A Deeper Look at Sports as a Spiritual Experience
What associations do an ordinary person have with the word sport? It is a beneficial activity that strengthens the body and spirit, helps cope with stress and develop a healthy personality. Traditional Martial Arts often have spiritual roots but only a few people see the connection between sports and spirituality.
There is no evidence of spirituality in a team that plays football, in a racer who aims to cross the finish line, in a runner who seeks to outrun rivals, in boxers who are fighting for victory. However, if you look a little deeper, it becomes clear that sports have much in common with spirituality because sports help gain a sense of life, know oneself, form and develop spiritual values.
Sports as a New Religion
The connection between sports and religion has evolved over several centuries. Sometimes sports were used for the conversion of unbelievers, but at the same time, religion rejected sports.
Today, Sports are Called a New Religion.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines “Religion” as “an activity that someone is extremely enthusiastic about and does regularly.” So, in this case, sports fit this description perfectly. However, it’s not just about enthusiasm, it’s about devotion, commitment, and worship. There are some characteristics sports and religion have in common.
Sports Unite Devoted People
Uniting people is typical of religion. Sports bring a congregation of fans together, regardless of race or class or economics. These devoted and enthusiastic fans follow a certain team or sport from generation to generation. This love of the game is a sign of exceptional devotion and worship. People have a special reverence for the tradition and legacy of “the game,” that is why they achieve a higher level of consciousness.
Additionally, during the game, fans and players share passion, commitment, and spiritual struggles; they have a sense of belonging to a certain thing, thereby they create common moments. Besides, followers express their worship and praise through collective rituals. They include practicing different superstitions, praying for the victory, and thanking God for the successes of the team. These rituals help strengthen hope, concentrate all positive emotions, unite the faith of all people into a powerful energy flow that inspires players and helps them win.
Sports Promote Love and Service
Sports and compassion have a deep connection. It means that competition in sports isn’t based on aggression and humiliation, but on respecting the honor of other athletes. Often there is mutual respect and admiration because athletes are aware of the price and value of victory.
What Is a Spiritual Experience
Spiritual experiences aren’t based on empirical knowledge. It is something that often cannot be reached on purpose; this is an overwhelming feeling that arises as a result of a connection with God or higher powers. It changes the understanding of oneself.
This spiritual experience is an awareness, a sensation that something important has just happened. A person can gain spiritual experience through different means, including deep meditation, contemplation or trance, a profound state of awareness, or an encounter with the unknown. This experience can be manifested through sound, touch, taste, sight, or smell.
Besides that, it can just as easily be expressed through the sense of the presence of something. Some people claim that they heard or saw things that were supernatural or just knew that something was about to happen.
Relationship Between Sports and Spirituality
Spirituality and sports are connected because spirituality is gained through the following six discoveries.
1. Sports Can Help Discover Unconditional Love
Sports allows a person to experience unconditional love. Love must lead him or her and help them win. When a person loves the game with all his heart, they often realize that God is love, it gives to others only love, kindness, and compassion. Thus, an athlete plays not to impress someone but to give joy and positive emotions to others.
2. Sports Reveal Transcendental Experiences
Many people who do sports say that their favorite activity gives them enormous power, calmness, and relaxation. A person experiences a deeply spiritual moment of joy, serenity, and transcendence.
3. Sports Form a Harmonious Personality
Sports also promote the forming of a spiritual personality. It means that a person feels satisfied with inner happiness rather than with material things.
Thus, a spiritual personality is:
- Unselfish. Sports help us move beyond the inner self, become a part of the collective team, avoid self-aggrandizement, and become less self-centered.
- Non-judgmental and non-aggressive. Sports involve competition between athletes, but it must be full of respect for the opponent. Sports encourage the development of cooperation. In addition, it contributes to the formation of the correct idea of the honor and dignity of each person, their abilities, and individual characteristics.
- Helpful and altruistic. Athletes are team players, they train together and overcome difficulties together. Along this path, they become altruistic and helpful.
- Insightful. A person perceives the outer world without preconceived notions about people, things, or places. Therefore, sports expands the boundaries of human perception of the world.
- Committed to introspection. Sports involve the ability to interact with partners or rivals, the ability to make quick decisions, analyze mistakes and reevaluate the situation, and find the motivation to achieve success. This person indulges in self-analysis to understand their mind, finding the strength and inspiration they need.
4. Sports Teach how to Sacrifice
It’s hard to imagine something more unique than sports. This activity teaches people to cultivate love for oneself and others, to be cooperative, strong, and most importantly – to make sacrifices. The goal of the sports is to win, but everyone goes a long way on the path to victory, consisting of losses, pain, and sacrifices. The meaning of the sacrifice is to spiritually renew, to find yourself again. Sports puts the spiritual core of a person to be tested through sacrifices and sufferings for spiritual cleansing and rebirth.
5. Sports Promote The State, Called “Flow”
The spirituality of sports has been recognized by a small group of scientists 40 years ago. In particular, Mihai Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, said that sport was an effective and affordable way to create a state of being, called the “flow”. When a person is completely immersed in a certain activity, they are not distracted by stimuli of the external world and are fully focused on their inner self, it is possible to experience the “flow”. This state arises as a result of spiritual progress.
Flow enables us to take control of our own consciousness, and step beyond the “psychic entropy” which is often our normal state, this is the state when worries, desires and other kinds of chaotic “thought chatter” run through our minds. When we get into the flow state we experience inner peace and a sense of being more energized or alive than usual.
This means that at some point, a player becomes a distant observer who does not condemn and has no fear of winning or losing. At a deeper level of consciousness, the observer is left alone with what is happening. At this point, the player can perform feats without any effort. Time slows down, the level of productivity rises, and the athlete has more time and energy to anticipate the actions of the rivals and take certain actions.
To enter this zone, some athletes use a transrational approach. They focus on the space of their contact zone and ignore external distractions.
6. Sports open unusual abilities
Sports stimulate the manifestation of the unusual physical properties of the body, which go beyond the traditional concepts of human physical capabilities. For example, some distance runners said that while running, they noticed a glimpse of the inside side of their bodies. In addition, sprinters sometimes feel as if they are rising while running and become almost weightless.
Sports are vital for the development of human spirituality. Different activities that help you unite with higher forces, reach a profound state of awareness and enlightenment.