I avoid competition like the plague. Competitive contests whether athletic or intellectual, judged or timed or scored performances of any kind: I usually say no, thanks. I like watching sports, and even so, I hate to see anybody (except maybe teams from New York) lose. After years of beating myself up with judgment and comparison to others, I just do my best to avoid it.
For this reason during the first part of our relationship, I resisted playing games with my (total game-loving) husband, Frank: first, because he’s the luckiest person I know (see my post on his luckiness) and second, because he’s also one of the smartest, so he would (with-extraordinarily-few-exceptions) always win. After a while, the constant losing would wear me down. As a compromise, for the past several years, we play Scrabble without keeping score. This worked great for both of us: Frank got to play a game and I got to not worry about losing (yet again) — and we could just have fun.
When we traveled with our friends to South Carolina last week, it turns out that they have this cool Scrabble game for the iPad (or iPhone or any iProduct, I expect). We would pass it from person to person while we were driving or hanging out at the apartment (watching NCAA basketball while I cringed for the losing teams). Heavens to Triple Word score, did we play us about a zillion games of Scrabble in five days!
And here’s the thing about this computer version of the game: there is no option to NOT keep score. Every time I played a word, the computer added up my points and displayed them at the top of the screen for all to see. When I realized that avoiding the competitive side of the game was impossible, I made a choice to use the Buddhist principle of non-attachment for our extended Scrabble Odyessy.
Non-attachment is about letting go of the outcome of a situation. As my friend and wonder-coach, Joy Tanksley, said in her August 22, 2011 Monday Morning Spark (), “Plant the seeds. The harvest is not your business.” Non-attachment is about doing your best and then letting what happens, happen. One of the misconceptions about non-attachment is that I don’t care about the situation. It can seem like a cold and hardhearted practice. But non-attachment is not detachment. Non-attachment means doing our best, our absolute best to affect the change that we want, and THEN, letting go. And this is where it gets a little tricky.
In the liner notes of Paul Simon’s latest album, So Beautiful Or So What, he talks about this practice. He wrote (and I’m paraphrasing here – does anybody have the CD so I can get his exact words?): “Life is about caring like crazy, with all your heart, and then not giving a damn.” Non-attachment is pouring ourselves into an endeavor and not worrying about the results. I don’t know about you, but that is a difficult practice for me.
Even in something as innocuous as an electronic Scrabble game with friends, I find this challenging. I would sort and resort my letters, find the best place to get double, triple letter and word scores and then as soon as I hit play, I’d breathe, and pass the game to the next person. Sometimes I’d feel that familiar frustration or ineptness, and mostly I was able to retain my equanimity. It may sound like a small feat and for me, it was progress.
Today, I invite you to experiment with non-attachment in Nia and in life. Pick something that you want to learn, have, be or do and pour yourself into it completely. And then let go. The harvest is not your business, just the planting and cultivating of the seeds. So Beautiful or So What.