In Baseball and In Life: Sometimes the Outcome Just Sucks!

If you happen to be a New York baseball fan like I am (and not one of those who cheers for that team in the Bronx), you probably had a bit of a broken heart recently when the Mets lost the World Series.

I use the term “lost” loosely, because if you know baseball, and if you watched these games, you might consider “gave away” or “blew” more appropriate terms.

It’s Just Baseball

Anyone who spends the better part of six months cheering on a baseball team with the emotions of a die-hard fan has probably wondered why these emotions are so strong at times. It’s perplexing, isn’t it? You know it’s just a game. You know that your real life will go on whether your team wins or loses. You know you have nothing to do with whether or not they win or lose, and you know there’s big marketing behind the hype and drama that draws you in.

And yet you can’t help the fact that somehow it matters. When your team loses the big games, it stings.

The Yoga of Baseball

If you’re also a yogi like I am, when things like this happen, you immediately try to be all yogic about it. After all, yoga gives us many tools for dealing with disappointment, frustration, and loss—the most obvious and appropriate being the law of non-attachment.

Well, you know what fellow yogi New York sports fans (and everyone else)? It’s okay to forget about that for just a while. Go ahead and be sad—and angry—and disappointed. Just for a while. (And yes, keep your real life in perspective.)

No, it didn’t happen for reason. No, there is nothing to be learned or gained from watching a pitcher pitch the game of his life for 8 innings only to blow it within minutes in the top of the ninth. There’s no life lesson in the fact that your team, which was not expected to make the playoffs much less be in the World Series, had a surprising, fun, and amazing season—and then broke your heart, for a moment, in the end.

It just sucks!

So feel that for a while. Mope, brood, yell. Do whatever you need to do. But just for a while.

Then you can come back and be all yogic about it. If you like, you can try to make sense of it all, because as all baseball fans know, baseball is a lot like life. And as you try to make sense of it all—because baseball is a lot like life—don’t forget to be grateful for the fun, and don’t forget to feel the joy.

Opening Day is only five months away!

Namaste.

Finding Neverland and the Paradox of Growing (Up)

There’s a scene, or more precisely, a musical number, in the play Finding Neverland that captures the paradox of life perfectly—if you believe such things can happen. In the scene, the playwright J.M. Barrie and the boy Peter are singing a song called “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground.”

The play is based on the story of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan. While it’s not clear how much of the play is fact, the idea is that Barrie befriended four brothers and their mom in the park while he was trying to come up with a fresh new idea for a play. The children’s father had recently died, and one of the brothers, Peter, had lost his innocence and “grown up too fast.” Barrie, on the other hand, is an adult but refuses to grow up.

In the scene I think is the play’s defining moment, Barrie is singing about flying above the clouds to cope with the pain of life: “When your feet don’t touch the earth, you can’t feel the things that hurt,” he croons.

At the same time, the boy insists his feet need to be kept on the ground and that living in a fantasy world is a mind trick that won’t do any good. “With my feet on solid ground, I can face the things that hurt,” young Peter sings.

The man singing as if he were a child and the boy singing as if he were a man is what makes this moment so powerful. But the important message is the paradox and how we must learn to live in it. We can’t dwell on the pain of life, but at the same time, we need to face our challenges. It’s how we grow.

As children, we want to grow up and do our own thing. Eventually, we become adults, and many of us find we’re no longer able to dream, imagine, or feel the joy of simply being alive that we had as children. And we think: “I’ve become too serious, too responsible, too much like the person I thought I was supposed to be. This isn’t good.” And perhaps there’s nothing sadder than seeing a child get to this point too soon.

That we need to maintain our ability to dream, believe and fantasize is a powerful and important message, but it can also be a dangerous one if we don’t learn to live in the paradox. The solution to pain and challenge is not to go back to being a child. We’re not meant to be children forever, and moving from childhood to adulthood means we have to let go of some childish things. The problem is we often let go of too much.

There’s another scene in the play when the characters are wondering if they’ve forgotten how to play. Does this mean they should be playing the way they did as children? Maybe you’ve met adults who refuse to “grow up” in any sense of the word.

Yes, children know how to have fun and dream and be whatever they want to be (at least in their own imaginations). And yes, there is value in this, but children are also dependent on others and often haven’t learned to be part of a community.

