We were playing for the golden goal.
It was the high school soccer State Championship game against our archrival who had beaten us the previous year. To say the game was intensely competitive would be a gross understatement. For a high school athlete, this game meant the world to me. More than that, it was my entire world!
Adding to the drama, that year the state soccer regulators passed a rule that playoff games could not end in penalty kicks. After playing regulation and two overtime periods (a total of 120 minutes), the score was still tied at 0-0. Because of the new rule, we had to stop playing for the day.
The match was continued two days later with a “golden goal rule” – the first team to score would win the state championship. This type of sudden death is not normal for soccer matches. During the 166th minute, one of our players made a break down the sideline, a cross, and a one-time shot… GOALLLL!! We won the game.
Pandemonium ensued. Fans rushed the field. All I remember was screaming at the top of my lungs in celebration as my best friend tackled me in the melee. We were State Champions.
What was the result of that emotional uproar? What had I "won"?
Depression. The following year, I was struck with the blues in a big way. I remember heading to soccer practice for my new college team, completely devoid of feeling. I'm reminded of Swami Kriyananda's affirmation for the "Corpse Pose":
"Bones, muscles, movement, I surrender now; anxiety, elation, and depression, churning thoughts – all these I give into the hands of peace."
That perfectly describes my emotional journey: anxiety before the state championship, elation at winning, then depression afterward. I had finally become a corpse, though not in the yogic way! Life had no meaning and purpose for me anymore.
This experience taught me that winning in a competitive spirit is one of the surest ways to lose the game of life.
What we want to win is the true inner lasting joy of God. Yes, we have to fight against delusion and sorrow like Paramhansa Yogananda said:
"When Mr. Sorrow comes, do not give him strength by acknowledging his presence. If you feed him with the nectar of your tears, he will stay. He will soon spread all over the bedroom of your life. The minute he arrives, laugh at him, that will cheat him of his joy. Then kick him in the stomach. Apply the fists, limbs, and elbows of your will and throw him entirely out of the chamber of your life. Thus you will win both a physical and a metaphysical victory over sorrow." -How to Be Happy All the Time by Paramhansa Yogananda
When you shift from competition to cooperation with divine grace, you will win the true “golden goal” of divine joy. Remain even-minded and cheerful and as Swami Kriyananda said, “Let joy be your gun.”
Then the angels and great Masters will cheer you on through the soundless roar of AUMMM!