My mother taught me one of the greatest lessons in life: it’s all research. It was a lesson that I took with me into my first Ironman race last summer. When I felt exhausted, or my body ached, I re-evaluated my current state and redirected myself to a more constructive frame of mind. What could I do differently next time? What had I done properly that day? How had my training prepared me for the day’s elements? I can confidently say that I have never “failed” due to this outlook. When something has been unsuccessful in training or racing (or anything in life for that matter), I simply consider it a disproven hypothesis.
I am an adolescent when it comes to the world of endurance racing and triathlons; I still have a sense of immortality and innocence to me. I have not heard of an obscure race that I would not try or a distance that I did not believe was achievable. My ambition has carried me to many daunting start lines and my tenacity has pushed me across the same number of finish lines. That’s correct: in more than one hundred races ranging from 5k’s to full Ironman triathlons I have never shown a DNF (Did Not Finish) next to my name.
I did not run during high school. As a matter of fact, a telephone pole length was a distance event during my teenage years. I was an All American cheerleader who had avoided her bike since middle school. Then, one day, a middle aged, slightly overweight man asked me to join him for a two mile run. He tore up the pavement and left my ego at the door. This shifted my perspective. I became lit up at the idea of improving my run. Not to mention getting out of the gym and stationary machines. Within five months of my first official run I did my first half marathon. My sense of accomplishment fueled my interest in continuing with the sport. And in less than a year I ran my first marathon.
I also bought a bike and entered a sprint triathlon around the same point in time. This was where I faced my greatest challenge, since swimming has always been a struggle for me. I used a noodle on the swim. It may as well have been an inner tube. Out of two thousand women, I was 9th from last on the swim. Then I kissed my bike, made my way through the crowded streets and ended up finishing in the middle of the field. I learned a great deal during that race about my self and my ability. I was not invincible. I needed to practice swimming. I needed to train with more brick sessions. I needed to alter my nutrition.
The following year, I returned to the same sprint triathlon determined to test out my new skills. I had done my research. I had taken swim lessons. I had done weekly bricks. I had tested my nutrition through trial and error. The hard work paid off. I finished that race first in my age group and nineteenth overall. I discovered how a challenging experience could be used as research toward a more positive one in the future. Now I’m always excited for my next race, as it’s an opportunity to test my hypotheses once again.
While recently juggling triathlon training and attending college full-time for my Master’s in Psychology, I have realized that the two are closely intertwined. The cognitive aspect of training and racing is an exercise in mental toughness and inner dialogue. I have self reflected over and over again and discovered the therapy that endurance racing offers.
This also elicited the question of why I’m able to use my inner dialogue to push forward, while some athletes are paralyzed by self-defeating thoughts and fear. I am not the bionic woman; my legs feel like lead bricks at mile 18 of the run during an Ironman, my back aches from a 40 lb pack after my seventh summit of the day in the White Mountains, and my vision becomes impaired at mile 90 of a hot century ride. Yet, somehow, I push through this feeling while others surrender to of the pain, turn back, or give up.
What separates us? I propose that it’s my inner dialogue, which is motivational and empowering. I have a drill sergeant within my own mind. When I grow tired or ache all over, my internal self says, “Suck it up, this is nothing!” My exhaustion and desire to slow down is overcome by my excitement and drive, while other athletes’ exhaustion and desire to slow down are exacerbated by feelings of disempowerment and defeat. The same thought creates a different inner dialogue for different athletes. The perception of our thoughts produces different behaviors and subsequent outcomes. As it turns out, endurance athletes are in a continuous process of engaging in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with themselves.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is therapeutic intervention in which thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intertwined. The way we choose to react to a triggering event is dependent on our interpretation and thoughts surrounding it. Following our thought is an emotional response, which in turn affects our behavior. Therefore, our thoughts and emotions control our actions… even when training and racing.
How can we use CBT to improve performances and interpret failures in a motivating way? First, pay attention to what your inner dialogue is saying to you. To use running as an example: The next hard tempo run that you go out for listen to your thoughts and physical responses. Do you give up on the fast pace a half mile prior to your anticipated distance? If so, then what were you thinking when you chose to slow down? Was your body tense and in a state of fear?
Understanding what happens within our body and thoughts just before we decide (yes, it’s a decision) to give up or slow down helps us to change future outcomes and improve performances. If we have self defeating thoughts such as, “I cannot meet my goal, I’m too tired” then working on a more productive thought pattern such as, “I’ve felt this tired before, time to dig deep and work toward closing in on that goal” can improve our performance and boost our confidence.
Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in training and racing. Challenge yourself to improve your inner dialogue and find the lesson learned in unmet goals. Work toward using difficult days as motivation. As my mom states, it’s all research. None of us have failed, just disproven hypotheses.
“Do not dedicate your life to your sport, but rather, dedicate your sport to your life.”
“There is no failure, only feedback.”
About Alton: Alton is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. She’s also a trail runner, triathlete, wolf mama and part-time superhero.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
Doubt simply cannot exist in the presence of faith. It doesn’t matter if it’s yourself, God, the Universe or having Bulbasaur as your starting Pokemon. Faith in something is absolutely crucial in leading a happy and fulfilling life.
Remember that everything that happens in your life is perfect for your personal growth. You also have the inherent capacity to deal with any situation that occurs in your life. There is no need to fear.
“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” – Plato
I’m writing this because I noticed self-doubt creeping in recently. Being burnt out a couple weeks ago left me exhausted and made me question myself.
But by overcoming burnout and implementing a few strategies, I’ve been able to transmute that ugly self-doubt into beautiful self-faith.
8 Ways to Transmute Self-Doubt into Faith:
Affirmations are statements to program your subconscious mind a certain way. They’re immensely helpful for getting through any difficult time. You become what your dominant thoughts are. Program yourself for joy and empowerment.
Here are some sample affirmations to help transform doubt into faith:
If you’re afraid of bad experiences – “Everything is a learning experience.”
If you’re anxious about the future – “I can handle anything life throws at me.”
If you’re worried about money – “Thank you Universe for the abundance of money flowing into my life at all times.”
With whatever you want to embody, simply search for related affirmations and you’ll find an abundance of them.
Write down affirmations on a daily basis and continuously repeat them to yourself. That’s how to maximize the immense efficacy of affirmations.
Visualize yourself achieving your goals. Be as specific as possible. Picture it like you’re already doing it. What does it feel like?
This is another means of programming yourself to achieve what you truly want in life.
Visualization has worked for many of the world’s top performers (especially athletes), so it will certainly work for you. Visualize the action and actualize the vision.
An effective way to leverage the power of visualization is to visualize your ideal day/lifestyle (while being as specific as possible) every morning. You can even include it in your meditation practice.
3. Take action
Don’t just sit there marinating in self-doubt. Work towards what you want. Take that first step in the direction you want to head in. Any sort of progress cultivates faith and quells doubt.
4. Build skills
Acquiring and building skills naturally increases genuine self-confidence. You become more capable, which then alleviates that insidious self-doubt.
Pick a skill to develop, and consistently work to improve it.
5. Be present
Doubt creeps in when you start projecting your mind into the past or future. Self-doubt is usually about the future; anxiety over imaginary “what if” scenarios.
What are you doing right now? Be with it totally. Be here now.
For example: If you want to write a book and you’re outlining it today, focus on that. Don’t focus on how other people have books published. Create the best outline you can today and continue to move forward. This will not only maximize your work, but keep you present and minimize any self-doubt.
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” – Eckhart Tolle
6. Embrace the mystery of life
A major aspect of transmuting doubt into faith is embracing the inherent mystery of life. The very nature of the Universe we live in is constant flux. So letting go of trying to control everything and simply enjoying the ride is key. Deepak Chopra discusses embracing the mystery of life in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success where he outlines the following affirmations:
“I will factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. In my willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, out of the confusion, disorder, and chaos. The more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure I will feel, because uncertainty is the path to my freedom.”
“I will step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I remain open to an infinity of choices. When I step into the field of all possibilities, I will experience all the fun, adventure, magic, and mystery of life.”
7. Rest, then dive back into your work
Sometimes self-doubt comes from fatigue or burnout. In this case you need to rest in order to function at maximum capacity long-term. Life is a balance of the yin and yang. I discuss how to do this in more detail in the post “How to Avoid Burnout.”
8. Know that there are forces bigger than your rational mind at work.
Learn to trust your intuition. Be in that state of deep-seated knowing, and your doubt will be transmuted into faith.
Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. (Wikipedia)
Last week, I experienced true burnout for the first time in my life.
