Embracing the Olympic spirit

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

There is nothing like feeling the joy of breaking through old limits, and, with the winter Olympics taking place, participants will perform better than athletes ever have in the past. It's exhilarating to witness in others - or to discover for oneself - new levels of achievement.

A key part of performance is an athlete's thought, and people will often say, after performing better than before, how surprised they were to find that, in those moments of achievement, their actions were not forced but felt almost effortless.

I competed as a skier during high school and college and at times experienced that kind of effortless achievement. I would feel free from limits and more fully aware of my spiritual identity.

That word "spiritual" is heard so often. But what does it actually mean? To me, it's more than just thinking about God, immortality, and peace, as helpful as those thoughts are. And it's more than thinking I'm a physical shell with a spiritual identity inside.

"Spiritual" to me means not connected with physicality at all - just as sometimes you can look at a friend and see only qualities. Qualities such as joy, intelligence, grace, and insight are God's expression of identity in that friend. They're indications of a level that's beyond anything physical or mortal. They are not mortal; they're im-mortal; they're spiritual.

Exploring spiritual identity has been a pursuit of mine for many years, and a touchstone in that quest has been this statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who founded this newspaper. She wrote, "Creation rests on a spiritual basis" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 555). In sports I learned that I didn't really know myself until I admitted that I'm God's creation, and 100 percent spiritual.

To be spiritual means to have identity as God's thought. Divine Mind, another name for God, expresses itself in ideas, spiritual ideas. Just as God isn't constricted by physicality, neither are any of us, actually, because we are the ideas of God. The source of true identity is divine Mind, or God, and this can be proved on the racecourse or halfpipe as consistently as in the workplace or sickroom.

"Science and Health" also includes these lines: "Mind, joyous in strength, dwells in the realm of Mind. Mind's infinite ideas run and disport themselves. In humility they climb the heights of holiness" (p. 514).

Humility is the means through which we learn of and prove our real identity, an identity that isn't limited by physicality, but is "joyous in strength," revealing the infinitude of God. Humility and prayer open thought to what the source of existence is showing us about ourselves.

I remember proving this idea while I was in college. I competed in two sports, and the seasons overlapped, so I often had only a little time to practice. Before the final races for our ski team, I hadn't skied for a few weeks. I went to the race and competed in the giant slalom, and after the first of two runs, I was in fourth place.

I recalled the idea behind this Bible verse: "In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one particular way, for some useful purpose" (I Cor. 12:7, New English Bible). I knew that I was included in the manifestation of Spirit, God, that day and at all times. So I just decided to enjoy the expression of God in me.

After everyone had finished the second run, I learned that I'd won. Skiing had seemed effortless - it felt great to rise, to a degree, above limitation, and enjoy the freedom of being a spiritual creation, expressing the glory of God.

When we understand ourselves as God's expression, physical limitations don't seem so compelling. In moments of awareness of true being, anyone is completely free to express something of his or her real, spiritual identity.

As the winter Olympics begin, I can't wait to watch even greater levels of freedom, and new examples of the Spirit being expressed in us.

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