I’m a big tennis fan, and so Wimbledon on TV was a bonus during this time of recovering from foot surgery. Feeling rather powerless and in need of some inspiration, a second bonus was spotting the invisible battle going on while Serena was winning the singles championship at 33.
Watching the outer battle…I mean, wow. The woman is a national symbol of the potential for feminine power. I remember watching her play with her sister when they were teenagers, the only black feminine faces in a privileged white sport. Not only have they both risen through the ranks, Serena has navigated the politics of sports, become an international star, and now has maintained and surpassed herself. She has overcome injuries, illness, inevitable aging, incredible competition—and is dominant in the world of athletics. That’s power.
Still, in her final match I watched her battle the personal demons that have come out to haunt her on international television in the past. As she admitted in her interview, her biggest challenge is not physical, but mental. Despite all her achievement, training, hard work and success, mastering herself is the hardest work of all.
I have compassion for her in this struggle. Tennis was my sport, and my biggest enemy was myself. I could rip myself apart faster and more viciously than any critic could have managed. I never did master myself through the crucible of tennis.
Watching Serena reminded me of the Hindu story of Arjuna, Krishna and the chariot. Lord Krishna drives a chariot onto the battlefield and Arjuna is a passenger seated in the back. Arjuna represents the embodied individual soul and Krishna, the higher Self– going into the midst of a battle between the armies of our “lower nature” and our Divine nature, on the inner battlefield. The reins are the mind, the horses the senses. And the whole operation works depends on collaboration between them all. (https://chandrugidwani.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/the-significance-of-the-chariot-with-krishna-and-arjuna/)
I saw Serena’s real battle was to harness and channel the huge power she has amassed. It can be used, like all power, for destruction or for good. The bigger the power and the more fully we enter the bigger area, the more intense the tension gets. Looking through my lens it was not, “Will Serena beat Garbine Muguruza?” as much as it was “Will Serena let Arjuna keep the reins?”
Under pressure, we are all tempted to regress into the habit of allowing our ego or smaller self to grab those reins, triggered by whatever bugs us the most. When Serena’s serve goes sour, it must feel like her power is betraying and eluding her. Her ego must want to scream out obscenities and try to force the issue.
The maddening thing is, the opposite is required. The real battle is to create enough quiet to remain the neutral witness, to listen to higher instruction, to trust that magical flow is just outside our reach, possible once again if we relax and allow it. Letting go over forcing the chariot. Trust over fear.
It’s a mighty challenge for every one of us, collectively and individually. And at the top level of sports, we see the truth: that in a battlefield where every top player has already achieved top fitness, strategy and skill, it comes down to the inner stuff.
What we’re all after is Realization, or whatever you’d like to call it. Peace, happiness, joy, flow. We’ve all had it, and we’ve all lost it. Every one of us is on that battlefield and the skirmishes won’t stop, whether we’re playing on a tiny neighborhood court or in the halls of Washington.
Who’s driving your chariot, or piloting your plane? Are you even acquainted with that higher Self? You’ve met her in those moments where the magical flow just swept you along through difficulties you didn’t think you could master. That’s what I’d call your Arjuna, your Divine Self. You could just call it The Friend. I call it Big Pam, as opposed to Little One.
How can you allow the Friend to take the reins again? Well, I think the first step is always, Just STOP. When anger or panic or pushing or striving or forcing has got you by the throat, just STOP.
Now breathe. Just breathe right into the feeling, wherever it lives in your body. Give it a chance. Give it a little space, a little pat. It’s just your own private angry toddler. Surely you won’t let it drive. You know how that ends. DUI’s or worse.
Now ask. Ask your Self, your heart, for help driving this unruly vehicle. Ask, and it shall be given. Maybe you won’t win the match. But you will have practiced your power serve. You will be one step closer to what I see Serena mastering: authentic power.
Finally, thank your inner Self, your master charioteer. Serena thanks her Jehovah God, which used to annoy me. But now I get it. “It is His strength I rely on,” she confessed. You can call your charioteer Joe if you want, or Delilah. But when you have surrendered the reins and harvested the reward, give thanks and then try to keep doing that.
Your inner crowd will stand up and cheer.