I’d be lying if I told you that I hadn’t felt it coming. And a lot of people in my life hinted that I was trying to do too much. I was going on about 4 months of every minute of my life being goal-oriented. That goal, was (and still is) earning a living online, to give myself freedom of time and location.
During that period, I abstained from a lot of activities in favor of “getting shit done.” I didn’t drink any alcohol, rarely went out, didn’t have sex and didn’t see a lot of my good friends. I wrote like a madman, dove into countless projects, read voraciously, worked out like I was Ronnie Coleman and did a lot of yoga and meditation in an attempt to offset my extreme output. And this was all while holding down a 9-5 job as well.
I put insane amounts of pressure on myself at all times, constantly forcing myself to get more done. I was my own slave driver. Of course I enjoy this work (it’s a major part of my life purpose), but literally everything I did was geared towards my goal(s) in some way.
The yoga and meditation I practiced became goal-oriented (which, in some sense, almost defeats their purpose). I was practicing yoga to counteract all of the sitting I was doing and help rest (so I could workout harder and produce more content). I was meditating with the goal of gaining a higher perspective and getting more creative inspiration.
I even viewed sleep as merely a means to recover my ability to produce more.
Every single thing I did was aligned with my vision, and that became problematic. I was pushing the envelope of extreme output.
As last week progressed, I began to feel more and more burned out. But this drove me to a profound realization… I wasn’t ever allowing myself to just BE. And that’s the root of what was gradually wearing me down.
My creativity was the first to go last week. I noticed that I was less creative than usual on Monday and Tuesday. That was followed by feelings of fatigue. Then, on Wednesday night, a headache came on. The headache stayed with me into Thursday. The feeling of utter burnout got to the point where I left work early, went home and napped.
Note: These were all glaring signs to me. I was so used to creating as ravenously as 2pac. Feeling tired is so foreign to me. I don’t even remember the last time I had a headache before this. And I can only nap when I really, really need it. So with that combination of symptoms, I knew something was wrong.
After napping, I decided to spend the rest of the day completely “goalless.” I did some stretching, mobility work and practiced any yoga poses that felt good. I took a long shower. I watched some fascinating YouTube videos that caught my eye. I ate a jar of sunflower seed butter (so good). It was revitalizing to allow myself to just BE; no pressure, no to-do list and no goals.
Then on Friday morning, I woke up feelin good, feelin great again. I feel like a phoenix, arising from its own ashes.
You have to balance the yin with the yang. You need rest to support activity. You need to balance goal-oriented time with goalless time.
If you keep pushing with blatant disregard for everything else, you’ll end up in a gray-zone of constantly trudging forward at nowhere near your full capacity. And if you continue this pattern long-term, you’ll end up in a downward spiral of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual dysfunction.
When you rest enough to balance your activity level, you’re then able push harder and continuously evolve into the greatest version of yourself.
What are some symptoms of burnout?
Less productivity – Spending more time while actually getting less done.
Loss of mental sharpness
Not taking care of yourself – Falling into negative patterns or activities more often.
Life begins to lose its vibrancy
How do you avoid or alleviate burnout?
Grounding into the Earth (walk barefoot in nature or just on grass) – This syncs you up with
Mother Earth. Because burnout has to do with mental overuse, you need to ground yourself into your body and the Earth.
Get out in nature – This goes along with the previous tip. Getting out in nature is wholly revitalizing. Do something like hike a mountain or walk in the woods.
Sleep more – Get the rest you need.
Engage in “yin” activities regularly – These are rejuvenative activities for the body, mind and spirit. Examples include meditation, gentle yoga, tai chi, qi gong, reiki, massage, acupuncture…etc.
Reduce screen time – Turn off the technology and unplug for a bit. Keeping your eyes glued to digital screens tend to exacerbate feelings of burnout.
Go on vacation – Go somewhere relaxing for a few days (or longer, depending on how burnt out you are) where you don’t have to do anything.
Set aside some “goalless” time – This worked like a charm for me.
How to spend goalless time:
1. Do whatever you feel like. Seriously, spontaneously do whatever you want (as long as it’s not harmful to yourself or others, of course). This is one of the most freeing things you can do.
2. Don’t put any pressure on yourself. There is nothing to accomplish, no goals and no to-do lists.
3. Just allow yourself to BE. Be present and thoroughly enjoy whatever you’re doing.
And most importantly, HAVE FUN! Life is too short to be taken too seriously. Enjoy yourself, live authentically, laugh, dance, climb trees and high five strangers.
