When I was in fourth grade, I talked to God all the time. I never spoke to anyone about it, nor did my 10-year-old self give it much thought. It simply was, in the same way that I was a girl or that I went to school. I checked in with God for a continual connection to what I knew to be something far bigger than school-bus bullies or mean-girl popularity contests. It wasn’t as though I was hearing a voice speak back to me or having visions of guardian angels, just that there was an innate sense of peace and guidance.
My home-room teacher assigned us an essay: “What I Value Most.” I thought about this for a long time and quickly rejected the answer of any material possessions. I remember thinking about it as I walked to the school bus one day and was engrossed in cloud formations in the sky, and the answer came very clearly to me: my imagination. Somehow my understanding of all that was possible and true lay in that connection within my own consciousness, within my connection to a higher source. My “imagination” was my way of describing a space beyond the mundane, the space of infinite possibilities.
In the fall of that school year, all was pretty right in my world. I was balancing on that razor’s edge of adolescence, where a girl still maintains a sense of confidence before she is subjected to the harsher lense of puberty. I felt capable of anything; a good athlete, strong and talented at most sports, I felt alive out in the cold New England air at afternoon soccer practices.
This season I had been having a fairly good run as goalie for our team in practices. One late October day, our team—in our knee socks and headbands—was seated around the coach in a circle, waiting for our position assignments for the upcoming scrimmage. Names were read off as each girl hopped up to mild applause and ran to their designated spot in the red, orange, and gold landscape of the woods surrounding us.
My name was called to play goalie, and I experienced for the first time the dizzying high of momentary celebrity as applause and cheers erupted around me from my teammates. My heart swelled, blood rushed to my face, and my 10-year-old ego did a back-flip.
I ran to the opposite end of the field to take my position between the posts of the goal. I felt so full and unstoppable. My peers had validated that part of me that said, “You are special, you are different, you are, maybe, even a little better.”
I felt the crisp wind on my face and very clearly told God, “It’s ok. I don’t need you right now. I can do this myself.” And in this moment, without knowing it, I told the greatest lie of my short life.
God had other plans for me that day, in the form of one humiliating missed ball after another. I did not make one single save. In my embarrassment and shame, I began to understand: There is no goalie, there is no wind, there is no applause, without creator and creation working collaboratively. With the sting of humiliation, I understood the role of my tiny self in the great cosmic game.
I remember that day anytime my ego flares up and fools me into believing I am on my own.
In Kundalini yoga, we have a teachers’ oath that we say to ourselves before we teach class: “I am not man, I am not a woman, I am not myself, I am a teacher.” In stating this, we are disassociating with our finite self and aligning ourselves with the infinite.
When we engage in something that gives us happiness in the form of success or accomplishment, the rush we feel is that something higher is at work. I walked back from the field that day as the sun was low over the field and felt ashamed for thinking that I was alone in my earlier successes. I saw a glimpse of the profound collaborative dance of spirit in all that is around me. I looked into the red glow of the setting sun over the bare trees and felt grateful.