In honor of the Olympics, I thought it would be great to remember that even in sport ”“ there is a deeper understanding of our challenges, blocks, obstacles and fears that make us want to quit, chuck it all, run for cover and spiritually (not to mention emotionally and physically) retire.
I’ll let the 2012 Olympic 10-meter platform diving gold medalist, David Boudia explain it.
“When I started really diving, I was so fearful ”” I was basically jumping off a three-story building. I was afraid of the height, but when I dug deeper, I realized it was a fear of not being in control of everything.”
Pretty deep stuff for an athlete to reveal. Rather than merely talking about just the physical aspects of sport, he’s uncovering the inherent vulnerability of knowing that it’s always about fear. But not really maybe the way we think fear looks.
Which is ”“ all the dialogues in our head telling us we can’t. So when you’re standing on the precipice of a (figurative) 10-meter- high platform ”“ everything bad you’ve been taught to believe about yourself is going to become the loudest voice telling you not to jump. That, right there, creates a huge amount of resistance and fear, which ultimately shows up in the form of control.
Our ego wants that. If it has the say in how our life is supposed to go ”“ it can prevent us from taking steps into unknown territories (relationships, feelings, creative expressions, career changes, breakthroughs, realizing our deepest dreams) that are terrifying to its existence.
So we’re scared we can’t do it. We think we can and are about to (!) and then all of a sudden, all the ways we tell ourselves we can’t creep in. To control, then, is to defend and rationalize where, why and how we can’t. To give up control is to confront the truth that you can. That’s scarier. So we hide behind all sorts of (rational sounding) reasons of why it never works out, or it’s impossible or it ain’t ever going to happen to us.
At one level, that’s what life is about. Recognizing deeper tendencies or habits that keep us from being fully actualized. Because nothing really is answerable at the superficial level. To not want to go deeper to explore why is also what allows us to keep controls in place.
If I’m oblivious, I don’t have to change. And change is the scariest thing ever to the ego as it allows us to question all assumptions the ego makes about us and the world.
Control is such a weird word. Because to say we’re trying to let go of it suggests that we have any to begin with. We don’t. That’s the greatest irony of it all. No one is in control because nothing is inherently controllable in an impermanent world.
But we often feel like we do. And the ego is so great at defending that illusion.
Have you heard the thoughts in your head lately? No, like really listen to them. They’re crazy! Most thoughts based in control and fear are. The journey of life is to stop identifying with all the things you say to yourself.
So examining our controlling tendencies is also an opportunity for us to be more human. To not control can show you where you’re vulnerable, scared and trying to let go.
So how do we do that? Create boundaries. You know how we do that with other people? (Or maybe we don’t and that creates all kinds of other problems!) But it’s time to create boundaries with the thoughts in your head.
You draw an imaginary demarcation line in your mind and when you hear yourself say things that are vexing, you don’t allow the thought to cross the threshold of your peace of mind.
You laugh at it, knowing it’s not who you are. You let it go, knowing it’s now who you are. You send it love, knowing it’s not who you are. You breathe through it, knowing it’s not who you are. You accept it, knowing it’s not who you are. You wrestle it down and cast light upon it, knowing it’s simply not who you are.
It’s simply one of thousands of meaningless thoughts that force you to engage in control in your outer life, because they seem so real.
They’re so not real ”“ think about their impermanence. Those thoughts you hear yourself say today might not be the same stories you tell yourself tomorrow. Or next year. They’ll be replaced with some other bullshit your mind likes to make up to distract you from how amazing you are, put you into fearful “brace” mode, and get you to control all the stuff going on in your life because that’s where safety and security seem to live.
That, my friends, is a lie. And not a way to win a gold medal.