Once upon a manifestation of infinite possibility, people always wore shirts.
Because people always wore shirts, everyone defined themselves by the color of the shirt they wore.
There were people dressed in every color shirt imaginable, spanning the spectrum of the sense of sight.
Eventually, those who wore white shirts (the “white shirters”) began to claim that their color shirt was more “pure” than the rest. They despised anyone who wore a different color shirt. This hatred bubbled up until the white shirters started attacking non-white shirters. The white shirters held the fearful belief that any other color shirt was a threat to the pureness of their white shirts.
In their first offensive, the white shirters formed a large group and marched towards the home of some blue shirters. In a frenzy of senseless malice, the white shirters started killing blue shirters left and right. The blue shirters, feeling terrorized, organized into their own group and retaliated. But they lost the battle.
Hearing the news, every color of shirters divided into their own tight-knit group. Each group armed themselves, ready for any outside attack.
The red shirters, however, decided on a more proactive strategy. Trying to beat the white shirters at their own game, they launched an attack on the white shirters. They also began to attack everyone else who wasn’t a red shirter. In doing this, they became the very force that they were fighting against and caused even more chaos.
Though damaged by the red shirters’ attack, the white shirters continued their campaign. Next, they attacked the green shirters.
Storming into the village of the green shirters, they came across an elder green shirter.
In a condescending tone, the white shirters collectively chanted, “We, the pure white shirters, have come to eliminate you pathetic green shirters.”
The elder, scanning the group of white shirters with a curiously tilted head, said, “I’m not a green shirter. It’s just the color of the shirt I’m wearing, not who I am.”
The white shirters were perplexed by this assertion. They couldn’t fathom the concept that a person’s identity does not lie within the color of their shirt.
“I see a green shirt! So you’re a green shirter!” Exclaimed one of the more rowdy white shirters, and the whole group erupted in angry agreement. In a fit of blind fury, they killed the elder green shirter.
The next village to pillage on the white shirters’ treacherous campaign was that of the black shirters.
One black shirter, knowing that the white shirters’ rampaging approach was imminent, had a sudden revelation…
As the white shirters arrived, the black shirter removed the black shirt. The shirtless individual then walked up to the herd of white shirters, who were frozen in stupefied surprise by the sight. Suspenseful silence permeated the air.
In fearful confusion, the head white shirter barked “What color shirter are you?”
With arms wide open, the individual cheerfully replied, “I’m not wearing a shirt.”
The white shirters couldn’t comprehend this. Both themselves and everyone they ever saw had worn a shirt their entire lives, and dutifully classified themselves by its color.
In a wave of realization, one brave white shirter removed their white shirt. The others gasped in horror as the individual walked up to the other. They greeted one another with a hesitant handshake that transformed into a wholehearted hug.
Seeing the two together, both shirtless, the group couldn’t help but realize that everyone shares the same essence underneath their shirts.
Gradually, more and more white shirters joined in and removed their shirts. Some resisted at first, but eventually the whole group was shirtless.
One individual, who had been a staunch white shirter his whole life, looked at the awe-inspiring scene and pondered to himself…
“How silly a concept, to believe that I am nothing but the color of my shirt. And how ridiculously stupid it is to kill others that I view as different based on such a silly belief.”
Seeing how they had caused so much harm and hardship by separating themselves, all of the various shirters eventually removed their shirts; their layer of false identity.
They realized how pointless it was to divide themselves into opposing groups. Now united as one, all vowed to cooperate with one another and co-create a more harmonious reality together.
As humans, we tend to learn best through metaphor. That’s why the most profound spiritual texts are gloriously allegorical.
To leverage this effect, I came up with an illuminating metaphor for the mind, body and spirit:
Life is a voyage and you are the captain of your vessel.
Life is the journey, the expedition, the adventure. It’s truly a tremendous experience.
“Reality” is the scene upon which your voyage takes place. It is the ocean, the weather, the wind…etc.
Your body is the ship, or vessel. Your mental and emotional states are the sails of the ship. And you (the ‘I am’ presence) are the captain of the ship.
Let me elaborate a bit…
Life is like a “choose your own adventure” game as well. You select your ship and set out on your own unique voyage.
