By Robert Brumet
Over lunch with the editor of Unity Magazine I told her that tennis was part of my spiritual practice. Being a tennis player herself, she was quite intrigued by this and asked me to write an article about it!
Many people are surprised when they hear me say that tennis is one of my spiritual practices… and that it’s not just praying that my serve lands inside the line!
I have found that the game of tennis provides me with a metaphor for how to live my life in a more conscious and intentional way. Here’s how it works for me: I discover that I play better and have more fun when I take time to prepare; when I keep my eye on the ball; and when I am not attached to results. In my everyday life I find that I have more fun and I am more effective when I take time to prepare; when I keep my eye on the ball; and when I am not attached to results. And, more importantly, I find that I am more attuned to my own spiritual center- the I Am.
On the tennis court this means that I become aware of my position and stance as I wait for the ball to come into my court. It means that I keep my eye on the ball at all times- particularly when it meets the racquet. I keep my eye on the ball as it meets my racquet and into the follow-through, rather than looking at my opponent or at where I want the ball to land. I devote my full attention to meeting the ball with the racquet and then release all concern with where the ball will land. I have found that I can place the ball with much greater accuracy when I am NOT trying to score a point! I have discovered that when I am not attached to the outcome there is “someone” within me that can play tennis far better than I can when I am trying to control where the ball goes. How this works I do not completely understand, but I am learning to trust it implicitly.
I can apply this to my everyday life in a variety of ways. In my professional work of teaching, writing and spiritual counseling, I find that I am far more effective when I am aware of my (mental) stance, when I keep my eye on “the ball” and when I let go of any attachment to results. (What the “ball” is depends upon the nature of my activity- but generally this means paying very close attention to whatever I am doing.) This practice seems to activate a Presence which knows far more than “I” (Robert) do and seems to know just what to say and do at the right time. (I want to emphasize that I still a novice at this- both on and off the tennis court.)
This practice has given me a deeper understanding of the biblical statement that “It is not I, but the Father within that does the works.” (John 14.10) Although tennis may seem like a rather trivial application of this profound truth, I find that it works for me because I can then approach my life itself as a game- and not take it too seriously.
When asked why our universe and everything in it exists, our Hindu friends will simply say leela- which means God’s play. The raison d’être for the universe itself may simply be for the expression of pure joy! Perhaps we all, at times, take life too seriously. When I do, I sometimes hear a quiet voice that says “Remember, life is just like your tennis game: begin with love-all; be sure to serve well; and always keep your eye on the ball!”