“What is meant for you will reach you even if it is beneath two mountains. And what isn’t meant for you won’t reach you even if it is between your two lips.” — Arabian Proverb.
My mum and I often remember with fondness a moment when I was around six years old and competing in the egg-and-spoon race at my school’s sports day. Half-way down the track, I dropped my egg and called out to my fellow competitors as they sprinted for the finish line, “Wait for me!” So sweet, and so on the money. I think I knew back then, the thing that I subsequently forgot the second they started giving out awards and grades—and I’m a kid who did well for awards and grades. But I remember having a sense of confusion about them, something along the lines of, “I don’t get it. I thought we were just doing stuff.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of pie-eating contests, egg-and-spoon races, and Pictionary. I also love competing with someone who’s better than I am at something at which I want to improve. But receiving encouragement and recognition for being “good” or “better than someone else” at something, rather than for enjoying or being interested in something was the beginning of a journey that has always felt a little like putting the wrong kind of fuel in my gas tank and then wondering why my engine keeps breaking down. Decision making became, “Am I good enough to pursue this?” or “Do I get good emotional or material feedback for doing this?” Rather than, “Does pursuing this feel right?”
When I took a sabbatical from my job a few years ago to see what writing full-time would feel like, I framed the following quote by Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and hung it on my wall:
“I was the worst writer in my seventh-grade class. And when I went to college I was the worst writer in my college class. But each time somebody told me to stop writing, I never stopped.
When I went to graduate school and tried to get a degree in creative writing they told me to stop because I wasn’t that good. I didn’t stop writing.”
It reminded me every day that I wasn’t writing because I was good but because it had always been something I felt compelled to do, and that brought me a lot of pleasure. It’s still why I do it. Making a decision to write based on how the market works, or how good you or anyone else thinks you are, is pretty much like pouring sugar into that gas tank. Even—and sometimes especially—if someone tells you you’re good. Because it’s not about competition or earning the right to do it. It’s either in you to do it or it’s not.
I believe that we’re all born with the talents, skills, inclinations, and desires, whether they’re latent or seedlings or already in full bloom, in order to do what we were born to do. That we’re each here to be of service in a different way, and we’re born with the toolkit to do it. We can’t earn it. It’s not something to be congratulated for if it’s supposedly impressive, or shamed for if it’s not. It’s just what it is. Some life purposes might be glamorous, or seem impressive or create some kind of prominence, but that doesn’t make it in any way superior to a life purpose that may be mostly behind the scenes, uneventful and quiet. It’s all part of the whole. Take away a single piece of the jigsaw, no matter how colourful, or plain, and the picture is no longer complete.
Competition implies that success or joy or love or any of our needs are generic. Put surely, that’s impossible. We’re all too different.
It’s a lovely thing to celebrate a person acting from their highest self, overcoming a former personal obstacle, or to appreciate a quality in another no matter what it is. When we start to measure a person by their qualities or where they are in their development, or to create a hierarchy of qualities and standards to revere, we’re getting way off track. To compare each other by using this hierarchy just seems cruel. Competition implies that there is a source from which we’re all receiving our resources and that the higher you’re scoring on anything from looks to intellect, speed, career ladders, or good behaviour, the more you’ll get and the more secure you’ll be. What about the circumstances of your birth? What if you weren’t born fast or intellectually smart or supposedly good looking? Or what if you were born with all of those things, but in a place where none of that counts for anything because there are no schools or jobs. What’s that? Bad luck? Tough for you? Some people were born loved by the universe and some weren’t? What makes more sense to me is that we all have a different path, a different set of needs, a different calling, but that our access to unconditional love is the same and that that’s the only thing you’re ever going to need.