Reality, the ocean, is the stage upon which life is set. Can we control the weather, the wind or the scenery? Perhaps. Maybe reality is participatory and co-created by all of us, like a highly advanced, completely customizable online multiplayer video game. But until we know that for sure, this quote provides potent advice…
“When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails” – H. Jackson Brown
Sail towards your purpose. Sail towards your passions. Sail towards your essence. And realize that it’s not about the destination, but about the journey itself. The deep sense of fulfillment you’re looking for is found by fully embracing the bliss that lies within every moment of the experience.
Harmonizing all aspects of self will maximize your journey. Neglecting any element of yourself will inevitably result in a less-than-enjoyable voyage.
If you neglect your physical body, your vessel, you’ll become a shipwreck prematurely. A damaged ship will gradually sink, no matter how nice the weather or how competent the captain is. And before it sinks, it will move slowly and require constant maintenance, leaving little time for enjoyment.
If you neglect your sails, you’ll always be at the mercy of the weather. You will be a victim of circumstance. The winds will have their way with you. You will have trouble avoiding turbulent weather. No matter how adept your captain is or how strong your ship is, it won’t last long being battered by constant storms.
If you neglect your spiritual self, the captain, then you essentially become a vessel without a pilot. You will be aimless, with no awareness to experience the beauty of the journey. The absence of the captain makes the voyage meaningless.
To harmonize the totality of self, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t need to be the perfect captain, or have the perfect boat or have the perfect sails. But you cannot neglect any of them if you wish to make the most of your voyage.
A harmonious self would consist of a fun-loving, skillful captain, sailing a strong vessel. The sails would be well-kept and adjusted to each unique circumstance. You will be able to enjoy the good weather, and when storms come, persevere and become stronger as a result.
How to Maximize Your Voyage: 2 Actionable Items for Each Aspect of Self that You Can Implement Today
Regarding Your Body (The Ship): 1. Just Eat Real Food – The 80/20 of healthy eating is as simple as eating real food. If it has a commercial or a mascot, it’s probably not good for you. Like Jack LaLanne said, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”
2. Move – Move your body daily. Walk as much as possible, practice yoga, lift weights, hike a mountain…etc. Our bodies are built to move. So much dysfunction comes from too much sitting and stagnation. Even gentle movement (like walking or light stretching) allows for lymphatic circulation, blood circulation, chi circulation, effective digestion and normalized hormones; all of which are absolutely crucial for good health.
Regarding Your Mind/Emotional State (The Sails): 1. Don’t complain for a day – Complaining is utterly useless. It’s passive and negative. Either let things go, or take action to change them, and continue flowing through life with a sense of empowerment. Challenge yourself to not complain and your life will never be the same.
2. Be present – Be here now. The present moment is all that ever exists. Only refer to the past or future when they’re completely relevant to the now. Presence is where inner peace is found and creates space for awareness. From that awareness, you are in the position to change anything in your life.
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” – Eckhart Tolle
Regarding Your Spirit (The Captain): 1. Meditate daily – If you’re new to meditation, set a timer for 2 minutes and do absolutely nothing. You can sit or lay down, whatever is more comfortable. Simply observe your thoughts while breathing deeply. Meditation, like presence, begets awareness. Meditation allows you to use the mind as a tool without getting overwhelmed by it. Make it a daily habit.
2. Show gratitude – Every day, write down at least three things that you’re grateful for. Show gratitude for everything in your life. This will not only make you happier, but also open the door to all forms of abundance. The feeling of gratitude is so fulfilling and it aligns your spirit with the other aspects of yourself, uniting the wholeness of your being in joyful harmony.
Let’s look at what happens when we lose touch with oneness.
What are the symptoms of separation within society?
An underlying paradigm of separation begets competition instead of cooperation. Scarcity pervades all aspects of life, as opposed to abundance.
In this “separation paradigm, “you” fear “others” taking what is “yours.” The belief of separation naturally leads to competition and scarcity. You can see this with oil conglomerates actively suppressing free energy solutions. The literal sources of abundance are proactively being squashed in favor of scarcity (and the resulting profit and control). Think about that for a minute.
Envision life as an obstacle course. With a separation mentality, two people would get into a fist fight at the starting line, holding each other back. With a oneness mentality, they would cooperate to overcome the obstacles. Cooperation would also allow people to scale much higher walls than if they were holding one another back.
