I’m a competitive person.
Yes I’m a yogini. I teach yoga. I own a studio. I teach people to teach yoga.
And yet I’m competitive and struggle against needing to win ALL THE TIME!
Since I was a little girl I’ve had a drive to win.
My mother even toppled a game board (Trouble) shouting at me that she wasn’t going to play with me any more because I NEEDED to win.
I didn’t understand. I think I was 8 or 9 years old. I thought the purpose of playing was to win.
Winning was succeeding. It meant you did well.
We were supposed to want to be winners, right?
I always thought my mom was a spoil sport, a poor loser after that. I’m starting to think differently now about her perspective on NEEDING to win.
Competition and winning actually framed my thinking for most of my life.
- I got mostly As throughout my schooling (in fact got beatings for not having As sometimes)
- I became first chair in my youth orchestra.
- My high school mascot was the Achievers.
- I was a National Merit Scholar finalist.
I was hard-coded to win. I think many of us are in our nature or our nurture.
Winning means happiness.
When reflecting on this patterned behaviour in my adult life as a yogini, a self-employed person, and hopefully awakened being, it reveals some work yet to be done.
Competition is the root of most of my actions. I would dare say most of our actions.
Our culture is one of consumption and competition. We love reality game shows. Contests. And most systems combine the two – like social media – consumption and competition. How fast can I respond to that notification!!?? I win at…. Facebook?
From where we live to what we wear to what we drive and who we associate with we are competing with everyone for them. In social media we are in competition for our thoughts.
- I win at my moral stance.
- I win at my social activism.
- I win at my fashion sense.
We are competing to be the best, either economically, socially, spiritually, culturally. The things that we adopt in hopes of elevating us we often use to degrade others. And we view or covet other’s success or winning as an indication of a flaw or failing in ourselves.
It extends to what we eat.
“I only eat chia seeds soaked in Kombucha for six days and then on the seventh day I rest.”
It extends into our yoga practice.
“I practiced five hours yesterday with my eyes closed while doing a juice fast.”
We respond to these statements in a competitive manner as well.
“Well I can’t eat chia seeds because it doesn’t fit my blood type, or …I can’t give up my gluten because…. Blah blah.”
We take the statement of others as a judgment or a point against us on the scorecard of life.
Our desire to be unique and special mutates to needing to subjugate. (Think about the current election season and how many sentences start with “I hate…”? And how often are we belittling others who don’t share our views?)
And in the end what do we win really?
Our pride is over-inflated and then we need that next rush of winning.
It’s a different kind of high. One that lifts us by putting others down or we feel we are losing if someone else is winning.
This would be a misperception if we study our sutras.
And that misperception is guiding our unwise actions. Those actions end up having us be selfish and trying to “hoard” (aparigraha) happiness or success.
I’m working to untie the knots of this tightly bound pattern in my being.
The next time I hear someone say they are going on an exotic trip, I will strive to be happy for them and not think about why I cannot or why I’m better if I don’t because I won’t contribute to the carbon releases in the planet.
The next time a colleague who is also in business for themselves shares some new development I will strive to not run home and start to pump out my own, but genuinely bask with them in their success.
The next time I run into another yogini or yoga instructor I will strive to not compare my physique or asana practice with theirs looking for some flaw to elevate me or some perceived superiority for me to strive to be better than.
What are we trying to win anyway?
We can’t out-win anyone’s happy.
There’s an endless supply of it and we need to learn to share.
There is no win in yoga, just connecting, noticing and awareness.