Most of us, especially those who were raised in this country and in western civilization specifically, are birthed into a competitive world. Without ill intention or malice, parents naturally feel their child is destined to be better than others, cuter than the neighbor, smarter than the schoolmate, more skilled than the teammate, and simply more special than the other kids. Of course there are attempts to encourage children to be gracious losers and winners, to be generous and kind sharers, and to be supportive and helpful friends, but what surfaces out of this underlying sense of comparison and high expectations is a never ending cycle of competition with ourselves and with the outside world.
Growing up I played tons of sports, was a competitive gymnast and a driven student. The intention behind each was to continually top myself and of course to somehow stand over others. My happiness was so dependent on external circumstances, on luck, on other’s failure, that naturally the bouts of excitement and satisfaction I’d feel were very fleeting, diminishing almost immediately after celebration. I idolized elite athletes, felt genuine emotional tumult when they’d lose and euphoria when they’d win. Their actions had absolutely nothing to do with me, but you wouldn’t know it. This only bred a feeling of separation between me and others, my team and my opponent, my favorite athlete and their rivals, my accomplishments compared to another’s.
This competitive edge gave me just that, a hardened shell I used to protect myself from others. As I was constantly looking out for what could thwart my success, there was no opportunity to look within, to foster the art of collaboration, openness, kindness, real love. The world was a game, people were obstacles, and life was a competition. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. Nothing ever felt complete, whole, full or finished. I loved my teammates, my friends, family, people I deemed on “my side” but left little room for someone else to rock my world and make me better. I’m so immensely grateful yoga took over my heart, shook up my conditioned patterns and led me to realize how much better life is once you release the need to compete and instead choose to support others and yourself along the way.
Now that yoga has swept the west and is only growing, it’s still very easy to see competition everywhere. Franchises, trademarks and businesses have emerged and created a stronghold over this now booming industry. What began as a free mechanism to surrender and enlighten, has now given way to winning and profiteering. This is not everywhere, of course, but in the States it’s fairly prevalent. Teachers, studios and companies are reluctant to support another’s in fear it’ll somehow take away from their business, a.k.a. their profits. The goal is external and therefore the more we receive, the more we want. There is never enough money, fame or luxuries. I feel strongly this fear based decision making only keeps us in our perceived scarcity. Other’s strengths somehow make us feel weak. Someone else has more and suddenly we feel a lacking. We forget the message, the point. We become trapped, fixated on the end line, our future success, and we eliminate so many possibilities in the present because we’ve chosen fear over love, competition over collaboration.
We’re an industry that wholeheartedly believes in the law of attraction but I, myself, have been stuck in the web that is individualistic pursuits. You want more support? Give it. You want more love? Give it. Without expectation. Give because it is in your nature to give your fullness to the world. Instead of looking up to those deemed more successful, look over to your fellow human being for inspiration. When we look up or down at others, we perpetuate the need to separate, to make one better and one worse, to be inferior or superior. We are all the same. Share the goodness in you and in others and the reverberating effects will be staggering. Erasing the line between us and another creates a larger pool to swim in. Certainly we don’t need to support negativity or cast a random net and hope some people stick, but if we come across the quality minds and hearts of others along our way, it will benefit each if we embrace and uplift, rather than excluding and choosing only to pat our own backs.
I’ve never been more inspired and encouraged by my colleagues in my life. Everyday, my friends and fellow teachers/writers astound me. I’m flummoxed by their awesomeness, amazed by their inherent beauty and uplifted by the space they give others to be their true selves. Human beings are social creatures, meant to collaborate. Our egos drive the need to compete, believing it is essential to survival. It is not. The more we have in our corners, the more we affect positively, the more loving and alive we feel from the inside out. I’ve never believed more strongly in the goodness, talent, skill, intelligence and love in my fellow human beings and miraculously, I’ve never felt more genuine love for myself either. They go hand in hand. Be in love with the world and the world will fall deeply in love with you. Surrender, lend out a hand, smile and go with the flow. You deserve it.