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A Match for Yoga

badminton

Badminton. Its my latest obsession. And yesterday, it revealed to me my latest realization… it seems there is very little difference between the way I play badminton and the way my sadhana and my gods deal with me. For a moment out there, I believe I actually saw myself as the shuttle!

But let me elucidate a little and describe the process step by step.

Ever since I can remember, I have had a soft corner for this sport. However, as a child, quite burdened with wheezing lungs, I could barely involve myself in any physical activity and so occasions were rare and few when I actually got to try my hand at playing. It is only in recent years that I have taken it up as a serious endeavour and in retrospect it would seem that I just wasn’t ready for it until now.

Likewise, I feel that ever since my younger days, I was drawn to something which wasn’t quite apparent and yet I knew that it existed. It beckoned once in a while and as with badminton, I would experiment with my search, becoming a Christian over Christmas and an ardent Krishna bhakt over Diwali. It is again, only in recent years, that I have finally homed in to some sort of understanding of where this search was directed and begun what I call my final journey.  This too I have taken up as a serious endeavour.

Now to the sport itself.

Badminton in my opinion is exactly the same as one’s inner sadhana during the initial stages. I am as yet a poor player in both games. But a typical session of badminton can well illustrate the graph of my sadhana as well.

The game starts with a warm up. We call it rallying and it’s the most fun part because there is a sense of control and its pretty straightforward – one receives the shuttle at the same place, at the same speed. Its quite like its being served on a platter for the moment, much like when one begins the walk down the spiritual path, and finds such glorious treats, all literally being handed over without having to work towards them. I always thought God to be quite clever at business with the tactics that he uses to lure us. But after the initial glimpse…poof he takes it away and that’s when the real chase begins.

The game too slowly starts to change its nature and goes a bit to the left or right, making one begin that extra movement, that extra effort. The concentration begins a corresponding increase, but even now, it is not all that difficult and as yet, manageable.

On mutual consent, the play takes a turn and a serious match begins. Suddenly, there is no predictability whatsoever. Absolute focus is required, pre-emption of what is to come, preparation to meet it, determination to answer it on its own terms. In this scenario many changes come upon me. At times, I am full of enthusiasm and energy to meet the challenge. Then quite suddenly I begin to flag in strength and verve, unable to respond, inertia creeping into my body, feet upwards. The more I lose concentration, the more depressing it gets and the worse I play. Until the game reaches its nadir. Then as if there is a silent call to some inner player in me, I go out into the battlefront one more time. And once again, there is a match, facing the challenge, speaking its own language.

Even the type of shot one hits is like my sadhana. At times I play safe shots –nothing that can get me into trouble. Then I get more gutsy and experiment with placement – if I hit like this, what will happen, if I hit like that, where will it go… its always a search. Shots which I play with ease and shots which take the breath out of my body.  There are times when the shuttle goes way beyond the boundaries leaving me bereft of a chance to score, while on other occasions, it will land miraculously just on the line, giving me victory by sheer Grace. Then there are the smashes – those whizzing moments when you have absolutely no idea what’s going on and yet your hand and brain seems to move by instinct and counteract the blow. At times, you just can’t, and instead remain standing with eyes closed. There are those special learning occasions as well – its when I hit a shot that my opponent cannot meet – at times, I simply move on without a thought, while at others I am so blinded by success, that I fail to see the shuttle sailing through and suddenly my victory seems so pointlessly annulled.

My sadhana is exactly the same in every way. I play a silent game. I play with the hope of  experiencing the perfect shot. And although it is as yet a rarity, the effect is such that it lingers on and on and reminds me of the beauty of the game and the perfection that is possible.