“Spiritual Football” by David Sills

"Spiritual Football" by David Sills

I sometimes find myself playing a game I call spiritual football. In spiritual football, I am the football field. I am the goalposts. I am the umpires. I am the visiting team. I am the home team. This game is entirely internal and self-generated.

My team in spiritual football is fighting for my good. My team wants me to be prosperous, happy, healthy, surrounded by friends, waking up each day with that wonderful feeling of “Oh, great! I get to do all this again!”. It wants me to think productive, brilliant thoughts. It wants me to recognize the indwelling God in which I move and have my being. Every player is my friend. Each wants to win.

The opposition team in spiritual football is fighting for my downfall. That team wants me to be impoverished, miserable, sick, alone, and waking up each day with the feeling of “Oh, great… this again.” It wants every day to be a carbon copy of the last. It wants me to feel as though I am the only one pushing the wheel of progress, that any forward movement is owing solely to me, and that any backward movement is my failure. Every player is my opponent. Each wants to win.

The two teams have very different gameday strategies. My team has a variety of techniques to deploy: prayer, affirmations, meditation, readings, regular committed spiritual practice, meetings with others of like mind where discussions will be wholesome and rewarding, and so forth. The opposition team has just one primary technique to deploy: doubt.

Let’s look at doubt for just a minute; the opposition team certainly has. If you turn to the dictionary, it will say something like “being uncertain about the truth of something”. That is, clearly, a part of what doubt means in this game of spiritual football. It means repeatedly asking myself the question, “but how do I know?”. In the Science of Mind, we make many assertions about who we are and what God and we can do together. But how do I know?

Another dictionary’s “doubt” entry might add “being uncertain about the reliability of something”. That’s a good addition to the opposing team’s arsenal: they don’t have to argue that the things the other team wants couldn’t happen; they can argue that they aren’t likely to happen. They can just whisper “the world doesn’t really work like that.” Rather than giving me no ground at all into which to dig my cleats, they can just turn what ground they do give into quicksand.

Another dictionary adds, “believing something to be questionable or unlikely”. Not quicksand, this time, just loose dirt with no roots to give it solidity. The mere fact of encouraging the question is the point of this form of doubt. Once the question is asked, unless it is answered with authority, certainty takes a hit.

So, the opposition has some useful techniques. What does my team have to work with?

Well, we do call it “Science of Mind”. What does the “Science” part mean? We are all taught that scientists follow something called the scientific method. They take an idea, assume it to be true, devise experiments to test it, and impartially record the results. If the experiments come out one way, well and good; if the other way, time to find a new idea, which can then be the basis for further experiments.

Science of Mind works in exactly this way: we take an idea (something, perhaps, we want in our lives), we assume it to be true (not true sometime, but true right now), and then live (that’s the experiment).

We see the results of that assumption in our lives. Sometimes the results are exactly what we expected, sometimes they are not. Sometimes it even takes a little distance to see that the results we got were ultimately related to the idea in our assumption. But if we are constantly experimenting, like good scientists, we note over time how experiments come out and begin to draw conclusions about the efficacy of the procedure.

This gives my team its greatest strength: an appeal to consistency, to history, to experience. We have built up experience of this procedure working in ways both modest and spectacular. We can answer doubt’s “the world doesn’t work like that” with “oh, yes, it does!”. We can answer “how do I know?” with “because I’ve seen it in my own life, so many times”. Whatever the question, we have firm ground to stand upon.

Like any football game, having a superb win-loss ratio doesn’t guarantee the result of any particular game: even an 0-7 team can sometimes win. But doubt is inherently self-defeating since we can doubt even doubt itself. Where, after all, does doubt get off, manifesting itself when I’m in the process of working out my life?

Of late, my team is winning many more than its fair share of games. And I intend to keep it that way.

David Sills is a member of Columbia Center for Spiritual Living.


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