The Olympic Games seem to be all about speed, power and performance, but do they have a spiritual lesson to teach us? Author and motivational speaker Mike Robbins says that if you look past the podiums, you'll see valuable insights that will help you on your own path to (spiritual) victory.
The Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver have captured the attention of the world. As a former college and professional baseball player (and a lifelong sports fan), I've always loved the Olympic Games and appreciated the incredible athleticism, competition and passion of the athletes and teams from a pure sports perspective. However, having been a live spectator at both the Atlanta and Sydney Summer Olympic Games, I've experienced firsthand the true spirit of the Olympic Games that has been on display these past two weeks in Vancouver in a beautiful way.
There's something truly magical that happens during the Olympic Games. While many of us are enjoying rooting for our country—and we've seen some remarkable performances in Vancouver from people like Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, Evan Lysacek, Bode Miller and many others—the real magic of the Olympic Games is way bigger than any individual athlete or even any country. And, if we look deeper, there are so many aspects of the Olympic Games that can teach us, remind us and inspire us on our own personal and spiritual journeys.
5 spiritual lessons you can take away from the Olympic Games
1. Ceremony: The opening ceremonies in Vancouver were breathtaking and spectacular (as was also true with the Summer Olympic Games in China in 2008 and with most of the Olympic Games opening ceremonies of the past few decades). Beyond the amazing technology, creativity and spectacle of these ceremonies, there is a deeper commitment to beauty, ritual and reverence. The Olympic Games are also filled with ceremonies throughout—medal ceremonies, the closing ceremonies and more. For us to live lives of meaning, purpose and spirit, it's essential that we honor ourselves, others and life in a ceremonious way.
2. Excellence: The Olympic Games, as much as any other sporting event, are all about excellence. The intense training, incredible competition and extraordinary pressure of having to focus a lifetime's worth of experience into one single performance create an authentic sense of drama that is unique and exciting, albeit nerve-wracking. However, when we think of excellence in regards to the Olympic Games or other things in life, we often think about winning. While there's nothing wrong with winning, and our culture puts a high value on it (just look at the attention and adulation giving to the gold-medal winners in Vancouver), there is much more to real excellence than simply winning. Every athlete in Vancouver has made a commitment to excellence—even though the vast majority of them will not win medals and we'll never even know their names. On our own path, it's important for us to make a commitment to excellence—to go for it, dig down deep and give it our best shot—whether or not we end up winning.
3. Passion: The Olympic Games are filled with passion—from the athletes, the host city and the fans—in person and around the world. The emotions experienced and expressed during the Olympic Games are intense and passionate. We've seen the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat on display each and every day. It's this passion that makes the Olympic Games so intriguing, exciting and fun to experience. In our own lives and on our own journeys, passion is a key component to growth, success and fulfillment. So often we hold back our passion, waiting to see how things will turn out. However, to live life with depth, purpose and aliveness, we have to tap into our passion in an authentic way and use it as inspiration, regardless of the outcome.
One of the greatest things about the Olympic Games
4. Play: One of the greatest things about the Olympic Games is that they are called "games." This is a wonderful metaphor that reminds us that while sports (and life) can be intense and pressure-filled, they are really just games we are playing. The games played at the Olympic Games, not unlike in many aspects of our own lives, are played at a pretty high level and are done so with fairly high stakes. But, at the end of the day, they are all just games. Each athlete in Vancouver started in their sport as a child because it was fun, not because they wanted to win gold medals, be on TV or get big endorsement deals. This is a great reminder for all of us. We often get so serious, we forget to play. Spiritually, play is essential. Scientific studies have shown that the same brain waves are generated in a high state of play as in a high state of prayer or meditation.
5. Unity: The athletes at the Olympic Games come together to represent their countries and to compete for something bigger than themselves. I had the privilege of playing for the U.S. baseball team in the World Championships when I was 18 years old. It was one of the greatest honors of my life and such a profound experience. Even though the Olympic Games has a big focus (especially by the media) on individual performances as well as country competition (i.e., medal count), at the deepest level, the Olympic Games are about a greater sense of unity among all nations. There is a sense of mutual respect, admiration and appreciation that exists at the Olympic Games—both with athletes and fans. I felt it on the streets of Atlanta and in Sydney when I was there, and I see it on TV whenever I watch the Olympic Games now. They provide a stage for the world to engage, compete and interact with one another in a beautiful way. One of the most important elements of our personal and spiritual journeys is to recognize that we are more alike than we are different. Those whom we compete against, have conflict with and want to "beat" are just people like us who have similar hopes, fears and dreams. At the most basic and, yet, profound level, we are all one. Anything and everything we can do to see, remember and remind ourselves and others of this innate unity gives us access to deeper connection and spiritual truth.
I love the Olympic Games! Not only do we get to watch extraordinary athletes complete at the highest level, but we get to tap into something profound and magical that can remind us of our true power, passion and oneness.
Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker, and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Mike is the author of the bestselling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News, in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self, and many others.
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Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, March 7, 2014
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