If society as a whole were to operate under the belief of oneness, cooperation would prevail. People would view others as aspects of themselves, or themselves living another life. This fundamental idea would obviously maximize our collective potential. The nature of our lives would be synergistic collaboration to further our evolution and overall well-being. More beneficial energy sources would be actively pursued, and this would lead to abundance instead of scarcity. We would be exploring the depths of outer (and inner) space, not stuck fighting each other over beliefs or resources.
You can see symptoms of separation in all of the major systems of society. It’s that insidiously divisive “us vs them” mentality that pervades government, politics, religion, business, competitive sports and every other traditional system you can think of.
Regarding politics in America for example, you have Republicans and Democrats. The red team vs the blue team. Many people blindly attach their identities to one of these sides. In truth, Republicans and Democrats largely share the same ideologies, but their differences on a few trivial issues are widely publicized, stirring up feelings of separation within people.
Aubrey Marcus suggests that these tactics “hack into the dark side of tribalism.” Which is to say that it exploits the intrinsic yearning for community by separating humanity into segregated factions. Then outside threats are manufactured, which are perceived as jeopardizing the tribe’s survival and rousing fear within people. These manipulative tactics allow humanity to be divided into “separate” tribes and more easily controlled as a whole.
Competitive sports are an obvious manifestation of the paradigm of separation.
First of all, they epitomize the “me vs you” (or “us vs them”) mentality. The players on each team wear different color uniforms that act as visual separators. Red vs blue, black vs white, green vs yellow…etc.
Competitive sports also mimic war. They are a socially acceptable, theatrical representation of a battle. It creates a war-like mentality, and normalizes that mentality within the minds of the masses. This culture perverts our primal instincts towards “the dark side of tribalism.”
You know the phrase “healthy competition”? Is it really healthy? It perpetuates the separation-based, us vs them mentality that has allowed humanity to be divided and conquered for so long. But we’re so deep into this mentality that it’s hard to even fathom what sports (or life in general) would look like if we embraced cooperation in favor of competition.
Take a look at the prototypically competitive mindset. The exemplar of a competitive athlete is Michael Jordan, who can easily be considered a sociopath. There’s been countless stories floating around regarding his notorious egotism and utter disregard for others.
I’ve found myself less interested in team sports recently because of the very reasons I’ve outlined. I don’t want to perpetuate the us vs them mentality. I don’t want to play “mock war.” However, I do want to push my boundaries, maximize my physicality and support the healthy expression of my primal nature.
So I’m not saying we stop pushing ourselves or neglect our natural, primal tendencies. We just need to use more productive means to fulfill these needs. But how would we do that?
What would sports look like in a cooperation paradigm:
We’re so deep in the separation mentality that it’s difficult to even fathom what sports would look like under the paradigm of cooperation, not competition.
Or maybe we could include competition, but in a friendlier, more respectful way. This would be based on treating opponents as an aspect of yourself, and pushing each other to the limits, resulting in mutual benefit. But the question is, can people truly push their limits in competition if they’re totally empathetic with their opposition?
The other manifestation of cooperative sports would be athletes versus external forces (if there is such a thing as “external”), or even their past selves.
A team sport based in cooperation would work like a team climbing a mountain. They would all help each other in order to achieve a common goal. There is no putting others down, no us vs them, just unity towards a challenging cause. This can be applied to the whole as well.
Maybe parallels would exist under a oneness paradigm, just with a different twist. Like bodybuilding, for example, would be more like an art exhibition than a contest.
Another thing to think about: Do you need to “win” something in order to stretch your limits? Did Michelangelo paint with the intent of winning?
Completely throwing sports out the door is not the answer. Our bodies are made to move, to sprint, climb, jump…etc. We certainly cannot overlook that.
To drive the continuous evolution of humanity, we must perpetually shatter limitations and keep improving without having to defeat others in the process.
T.E.A.M. = Together Everyone Achieves More
“United we stand, divided we fall.” That phrase rings true. Though not “united” in terms of a specific group against other groups that we label as different from us. United as in embracing the fundamental oneness of everything.
This is the second part of my “Distilling the Truth of Oneness” series. To read part one, click here.
(Reiterating the intro from Part 1, because it’s that important…)
Nothing is truly separate. Nothing exists in isolation.
All things, events and people are intimately interconnected. In essence, all is one and one is all. Oneness IS.
This concept of oneness is thrown around a lot, especially in “spiritual” communities. It sounds a bit idealistic, right? One of those “woo-woo” theories with no validity. But after approaching the concept of oneness from different perspectives, I’ve found it to be an all-pervading truth.