I think we’re children before we’re adults so we can learn how to give back when we come of age. It may not be politically or socially correct to say so, but there’s a downside to being a child.

While we’re not meant to be children forever, I think we are meant to maintain some of our child-like nature—and that’s the paradox. We need to hold on to the ability to escape into dreams and fantasies and stories, even as we acknowledge that none of these things can solve our problems and take away the pain of living. We need to keep some child-like qualities simply because they get us through the harsher realities of being “grown up.” We need to grow without growing up so much that we lose our connection to the magic of being a child.

(Don’t) Worry; Be Happy

You may remember the song, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy.” It’s a catchy tune and a fine message, usually. If you practice yoga, you have probably practiced being in the moment, which usually suggests a state of blissful trust in the universe. In other words, you’re without

Sometimes worry is healthy

In the book “Aging as a Spiritual Practice,” author and Buddhist priest Lew Richmond writes about “healthy” worry. He describes the Buddhist concept of the “middle way,” comparing it to a lute string. In order to produce the best sound, a lute string must be in balance, that is, not too loose and not too tight.

My mom (who gave me the book to read) pointed this out the other day when we were discussing retirement. Realizing I had some concerns about having enough to live on in retirement, she said, “They say live in the moment, but how can you do that?”

Since I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the future, I thought I knew the answer. “You have to be aware of the future and make plans for the future, but it’s probably not healthy to live in the future,” I suggested. I’m not sure if that’s right.

The future depends on you

I guess the point is if you go through life in denial and truly live only in the moment, you will eventually encounter unpleasant moments. The unfortunate reality of having to save for retirement is one example.

I often encounter people who swear to me the “universe” will provide for them, that things will happen “in time.” And I’m not surprised to find out ten years later that they’ve made no real progress toward their goals (if they had any goals to begin with).

On the other hand, if we spend our lives obsessing about numbers (living in the future) or stressed out over how to be sure I lives go according to plan, we’ll likely be miserable for many more moments than if we go through life with trust and awareness of how the present unfolds into the future.

Our past does not disappear

Similarly, there’s no real way to be in the present if we have no connection to the past. Our past contributes to what is going on in our lives at this moment. Again, living in the past (brooding, regretting or wishing to return to “glory days”) is not useful. But recalling pleasant memories or appreciating the value of lessons we learned in childhood enriches each present moment, doesn’t it?

Learning to live in the present moment is (along with learning how to breathe) one of the best gifts I’ve received from my yoga practice. I could spend a lot of time feeling sad about things I’ve lost or fearing what will happen in the future, but thankfully, I don’t, at least not too often.

Keeping the Lute Strings in Balance

I try to spend just enough time in the past or future to keep my lute string balanced so I can make the best possible music. When I find myself tightening the string too much, I trust that I can take a step back and stop worrying, at least for the moment.

And when I realize I do need to make plans for the future, I tighten that string just a bit more, but not so much that I forget to appreciate the gift of living in this beautiful moment and trusting I’ll make (mostly) the right choice in each moment as the future unfolds.

The past, present and future cannot really be separated. But maybe this is just a matter of perspective. No one can be in exactly the right place at all times; we need to learn how to make adjustments, to loosen and tighten that lute string as we move through a series of present moment.

That’s the beautiful practice of the “middle way.”

Baseball Has Been Very, Very Good to Me

I was eight years old when my dad taught me how to read a box score. I was home sick from school and lounging on the sofa bed in the family room (which we called the “TV room”). With the newspaper between us, Dad explained to me what all the stats meant and even how to calculate some of them (he was a math teacher, after all).

Dad had grown up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the 1940s and 50s. I now know many stories about “dem bums.” When the Dodgers left Brooklyn, Dad stopped watching baseball – until his favorite player, Duke Snider, was traded to the New York Mets in 1963.

While Duke was only a Met for a year, Dad has remained a fan to this day. I don’t remember the miracle Mets of 1969, but I do remember the Amazing Mets of 1973. Baseball is one of the many ways my Dad and I have connected over the years. It would later become one of the ways my husband and I would connect.

It’s well-known that baseball is a metaphor for life; at least for the life of a diehard fan.

