Coaching Spirit

Here’s one that’s likely to hit you in the feels.

While the media can be really focused on money and status and achievement, in the end we all know that what really makes something impressive is their capacity for empathy, connection, forgiveness and love. People pulling together is always more meaningful than a solitary achievement. The story about the sacrifices of parenting are generally more poignant than any tale of personal victory.

Despite what we claim to value, a great deal of young children are taught to approach sports more like career training, when its most valuable contribution to each player and to society is that it teaches teamwork. It clearly demonstrates the value of chaining human capacity together to accomplish something bigger than any individual could achieve. In this way it is a beautiful metaphor for living.

The truth is, we don’t want enlightenment as much as we think we do. It’s pretty boring. It’s hard to feel something when we feel everything. And then we can’t even share an experience because we are both the experience and the experiencer. In Oneness we are ourselves and everyone else. In Oneness there’s no one to hang out with. Hence the strange dilemma of life.

Imagine the universe using its infinite power to create duality, and opposition, and drama and –bingo! Suddenly we’re all invested and interested in this drama called life. In a strange way, we chose the dramas we experience in life. Nowhere is our use of this opportunity exemplified more than in most sports.

Every sports fan begins each season with the odds stacked against them. Maybe 30+ teams are vying for one championship. 97% of us are essentially signing up for the agony of defeat.

With pro sports we volunteer to participate in a giant public drama where our agony may end up on full public display –we’ll even have uniforms. And every year we take that risk again and again just for that slim chance that maybe our team will do it this year. It’s a beautiful example of people ignoring odds in order to create happiness –for at least a while.

Despite being disappointed for 50 straight years, Toronto hockey fans still line up to buy tickets and every year they are filled with equal excitement. What else would enlightenment look like other than a group of people being thrilled to participate in something they can almost be guaranteed will end in an agonizing drama?

Every league in the world is filled with people happy to sign up for likely failure. So if we can do that with a sport, why’s it so hard with our life?

The truth is, we just want a little bit of enlightenment. Just enough to take the pain away–we think. But then someone explains that to get rid of the pain we must accept the pain. We must become one with our pain. At that point it’s not an obstacle, it’s an experience and we can survive those, easy. It’s what every losing sports fan has to do every time they lose.

As Sam Houston State coach Matt Deggs so nicely puts it, rather than full enlightenment, we want the drama. Because in the heat of that, what we really enjoy is the joy of coming together. We naturally enjoy connection and communion more than the tearing apart and division, and this is how even a losing team can generate a winning experience. Because we can’t really enact enlightenment alone. It needs us to work together.

Sports fields, workplaces, and within our own families, this sort of deep connection and appreciation can exist in all kinds of places. All it needs is a few open people who are prepared to open up, be vulnerable, and love regardless of the setting or the outcome.

The question now is, are we one of those people? And if so, where will we share love today?

peace. s

Winners and Losers

698 Relax and Succeed - What you get by achieving

Sports and games are good examples of how comfortable human beings can actually be with the idea of suffering. We volunteer to play or watch both with the full knowledge that both contexts require a winner and therefore at least one loser as well.

Even if we’re confident, we happily enter the game or field of play at least subliminally aware that we could be volunteering to suffer. In fact, that potential price is what gives the victories their highs. First we volunteer for genuinely challenging competition, and then we play to achieve a weird sort of relief from a risk we ironically chose to take.

I live near a school and during a recent break from some yard work I made a cup of tea and watched part of a junior high Phys Ed baseball game. That game is still going on, but watching it inspired me to write this, so now I’m seeing it out my office window.

It’s important that it’s Phys Ed class too, because the teacher appeared to be quite casual about who was on what team. When that’s the case the kids are not going to have any sort of strong sense of team affiliation. It’ll just be classmates playing baseball. And that’s much different than a team that’s trying to win.

Playing the piano is not the same as playing the piano to win an international competition, or a scholarship or anything where you can win or lose. You can’t lose at playing, but you can lose status, marks, money, scholarships etc.

In a team sport this alters things considerably. People get competitive and they do things they otherwise wouldn’t. But in the Phys Ed. game the kids were all pretty encouraging of one another. They didn’t care who was on what team. They cared about whether or not their friends did well. So you would see cheers from the opposing teams on a good hit. It was very bubbly and happy and supportive.

698 Relax and Succeed - Success consists of going from failure

The close camaraderie and unison that is derived from that game is a part of life that is too-often undervalued. Because we can’t buy relaxation or free time, we can just rent places to do it or buy things to encourage it.

Relaxation is a verb, so like eating lunch or becoming Enlightened it’s not something that someone else can do for us. We have to relax to achieve it and the kind of play those kids were engaged in is a great way to do that with others. We just can’t have a personal objective. Or as a Buddhist would put it: have no attachments.

