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Transforming How We See Sport
Over the past month, I've been thinking a lot about the guiding principles enlarging our view of sport and the athletic experience.
My time in the National Football League bashing bodies and brains in the 20th Century has pointedly turned into a sophist of electronic play calling and jumbotrons in 21st Century gridirons housed in spectacular stadia, though an occasional bashing occurs, albeit not as prevalently.
Ken Wilber’s notion of ‘orienting generalizations’ is somewhat appropriate here. What I’m doing here is taking a larger view of the potentials and actualities of human transformation as we enter a period of human history some have called “The Great Turning”.
The Great Turning is couched in life’s evolutionary process, a spiraling dynamic reflecting human beings' capacity and the manifestation of a more comprehensive integral worldview. Many commentators have said that this enlarged worldview is essential if humanity and the planet are to successfully navigate this great turning, given looming environmental, cultural, and political crises.
A significant minority of individuals who are dealing with all these various aspects, dimensions, and disciplines of human thought, activity, creativity, and production, everything from food production to education, and yes, sport, base their work and effort on ‘waking individuals up’ that will allow individuals to truly “grow up”. Doing so they experience ‘who they really are, the unitive, holistic, transpersonal nature of their consciousness and existence. From this stance, this more comprehensive, integral view of self and the world will flow to individual human beings who can offer much to the world.
Two core ideas flow from seeing sport in a larger context, they are:
Sport as a Transformative and Developmental Activity
This is not a new idea it goes back in our Western history 2000 plus years to the Greeks and the Greek Panhellenic Games, including the Olympics. The Olympic Games were the most famous, occurring every four years for 1500 years. The four Panhellenic Games were festivals celebrating the ‘energies’ of the Greek Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses which placed the athletic experience in a larger trans-human mythic context. For the Greeks, sport was seen as reflecting and manifesting competere. Competere means “to strive together”, and is the root meaning of our word, ‘competition’. Competition or competere was seen as an essential archetypal human quality that produced excellence. As an archetype, a human quality existing beyond local personality, competere was seen as a gift from the Gods. And the Olympics were king God Zeus’s big celebration.
In our time participating in sports has been seen as a developmental process to build character including self-sacrifice, teamwork, hard work, goal setting and accomplishment, respect for our opponent, and grit (Pete Carroll’s favorite word), a never- give up attitude and of course, being competitive. These qualities of human existence have a transpersonal aspect to them, beyond individual personality, meaning they are deeper qualities for all of us to develop and manifest in the world. Sport and the athletic experience are seen as excellent practices to develop these qualities of human existence.
What is new is our Evolutionary Sports Collective bringing to the table is viewing sport and the athletic experience in an even deeper way – as an integral spiritual practice to cultivate our experience and connection with our Universal Self. We are expanding and reformulating the idea that sees sport as a developing process that not only deepens and connects us to our larger self, but we also see sport as a special arena of disclosure of our higher potential.
Using Ken Wilber’s ideas of “waking up”, “growing up” and “showing up” sport and the athletic experience is a powerful transformative process and practice allowing people to ‘wake up' and to potentially ‘grow up’ and show up” to do the world’s work.
Sport as an Integral or Integrating Process
Most often given our cultural training we compartmentalize the four major dimensions of our beings, our bodies, emotions, minds, soul, and spirit.
Sport is an activity that offers, and requires at the highest levels, the integration of Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul. Athletes at all levels, elite athletes more so, have experienced Flow or dropping into the Zone and experiencing a state of Timeless Unity, a state of total awareness of the NOW. There is really no language to talk about it – it must be experienced. When ‘flow’ occurs, our beings are integrated. There is little distinction between our four categories of life energy. We become synonymous with the ever-changing flowing ONE including our opponents. And equally important we have the awareness that this state of Being is happening – being aware of Awareness itself. Many athletes and indeed all humans have touched this sensibility of being fully aware, is it a matter of degree? Most athletes and most creative people plug into their sense of being fully aware, being totally present, which is called Unity consciousness. This is why this universal worldwide human activity, athlete experience or sport, is such a powerful ‘spiritual’ or consciousness process and a force for good.