6 Ways in Which Sports Is Linked to Spirituality
The word spirituality brings to one’s mind thoughts related to religion, rituals , meditation, service, yoga and spiritual gurus. We have been conditioned as a society to believe that only religious activities are spiritual in nature. But in reality, spirituality is a broad concept. There are a plethora of definitions. But all of them seem to have something in common. It is a quest to find the true purpose and meaning of life.
In this context, religion is just a guide with time tested principles and practices. It can help one in gaining a basic understanding. But this is a personal journey. So every person has the option of approaching spirituality in his/her own way.
I have been involved in sports for over 7 years. So I started wondering if there were ways to approach spirituality through sports. I was surprised to find that there was so much in common. I would like to elaborate on the same through this article.
“ You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita."— Swami Vivekananda
The presence of a higher power
One of the first steps in the spiritual process is the acceptance in the presence of a higher power. Some call it God while some call it energy. Different religions have different names but the concept is the same. Through spirituality, we try to foster our connection with this higher power.
Sports helps in building a strong belief in this higher power. You might have noticed famous sportsmen pointing to the sky after scoring a century, or a winning shot or an incredible goal. In fact, Stephen Curry, a professional basketball player, points to the sky every time he makes an important play. When asked about this, he said that the gesture was to remind him to “Have a heart for God.” All these are public showcases of the fact that they have a staunch belief in the higher power.
The act of prayer is built on the same belief that there is a higher power. Without the acceptance of this belief, any prayer would be useless. All sportsmen believe in the power of prayer. They deal with uncertain conditions and high pressure situations on a daily basis. This belief helps them push through the pain. It also makes the task less daunting since you feel that someone is watching over you.
Another key aspect of spirituality is being inclusive of all kinds of people. In almost every team, one can find people from varied cultural, racial and socio-economic backgrounds. But when they play together as a team, none of these differences seem to matter. The respect for the sport and one’s teammates takes precedence over all kinds of discriminatory barriers.
According to Vedic philosophy, the natural state of being of one’s soul is bliss. Our quest for happiness is just a desperate attempt to align our mental state of being with our soul. In a state of bliss, every cell in our body is bursting out with exuberance and this happens effortlessly. This is similar to an experience which sportsmen describe as being ‘ In the zone ‘. The world around seems to have slowed down. It feels as though someone has taken control of you . Everything seems effortless and it feels as though great things are happening through you. This kind of experience is very similar to a deeply meditative experience.
Keeping calm in times of adversity
It is another common spiritual belief that the challenges that we face are God’s way of testing us. Only if we have the grit and determination to brave these obstacles, will we progress in our spiritual path. Involvement in sports brings with it a certain degree of self discipline and willpower. These are essential qualities in any spiritual seeker.
The element of surrender refers to the behavior where the spiritual seeker believes that everything happens for the good. He might not be able to make sense of the situation at the moment. But he knows that it will make sense eventually. It is common for one to lose his mind when he has a bad day. But as a sportsman, one learns that there are certain things beyond our control. So our job is to put our best foot forward and also be prepared to face the worst. This is a quality that is prevalent in sports persons. This is why the ability to handle failure gracefully was named as sportsmanship.
We have been seeing sports only as a way to improve our physical and mental health. But on a deeper level, it improves our spiritual health as well. So we must make it an important part of our lives.
© 2020 Avyukth Krishna