  Sports, like any activity or job that requires competitive action, is part of life.  But we humans take success to a level of crazy that undercuts the spirit and causes us unnecessary emotional pressure.  
Like Krishna says in The Gita, "You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work."  In other words, we decide when to work and how hard, but the win is in God’s hands.  And nothing we do can change that.  I'm picturing that bumper sticker:  "Let Go and Let God".  

When we work hard, chances improve for winning, and we will, as a result, gain success, pride, joy, confidence and comfort.  Those yummy feelings typically associated with the W already exist, though - or at least the potential for those feelings exist.  They exist in the spirit, in that NOW moment.   When we can quiet our egos and allow ourselves to experience those feelings habitually, the power of the win loses its value.  And then we find that true reward is in the PLAYING.  We learn through the games.  We learn about commitment and capacity and capability.  We connect to concentration and experience joy and passion.  
Deepak Chopra in his book Buddha says, “Winning and losing are the same.  Both are nothing.”  I think about this every single day.  All earthly events are neutral.  We can thank the beautiful balance of karma for that.  But beyond neutrality, and perhaps more easy to understand than the universal laws of karma, is the compassion that exists, or doesn’t exist in the WIN. 
For most of us, when we get really good at something, our egos grow bold.  Our egos say, “You’re the best!  Take this loser down!  You can beat her!  Get that Win!”  Then we win and our competitor’s ego says, “You suck.  I can’t believe you lost.  You should’ve done things differently.”  Compassion is the missing component here -  compassion for self and for others.  If the scenario flips, so does the energy.  Either way, someone is losing, and statistically it won't always be our competitor.  
While one rejoices in the glory, another wallows in sorrow.  Some might say, “Don't be naive or unrealistic.  There will always be winners and losers. That’s how the world works!”   But why does the world work this way?    Aren’t we created in the image of God?  In this human existence where ego rules, we are constantly hurting each other.  Physically, emotionally or otherwise.  Why accept that as reality?  Is our higher spirit spiking the ball in the end zone when we win?  I doubt it.  God’s love is for everyone.  Even the losers.  Under our skin suits glows a beautiful heavenly light.  The same light that glows under the skin of our competitors.  
We are souls.  And every soul derives from the same source.  So technically when we are beating another person, we are beating ourselves.  BUT:  When we are practiced in good sportsmanship and can see ourselves in our competitor, when we commit to a discipline and use our superpowers of mindfulness and compassion, we are serving our higher selves.  Win or lose.
Some people are hard-wired with desire to kick ass.  And that’s okay.  Competition is the human condition.  And for those of us who eat, sleep and breath the W, athletics is an ideal outlet for passion, aggression, joy and pride.  And in sport, there are countless opportunities for spiritual growth through discipline, compassion, mindfulness, self-reliance and trust, creativity, spontaneity, joy and service.
But if we can CHANGE the VALUE of the WIN, if we can SEE the TRUTH of the PROCESS, if we can BELIEVE that the REAL VALUE is found in the LEARNING and the DISCIPLINE, we will find greater compassion for our competitors and for ourselves.  and THAT, my friends, is WINNING.

peace, love, gratitude,

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