As Olympic Games competitors know very well, finding stillness under pressure makes a difference to both our experience and our performance. This difference we saw played out by Ash Barty on centre court at the Australian Open women’s tennis final in Melbourne this week. But we see it at all levels of sports participation, and in every department of life.
My grandson learned a little about this quiet state of thought a few years ago. As we talked through the mediocre half-time state of play of his soccer match, he listened carefully 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.
More 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 the game itself is what brings success. When he felt a teammate wasn’t being a team-player my grandson could go out of his way to applaud the other guy’s efforts, even if his mate didn’t reciprocate. 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, suggests 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.
In sport, in life, a spiritual viewpoint brings increased strength and freedom.
Always start with stillness. Shut your mental door on the hubbub around and affirm your identity as spiritual, reflecting the divine consciousness, or Mind, helping you to know exactly what to think and do during the game.
Discover true strength. Knowing that strength, flexibility and speed are actually spiritual qualities, 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 the spiritual nature of health and fitness: “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.” Spirituality fosters excellence!
Let love lead you. Did you know that God is Love itself…and doesn’t take sides? You’re not there to impress people but to express that goodness and love. So, show sportsmanship towards your opponents and wholeheartedly love the game.
Enjoy yourself. Confidence, freedom and success will be enhanced by feeling a divine connection. We’ll no longer feel pressure squarely on us to perform, or the need to get pumped up to a false high.
Stay safe. Expressing the divine, we move in harmony – complementing each other, instead of hurting each other. “We live and move and have our being in God,” the Bible quotes St Paul as saying. Knowing that we’re spiritual, we’ll always be safe.
A spiritual viewpoint brings increased strength and freedom in life, in sport. It can also bring healing! In the Christian Science Sentinel, read how a woman put into practice this consistent spiritual way of thinking when she went back to running many years after her school days. This spiritual viewpoint brought her freedom and safety, and enabled her to also help her running partner gain that same freedom and safety.
by Kay Stroud