competition nondual scott ford zone

By Scott Ford

We all compete. Competition is ever-present. We are born into a dualistic world where we learn to play dualistic games so we can participate in dualistic competitions where winning spirals us upward into fields of reward, while losing spirals us downward into fields of despair.

We have always seen “winning” as the solution to the problem of losing, and in zero-sum competitions where there is one winner and one loser, the conventional problem-solving solution looks like this:

Problem: One Loser
Solution: One Winner

Makes sense. Unfortunately, I win/You lose can turn around the next day into You win/I lose, and I go from the thrill of victory on Monday, to the agony of defeat on Tuesday, which brings up the problem we must all solve on Wednesday, which is: what do I do today to escape Tuesday’s agony and rekindle Monday’s thrill?

Naomi Osaka has decided, and I applaud her decision, to escape the agony of zero-sum competition by taking time away from its relentless pressure to win, not lose. I also applaud her bravery. Same applause for Simone Biles and Michael Phelps. Three world-class athletes speaking out for mental and emotional health and wellbeing, while bravely exposing their personal agonies.

That takes guts. Especially in the face of criticism and ridicule – like this: How sorry should we feel for a millionaire athlete who takes time away from her job to find out who she really is?

Would that we could all take time away from our daily jobs to find out who we really are. Of course, we have weekends and holidays where we take time away from our daily competitions, and where we get to watch our favorite athletes competing at their daily jobs where winning is their only job security. Athletes don’t keep their jobs by losing. They keep their jobs by winning. You lose in professional sports, and you lose your job. 

If you’re looking for a job with future job security, don’t take up competitive sports. The benefits can be awesome, but the security sucks. And yet, if you are reading these words, you probably play competitive sports, so you know the thrill of victory, but you also know the agony of defeat.

Which do you train for, and which do you ignore?

How much time do you spend on your physical performance training compared to the amount of time you spend on your mental, emotional, and spiritual performance training? If you think you don’t need mental and emotional training, then answer these questions:

1) Have you ever had a meltdown while playing your game?
2) Have you ever wanted to toss your golf clubs into the lake?
3) Or smash your racquet on the court?
4) Or anguish over a game that was supposed to be fun?

It doesn’t matter what sport you play. If you compete in it, then you’ve experienced the mental and emotional problems that cannot be solved with dualistic, zero-sum solutions. 

Hey, Coach! How do I solve my mental and emotional meltdown problems?
Coach: By winning, of course. What else is there?

Suggestion: mental and emotional skills training. Preferably starting at an early age, before winning becomes an obsession and losing becomes suicidal.

As for “spiritual skills training,” every time you play your sport “in the zone,” you are actively training your performance soul, and your soul transcends egoic, zero-sum competition. What better way to solve a dualistic problem than to transcend it with a nondual solution?

Q: What does a nondual solution to a dualistic problem look like in the real world of zero-sum competition? 

A: It looks like playing in the zone during competition. It looks like “Competing in the Zone.”

Leylah Fernandez did it in her match with Naomi Osaka – and won the match. Naomi lost the match because she didn’t – and now she’s not sure if, or when she will ever compete again. 

At the world-class level of zero-sum competition, competing in the zone is the ultimate competitive edge. Just ask Leylah.

The same competitive edge is available no matter what your level of competition because we all compete in one game or another, and when we compete in the zone, we transcend our dualistic ego with our nondual soul, giving us the ultimate competitive advantage in any zero-sum competition.

Competing in the zone does not ensure the thrill of victory, nor does it ensure the agony of defeat. What competing in the zone does ensure, however, is a win in the competition between your ego and your soul, and that’s a competition we all must face in a world obsessed with winning.


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