Competition is a condition of the ego. An illusion. You can’t win something that isn’t actually happening. The ego works very hard to make sure that you never discover that the competition doesn’t actually exist. It relies on you pitting yourself against others or yourself in order to separate or disconnect you. It relies on you believing that if there’s something you don’t have that you want, it’s because you failed or lost it to someone else or that you’ll achieve it in the future by being better than you are now. It relies on you believing in scarcity because we have to be competing for something. If there’s more than enough for everyone, then what’s the competition for? It relies on you being addicted to the high of winning, being chosen, being better than, being celebrated. Or it relies on the self-pity and the victim mentality of losing, being a failure, of never having what you want; an equally powerful addiction. Who wants all the power and responsibility of being satisfied and equal? Who would we blame for our dissatisfaction? Competition says, it’s your fault for not being good enough or lucky enough or trying hard enough, or someone else’s fault for being better or luckier.
As is true of any addiction, competition is progressive. The more addicted you become to the highs and lows of winning, losing, self-congratulation, recognition or self-pity, the harder it is to give up. You become addicted to the pay-off. You’re either giving up being a victim, or you’re giving up the false esteem of the win. No competition means no pay-off. No competition also means that you always have exactly what you’re supposed to have, including the power to change your circumstances, even if that power lies in accepting the perfection of your circumstances. In other words, no-one is doing well and no-one is doing badly, we’re all just doing what is right for us as individuals in the moment. We don’t get a job because we were the best. We get it because it was right for us to get it. We don’t get into a relationship because we’re better than the other people our partner didn’t choose, we’re just in the relationship we’re supposed to be in. There are no esteemable acts because we are loved unconditionally. We are never lucky or unlucky. We just are. And where we are is perfect for whatever we need to fulfill our purpose. Getting into wanting someone else’s purpose or thinking that someone can take yours is what feeds the delusion of competition, aka, fighting an illusionary, unnecessary war.
I worked for many years in the entertainment industries, supposedly one of the most competitive industries on the planet. During that time, I witnessed reactions to and rewards for talent, fame, beauty, and highly-visible success. The belief was that out of all of the demo’s and auditions, these people had been chosen above and beyond the people who had been rejected. Of course they had, and often they were chosen because they were wonderful, talented artists. What I repeatedly witnessed over the year, was that more talented, more hardworking, better looking, more tenacious, and more professional artists were sometimes rejected. The cream didn’t rise to the to: the people who were supposed to rise to the top rose to the top, not because it was an unfair or corrupt system but because it was obviously part of the life plan of those who rose up to be visible, or to learn about recognition, or money, or something else. The rules of the game were not that the strongest, most special or most talented won.
Einstein said that the most important question a person can ask is, “Is the universe friendly?” I have asked the question, and I’ve asked it in the presence of some dark moments, and I say yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. Not just friendly, but bountiful and unconditionally loving, forgiving, supportive and always on our side. Surely the universe cannot be selectively in my corner because we’re all made from the same stuff, (mostly oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen, as I understand it). So we’re all in or we’re all out, aren’t we? Laws are laws. Certainly, we make our beginnings in different places, but I think we all have an equal capacity for receptivity, an equal capacity to receive exactly what we need for our highest good so that we can be of service in the way that we’ve been called to do. Sometimes for example, what I have needed, is to go without, to be alone, to be faced with a frightening illness or a loss. In those times I have found more richness, personal security, and strength than I could ever have found on a beach resort in the Maldives, or by getting an award, or more money or losing weight or fill in the blank.
One of the most convincing pieces of evidence for me that we are all loved equally and provided for unconditionally is this: Meditation has, without a doubt, transformed me from the inside out. It has removed old ways of thinking that did not serve me, which then allowed for prosperity and love to get in. It removed ways of thinking that were making me sick and allowed me to start being well. It connects me to strength, courage, sanity, truth, love, guidance, everything that I could ever want or need. It fixes everything, often simply by taking away the need for whatever it is to be fixed or changed. And it’s free. I can do it anywhere, at any time, no matter what. I can do it when I’m sick, broke, depressed, busy, exhausted, young or old.
And by the way, I just googled to see if meditation competitions exist, which of course they do. They’re called sit-offs, apparently…I could totally win one of those.
A version of this post was originally published on NataliePeatfield.com and is republished here with permission.