As we talked through the half-time state of play of his soccer match, my grandson expressed an openness to some helpful ideas I shared with him. He went back on and scored a goal immediately, and soon after I saw him patting a team-mate on the back following a similar success.
Rather than counselling on techniques or from a sports psychology perspective, I’d focussed his attention on the spiritual nature of the game: had he noticed that when they worked together as a team quite a big change occurred? I shared how love for individual team members and joy in the game itself is what brings success. When he felt a teammate wasn’t working as a team-player my grandson could go out of his way to applaud his efforts, even if his mate wasn’t reciprocating yet. On this otherwise unremarkable Saturday morning, a spiritual approach to his soccer match had transformed his game, and the score.
The extensive scholarly literature about sport and spirituality reports experiences by many thousands of athletes, with and without religious affiliations, that are frequently described as spiritual. They are collectively called “being in the zone.” Sports psychologist, Mark Nesti, has identified that spiritual experiences in sport have much in common with feelings of intense love.
Learning how love, joy, compassion, strength, balance and respect lead to sports success is important. Even more important, is to know that the source of our ability to express them is divine. Athletes who know this might practise these five essentials.
Always start with stillness. Your affirmation could go like this: Divine Life and Love, God, you are with me right there on the field (or court or track or slope or wave). As Mind (another name for God), you are helping me to know exactly what to do during the game.
Discover true strength. Knowing that we reflect the infinite strength, flexibility and quickness of the divine, we’ll experience less physical limitation in sports. Mary Baker Eddy, in her ground-breaking book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, sheds light on this connection. “The Scriptures say, “They that wait upon the Lord . . . shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” The meaning of that passage is not perverted by applying it literally to moments of fatigue, for the moral and physical are as one in their results.”
Let love lead you. You’re not there to impress people but to express goodness and love. God is Love and doesn’t take sides; so, show sportsmanship towards the opposition and wholeheartedly love the game.
Enjoy yourself. Know that your confidence, freedom and success depend entirely on ever-present divine Mind. This relieves us from feeling that pressure is squarely on us to perform. Getting pumped is not what’s needed either, implying that we’ll eventually need to come down from a false high. It also stands to reason that the short-lived benefits of cheating or sports fixing cannot compete with the health-giving, joy-enhancing effects of honesty, courage and integrity in sport.
Stay safe. Spiritual ideas move in harmony – complementing each other, instead of hurting each other. “In Him we live and move and have our being…,” the Bible quotes Paul as saying. Knowing this, we are always safe.
Thought governs experience. Read how a teenager’s quick healing of a broken thumb received during a soccer match applied this concept.
This article was published on the Sunshine Coast Daily and APN news sites around Queensland and northern NSW.