My soccer chair swings on my shoulder, folded into its bag with the efficiency of a caterpillar in a chrysalis, as I walk toward the field. The chartreuse expanse of Bermuda grass shimmers from the alchemy of sunlight and early morning dew. A flock of Canadian geese flies in formation, dragging its arrowhead shadow over the players preparing for the opening whistle.
I inhale the crisp breeze, so grateful that the heavy shroud of Virginia’s summer humidity has lifted that I feel a lump in my throat. It is September, and we are back on the soccer sidelines, where we have spent the vast majority of our weekends over the past decade. Soccer is a year-round endeavor for my two sons, but September marks the beginning of regular season play, when the stakes are a little higher.
Though we are often at a game (or traveling to one) when many families are attending their church, temple, or mosque, there is no shortage of spiritual inspiration for me as I watch my boys on the field.
In Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, he explains: “[What] is the relationship between something that you do and the state of joy? You will enjoy any activity in which you are fully present, any activity that is not just a means to an end. It isn’t the action you perform that you really enjoy, but the deep sense of aliveness that flows into it. That aliveness is one with who you are. This means that when you enjoy doing something, you are really experiencing the joy of Being in its dynamic aspect. That’s why anything you enjoy doing connects you with the power behind all creation.”
The soccer field is where my sons’ joy of Being, their delight in their own aliveness, the thrill of pushing their bodies to the limit, soars. The stance of their feet and set of their jaws reflect alertness to every detail of the play around them, connection with their teammates, and an ability to block all non-essentials from their consciousness. It verges on a meditation.
I once heard Tolle say that the reason we pay money to watch top athletes perform is that they exude pure presence. They have followed their true calling, done the work to hone their talent, and have mastered the art of their deep-seated passion. Like zen monks on a mountain top, these athletes are fully present in the moment. There is no future, there is no past. Their consciousness rests fully in the Now, allowing the light of the universe to shine through their play. Through them, we are also pulled into presence. Through them, we see the wonder of the universe and its infinite channels of creativity at work.
So when I’m back at home, scrubbing residual turf stains from a successful slide tackle out of white shorts, I translate the task into my customized form of spiritual practice. In doing so, I feel just as connected with the Source as I would if I were squeezed into a church pew with a hymnal in my hands.