I went to my first game at Shea Stadium in 1975. My dad, my grandfather and I sat in the upper deck. It was batting helmet day, which meant kids got a plastic replica of that piece of players’ gear as a souvenir.

Over the years of my childhood, our whole family would go to at least one game a year – usually “banner day,” which in those days was a real double-header that only required a single ticket. My mom, who never really understood baseball, came along anyway. She’d pack a picnic cooler with sandwiches and fruit (usually peaches).

Met fan Ginger

Over the years of my youth, particularly my teenage years, baseball saved me more than once from bouts of existential angst. It always seemed like no matter what was worrying me, nothing could possibly go wrong while there was a baseball game on television.

This was even true in the late 1970s, when one of the things that usually did go wrong was that the Mets did not win the game! Still, there was a sense that baseball could bring peace to Earth.

There are other memories I associate with summer and baseball, too, like the smell of freshly cut grass, the image of a Rheingold beer can, and attempting to play the game myself with a bunch of friends at the park (I eventually traded in my glove for a tennis racket).

Even our dog was a Mets fan!

Over the years, I’ve been teased mercilessly by those other New York baseball fans (you know who you are). I don’t care much. They’re not the only ones who ever teased me, but at least in this case it was (mostly) good-natured fun.

As the fan of a team that goes years without winning, you learn some important life lessons winners perhaps don’t learn. For example, it’s not whether you win or lose but how much fun you have along the way that matters most.

When I went to college, my parents were thrilled that two of the guys I met the first week were “Italian Catholic Met fans.” What were the odds? While we were just friends, they are friendships I’ll always remember fondly.

And then came the ’86 Mets. I’ve seen clips of the end of Game 6—the turning point that led to the World Series win we’d waited 17 years to see—dozens of times in the decades since. It never gets old.

What I learned there is patience is a virtue and miracles can happen. Of course, it would be another 14 years before I’d see my team in a World Series again, but no matter. The time in between was still lots of fun.

In my thirties, I developed my own kind of meditation practice (in addition to the more traditional types). To calm my chattering mind, I’d watch a baseball game and tally the action on a scorecard. Focused only on that for a few hours, my worries would disappear, at least for a while.

The man I married was one of “those other” New York fans (despite the fact that he grew up in California). However, there is a happy ending — and a few more lessons — there. I learned tolerance in a whole new way. I also learned change for the better is possible. You see, while my husband does not like to admit it, he’s a convert. We’ve been to dozens of Mets games together over the years since!

First, though, I had to do the unthinkable. Two weeks after our first date (a visit to the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, NJ), he took me to Baltimore to see the Orioles play the Yankees.

As if that wasn’t enough to cause my father serious concern, the next season I went to the one place where Dad never thought he’d see me go. Yes, I went to Yankee Stadium. (Love makes you do strange things.) For my Mets fan friends who don’t know about this part of my past, I’m sorry you had to find out this way!

Wrigley stands

Soon after, though, my husband discovered what I’d known all along. The New York Mets are much more fun to watch! So we set out to see them—or any team—play all over the country.

We took a seven hour drive to Pittsburgh when the Mets played there. There were a few trips to Philadelphia, one to Milwaukee, and (my favorite) to Chicago’s Wrigley Field. And in 2006, we took the first of three trips to Florida for my birthday (which happens be during spring training).

There’s nothing quite as uplifting as leaving winter behind and watching your team prepare for opening day. We wove stops at baseball stadiums into our Arizona and San Francisco vacations as well, though the Mets were not in town in either place at the time.

At one point we planned to get to every ballpark in the country. I don’t know if we’ll ever meet that goal, but you know what they say. The journey is more important than the destination.

Now, it may seem at first glance that a post about baseball is out of place on a blog about “wellness and vibrating at higher frequencies.” But if you’re a baseball fan too, you know why it’s here. After decades of watching the game and rooting for my (often underdog) team, it has not gotten old.

It has gotten harder though (maybe much like life itself). As a kid, all I saw was a game. Now I see greed, steroids and other unseemly things that are often hard to overlook. But the joy of the game trumps all that. As all fans know, baseball is a lot like life. It can be the best thing in the world if you’re willing to accept its flaws and stay focused on the things that make it great.

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