This is not about blindly repeating what some so-called “guru” said about oneness. I aim to break it down into digestible pieces for you to metabolize in your own unique way. This article gives you a road map to uncover truth for yourself, because oneness is just an abstract concept until you truly understand and experience it.
I always knew that everything was connected in some way, but in a superficial way, without intrinsically understanding it. Oneness made sense to me as an idea, but I never fully grasped the immense truth and profundity of it until recently. I merely understood the interconnection of everything in the same way that one views a place on a map. Sure, you can envision what it might look like, but you never really understand it until you see the actual place.
If you’re reading this, is there not a connection between “your” consciousness and “my” consciousness?
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
General relativity posits that space and time are inseparable, often referred to as “space-time.” So if there are no separate events (I discussed this in detail in Part 1), can there be separate objects?
The universe we live in can be imagined as a soup of space-time. To help conceptualize this, think about noodles in a soup. The noodles are not separate from the soup, but a part of it. However, in today’s society, we tend to look at the individual objects within the soup, while ignoring the broth, and conclude that all of the objects are separate. When really, everything is part of the soup. And that’s just one way to look at the oneness of everything.
Is a lion’s roar separate from the lion? And where does the roar end? Where you can’t hear it? Where you can’t measure it with our current instruments? Does it ever end? Or does it just blend into everything else at an infinitely gradual rate?
Once you start going beyond visible light, boundaries start blurring. And that’s only the sense of sight. Boundaries become even more unclear with other senses (except maybe touch). Think about what it would be like to perceive reality on the underlying energetic level (before the information gets interpreted by our brains). Everything would be a swirling amalgamation of vibrations.
Now you’re probably saying, “But there are solid boundaries, I can hit someone, right?” Yes and no. Physical matter is just energy slowed to a dense state. And that impact is just two dense forces interacting. Even in video games, where objects obviously are not solid, they appear solid. You can’t walk through walls in video games because that’s what is encoded into the laws of that reality.
In terms of the building blocks of our reality, atoms are more than 99.9999999% empty space. That means that everything almost fully consists of this empty space. And it turns out that “empty space” is actually quite the opposite of empty, and highly dense (back to the soup/broth analogy).
“All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.” – Swami Vivekananda
Sense of Self
Infants are born with no sense of personal identity. Personal identity manifests as a result of experience in the world and societal conditioning. A child might find themselves displaying a certain quality, like being “fast” or “American” or “poor”, and the ego clings to this and makes it a part of the child’s identity. But the fact is that these are just attributes, not the essence of what we really are.
“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” – Eckhart Tolle
Now you might be like, “I’m an individual. I have my own consciousness different from other people.” This is true, in the same way that a wave is “different” from the ocean. It is a unique manifestation at the surface, yet in essence it is part of the whole. The same is true for you and I. Go into a deep state of meditation and you begin to merge into the stillness of infinite possibility. Boundaries and sense of self disappear. This is our fundamental essence.
If you take a cup of water out of the ocean, isn’t it still the ocean? Our perception, our ego, is the cup, the container which separates us from the whole.
That is not to say that ego, or personal identity can’t be useful. It’s absolutely necessary for survival as well as uniqueness. But the problem arises when it becomes your entire sense of self.
Just as fish are part of the ocean, the Universe (“space”) is the ocean we live in. We are not separate from the whole, but unique parts of it.
Exploring Oneness From Multiple Angles
“We are all different expressions of one reality, different songs of one singer, different dances of one dancer, different paintings–but the painter is one.” – Osho
The Logical Perspective:
“Within the stillness and silence is All Possibility. All Potential, waiting to be made manifest. Hear the silence and you are hearing All Possibility. Then stare talking, taking an action or making a noise and you have pulled one possibility out of All Possibility. When you stop, your manifested possibility returns to the stillness and silence of All Possibility – Infinite Love, Infinite Harmony, Infinite Balance, Infinite Intelligence, Infinite Everything. This core of existence that I call All Possibility is within all of us – it is us and we are it.” – David Icke
Everything is an expression of infinite possibility.
Think about it logically… A musical note is an expression of infinite possibility. A German Shepherd is an expression of infinite possibility. You are an expression of infinite possibility. I am an expression of infinite possibility. Does everything not share the same essence?
The truth of oneness is deceptively simple from this perspective.