This is not to say the world of competition and that sweet sense of victory does not have its place in this world. It’s incredibly valuable. It drives much of our personal and societal success. It includes people’s dreams of having their own restaurant, but it’s also the Olympics and the Oscars. It’s us trying to get a scholarship or even beating a sibling in a race for the good seat in the car. Competition can bring joy in the right context.

Business, contests, family rules; those are really just systems and humans live inside them. So it’s best to understand them and use them to our advantage so we can enjoy a life with a lot of winning in it. But that will not seem like much of a life unless we also learn to play. Because winning happens outside of us and play is something we feel inside of us. And that’s the difference between pleasure for our ego versus nourishment for our souls.

When kids aren’t on a team they have no motivation to yell for another kid to run faster, or to hope one trips and falls. They have no reason to express disappointment if they strike out. They have no reason to taunt each other.

Done right these things can be fun and they’re an excellent metaphor for life. But as with our work and our dating and our conversations, we should maintain an awareness of our State of Mind; are we trying to win or are we trying to enjoy our lives?

People who focus too much on winning end up being things like workaholics. And people who do that with love become serial daters. And the people who do that in conversation become tiresome. Winning creates losers and sometimes that’s what we want from life. But at the same time, simple noncompetitive play also has value. Let’s not forget play.

698 Relax and Succeed - Anything I can not transformLet’s move through our days with a mind toward monitoring our objectives. We should ask ourselves directly, are these actions intended to bring me happiness or bring me victory? Because there’s very few fights between couples that truly matter in the larger scheme of things so winning is quite hollow.

With happiness we start to feel it the moment we drop the need to win. It is the desire for those outside objectives—those ego-pursuits—that will lead us to surrender our happiness in the present moment. We must do our best to stay as conscious as we can. We can play and win, but we can’t let the need to win lead us to only compete —for without any play, we’ll have already lost before you’ve even started the game.

Now let’s have ourselves a wonderful day.

peace. s

Feeding Your Mind

You don’t usually think of your daily movement as exercise, nor do you see your food as nutrition. That only happens if you’re conscious about losing/gaining weight, or if you have a medical reason. Otherwise you’re just moving when you’re moving and you’re eating when you’re eating. But let’s take a moment to look at that from another perspective.

482 Relax and Succeed - Please do not feed the fearsIf you are very conscious about your physicality then you will spend less time self-talking with your ego and instead you’ll be fully in your body. When I help a hockey player improve his or her mental game, I’m getting him or her to stop thinking so they can start being. You don’t have to be deep in the playoffs to be in the zone, you can be in the zone when you’re vacuuming. Because that zone has nothing to do with the sport—it has to do with the state of mind of the participant. So yes, eat healthy and keep moving and in shape, but all of that means nothing if you’re not enjoying the life you’re trying to extend. Which is where the food analogy comes in.

Think of your thinking as eating. If you eat junk it might taste awesome, but you will pay for that if you continue to do it over time. There are no rights and wrongs, but there are definitely consequences. So you eat at home and you eat out. Home is your thoughts. You have virtually total control over what gets cooked and how it gets eaten. Away is outside ideas that you get exposed to. So watching your favourite TV show or reading a book or listening to the news, or h482 Relax and Succeed - Before you diagnose yourselfaving a conversation with a friend—all of these things are like dining out. And like food to a body, exposure to unhealthy thoughts will eventually construct an unhealthy psyche.

If you watch shows about crime all day long on TV, then you will definitely become more paranoid, suspicious, and frightened. If you watch COPS all the time you’ll view both the police and the black community differently than if you didn’t watch COPS. This is why psychologists often get depressed. Their job is to sit and listen to people’s worst days all day long. How could that not suck? Whatever you put into your consciousness will generate an immediate result, and over time that result will become a habit.

If your friends all bitch, you’ll start to bitch. If you stand around while people judge people, you’ll start to judge people more. If you watch the news every night you won’t be told the most useful things, or the most important. You’ll be told what will keep you in your seat until the next commercial, and that will overwhelmingly be things that frighten or anger you, and they’ll usually finish off with something to titillate or charm you. But that’s how the news gets chosen. By how likely the story is to keep you seated using primarily fear and anger. They want 482 Relax and Succeed - Everyone tells you what to doyou to be scared or angry so you’ll keep watching. But over time, that pollutes your mind. It gets you to believe in a world that doesn’t exist. The crime rate’s gone down in my city for something like 37 straight years, and yet I’ve never seen the place more worried about bad things happening.

Pay attention to what your mind consumes. Because if you’re not conscious about the effects, you’ll end up inadvertently reprogramming your mind in ways you may not enjoy. Think of every conversation and every piece of media as a plate of someone else’s reality, and every moment you continue to be around it you are spooning more and more of that reality into yourself.

You are what you eat. Eat thoughts and ideas that expand your spirit and you will help the whole world be healthy.

Bon apetite. peas s