The spirituality of sports

Take a moment with me to pity sporting events. They get very little respect from those who spend their days contemplating spiritual matters. Meditation, journaling, dancing or yoga make the grade for spiritual enrichment, but not sports. The idea that a person might experience transcendence during a sporting activity? Well, that receives a dismissive sniff. All too often, sports get shunted aside as “fun-but-hardly-spiritual.”

Let’s consider:
Activity: A man walks in the woods and feels at one with the trees around him.
Perception: He experiences the “All is One” of spirit.

Activity: A baseball player gets “In the zone,” slows down the ball and goes 4 for 4 at the plate.
Perception: She is swinging a hot bat.

Activity: A meditator focuses on her breath and stays present.
Perception: She is practising mindfulness and living the power of now.

Activity: A hockey goalie stays in the moment and performs well under the intense pressure of Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final.
Perception: He is mentally strong.

Activity: A dancer experiences transcendence induced by the music rhythm.
Perception: She is at one with God.

Activity: A tennis player experiences transcendence induced by the movement rhythm.
Perception: He maintains his focus.

Too bad. Athletes might not use the words “spirit” or “God” when participating in their sports, but they share similar experiences, and they reap the same benefits of those who do. Sports teach us about the human condition, relieve stress and depression, and awaken us to the message of life.

According to Psychology Today, Everyday Health and The Huffington Post, these are the benefits of spirituality. I put a check mark beside them for sports too.

  • Provides clarity and cultivates awareness (√ Check)
  • Lifts mood and prevents depression (√ Check)
  • Creates steadiness and grounding (√ Check)
  • Helps you see the big picture of life (√ Check)
  • Puts you in touch with your inner self (√ Check)
  • Keeps you in the moment (√ Check)
  • Gives “the assurance of practice being there for you at all times” (√ Check)
  • Boosts health and well-being (√ Check)
  • Restores a sense of purpose and boosts self-esteem (√ Check)
  • Relieves stress (√ Check)
  • Connects people with others (√ Check)
  • Promotes self-actualization (√ Check)
  • Builds lasting memories (√ Check)
  • Encourages participants to let go of the ego (√ Check)

Sports give us heroes that transcend the game: Lou Gehrig. Sports advance social change: Jackie Robinson. Sports shine a spotlight on big societal problems: When the Baltimore Orioles played to an empty stadium, it was a siren warning. “Something is seriously wrong, and something needs to change.”

From pick-up hockey games on frozen backyard rinks to the Olympic podium, sports teach us about life.

We learn:

  • You can be an instant hero and fall flat in the same game.
  • There are rules, and with good reason.
  • You can be the very best at something, and still lose.
  • Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is a millimetre or a hundredth of a second.
  • You can’t win them all.
  • Some days things work, and some days they don’t.
  • Things don’t always balance out.
  • On any given day, anything can happen.
  • You can make mistakes and still come back.
  • You need patience and endurance.
  • It humbles you. You never stop learning.
  • You cry, you get frustrated, and you celebrate.
  • You play it one day at a time.
  • “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” —Yogi Berra

Here’s a timely quote from a well-known athlete: “I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability; it was my mental ability.” —Bruce Jenner.

Social change in action.

“The five Ss of sports training are: stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit; but the greatest of these is spirit.” —Ken Doherty
The spirit of skiing

The spirit of skiing

 

 

 

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About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on May 1, 2015, in Arlene Smith, Arlene Somerton Smith, good faith, How do you define success?, Inspiration, Just for Fun, Living life to the fullest, metaphor, modern faith, quote, spirit, sports and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Marybeth Ellis

    Here’s to spirit, spirituality and sports!

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