Just as every word is a unique expression of the same alphabet, we are all unique expressions of infinity.
The Physical Perspective:
We’re all made of stardust. Even the most rigid materialists will agree that our bodies are comprised of the same atoms that have been recycled through the expansion of our universe.
There’s no getting around the fact that we share the fundamental building blocks of physical reality with the rest of the Universe.
Another interesting insight is that the nutrients we ingest become the raw materials for our cells. We literally are what we eat, which further blurs the concept of man-made boundaries.
And then there’s the micro-biome. A significant percentage of cells in our body aren’t even human cells, but bacterial cells. You are literally your own ecosystem. Just as bacteria is a part of your ecosystem, you’re part of the larger ecosystem of Planet Earth. And the Earth is part of the solar system. And the solar system is part of the Milky Way Galaxy. Would you say that Earth is “separate” from the solar system? Of course not. We’ve just deluded ourselves into thinking we’re somehow separate from everything, and this has led to so much dysfunction. This separation myth allows the ego to run the show and steadily beats the basic human emotion of empathy out of us.
Quantum Physics and Cutting-Edge Science:
Quantum entanglement is a mind-boggling phenomenon which demonstrates oneness. Basically two particles can be separated, one of them is spun or moved, and it instantaneously influences the other particle (beyond the means of any communication we’re aware of). Einstein famously referred to quantum entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” It shows that there’s some intrinsic connection and communication between particles that we can’t quite explain yet in scientific terms.
Another quantum phenomenon that hints at oneness is the double-slit experiment, which demonstrates that the observed and the observer are not separate. This video eloquently explains the double-slit experiment:
“Quantum theory thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe. It shows that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, nature does not show us any isolated “building blocks,” but rather appears as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of the whole. These relations always include the observer in an essential way. The human observer constitute the final link in the chain of observational processes, and the properties of any atomic object can be understood only in terms of the object’s interaction with the observer.” – Fritjof Capra
More Into the Mind-blowing World of Quantum Physics:
Are we living in a simulation or a hologram?
The question of whether or not our reality is some sort of simulation has been a hot topic recently. And, relating to oneness, a hologram is the projection of a single source. Marinate on that for a minute.
Physicist James Gates has found equations akin to computer code that make up our reality:
We’re not the name on our birth certificate. That’s just a combination of letters. We’re not a series of experiences either. The most accurate answer to the question of “Who am I?” is simply “I am.”
Alan Watts once said, “Being central to experience is the nearest thing I can conceive as a meaning for the word I.” So I am central to my experience and you are central to your experience. The word “I” is this theme of centrality of experience. So you can say that we’re all unique expressions of the same “I.”
My personal experiences of oneness:
Meditation – When I get into states of no-thought during meditation, I merge into infinite possibility. Boundaries dissolve. There is no sense of self, just the paradoxical feeling of everything and nothing simultaneously. It’s like being the whole ocean again, instead of just the wave.
Reiki – When I practice Reiki, I often feel my hands melting into “external reality.” Recently, I’ve been experimenting a lot with distance Reiki, and it’s surprising efficacy has really shaken up any ideas I had about the rigidity of space and time (as well as any sense of definitive boundaries between everything).
Music – We’ve all felt the profound effects of music, whether at a concert or just listening to music from a computer. Music has the tendency to penetrate through every layer of being. You don’t just feel music hitting your skin, you feel it reverberating through the depths of your being. This is why it’s such a powerful tool.
Merging into landscapes – I’ve had many experiences in beautiful locations where I felt so deeply and wholly connected to everything. It really was like I had blended with the landscape. One particular moment stands out is when I was hiking in Acadia National Park a few months ago. I specifically remembered being so awe-struck by the landscape that the boundaries melted. In that moment I deeply felt that it was all a part of me and I was all a part of it. Right after, I wrote “I just want to reach out and hug the landscape.” Then I proceeded to take this selfie…
“If I go into the place in myself that is love and you go into the place in yourself that is love, we are together in love.” – Ram Dass
Separation is illusion. Separation is ignorance, a disconnect from all that is. Ignorance begets fear, and fear is the basis of every emotion we consider negative.
We’re all unique expressions of infinite possibility. We’re all waves in the ocean of infinity.
It’s hard to hate someone when you see them as an aspect of yourself.
You are part of everything, yet a unique swell of transitory brilliance. Feel the connection and bask in the exquisiteness of your ever-flowing existence.