13: Light, Competition and Comparison
13th day of States
I skipped yesterday. This works out if we want Day 0 to be the day of the race. Sure, you could say I did this on purpose.
At a Running Mindful Meditation retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center in rural northern central Colorado—at 8,000 feet, mind you—this past weekend, I participated in group meditation and motivation discussions. I took away a collection of invaluable tidbits and reminders. I’ll share two today.
The retreat drew classic Type-A overachievers, people who love to trail run and wanted to learn more about meditation and yoga, people recovering from cancer, an Iraq veteran, the list goes on. The stories shared were vulnerable, intense, eye-opening and beautiful. Hearing that multiple people had recovered from pain, both physical and emotional, through meditation, mindfulness and a healthy dose of running was inspiring. We all left with a renewed appreciation for why we do this stuff.
Additionally though, we talked about motivation. Motivation in the rawest sense.
“What is my motivation?” retreat leader Marty Kibiloski asked us to contemplate before a meditative trail run.
Mike Sandrock, another retreat leader, asked, “Motivation for what?”
“Just what is my motivation? You decide what the question is. What is my motivation in my relationships? What is my motivation for running? What is my motivation for working? What is my motivation for competing? Whatever you want to explore and find answers to, ask that question.”
I started the run unsure of what motivation question I wanted to answer. Usually, I default to “What is my motivation for running?” But today my meditative, open mindset was flowing, so I left the question open ended, “What is my motivation?”
Within minutes of the 10-minute contemplative run, I knew my answer:
“To spread light.”
This answer has multifaceted meaning, as today was the first day my meditation practice has taken a spontaneous leap forward.
Usually when I meditate deeply, sitting, not running, my mind goes to a very blank black, blank space. Sort of like an infinite darkness in outer space. Today though, I saw bright white, a light, for the first time ever while deeply meditating. I immediately thought of the word compassion.
Thus, when only an hour later during the “what is my motivation?” run, I received the answer “to spread light,” something—I’m not sure quite what, albeit vague, mystic, and personal—clicked. I’m stoked for the guidance. I’ll think of it during the hottest part of States, for a start.
Competition vs. Comparison
Another point more related to running, is something Rock pointed out.
The difference between COMPETITION and COMPARISON:
Competition is healthy. It pushes all of us to be our best selves. It’s a self-driving quest for greatness, independent of how you stack up to a fellow racer other than how each of you push THYSELF. Yes, there are winners and losers overall, but the competition, sans comparison, is within yourself and the venue of a race.
Comparison, on the other hand, can be a self-destructive jackhammer. Comparing yourself to your fellow competitors:
- takes the fun out of the whole race or competition because it often ignites unnecessary anxiety, jealously, feelings of inadequacy, self-hatred.
- gives unwarranted value to attributes unrelated to the competition, i.e. appearance, body-rippedness, clothing, net-worth, past race accolades.
- often ignores human attributes that are invaluable: kindness, camaraderie, and sportsmanship.
I love to compete more than most things. Yet, in the past, I’ve struggled with comparing myself to my competitors more than out right competing. What if my quads looked more like hers? How come she has those shoes? How many miles did she run this week?
These types of thoughts are so pointless! They take the focus off why I’m competing in the first place: to push myself to its limit. Nothing about my competitors matters other than we are out there together, pushing, driving, shredding, laughing, crying, and sweating our balls off to be our best. End of story. Stop comparing and start competing.
Thank you, Marty, Rock, yogi/meditation Guru Allie, and all of my fellow retreat-goers. Let there be light.