In a December 2017 interview with Kozo Hattori and Pavithra Mehta from Awakin.org, Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer said, “A spiritual understanding not practiced under fire is without value.” This is as profound a statement of spirituality as I have heard. It was part of her answer to the question, “Your Greatest Inspiration.”
Dr. Aluli Meyer grew up in Hawaii and played middle blocker for the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) volleyball team. Her life changed in 1978 when she blew out her knee. I offer her words here because I greatly appreciate the relationship between athletic competition and life. I experienced success as an athlete and my daughter, Stef Golan continues down that path as the head women’s soccer coach at the University of Minnesota. Similarly, I work with Gail Rongen, Chairman of the Board of the Nicole Megaloudis Foundation in support of the Guepard Boxing Club in Cité Soleil, Haiti (GBCCS) where we use boxing to strengthen young Haitian boys and girls in mind, body, and spirit.
Following her athletic career-ending injury, Dr. Aluli Meyer searched for what to do with her life. Her search led her to Harvard University (Ed.D. 1998) where she earned her doctorate in the field of indigenous epistemology (philosophy of knowledge). Her resume is impressive and extensive. You can best explore it on the awaken.org website.
Of her 1978 injury and its impact on her life, Dr. Aluli Meyer explains,
“… the awakening began in my body, because in sports you are going for your own excellence. So that is what competition was for me. It was an inward exploration of my own excellence. And that is why I loved sports, whether it was tennis, running, handstands, skateboarding, surfing, volleyball, basketball, track and field. It didn’t matter.
“That is why when I had my accident while playing for UCSB, I blew out my knee, and I’ve had five operations on one and two on the other, then you die. The you that you think you are dies. And that is when the journey of self-reflection has to begin because everything you know is gone.
“… How am I going to survive? How am I going to live past… this sorrow? …I decided that I might as well decide what I am meant to do in this lifetime.
“… that is why I think my mother said, ‘Manu, God has another plan for you.’ …Your first take on conflict and sorrow and pain is ‘No, I don’t want it.’ But it ends up being the elixir of your own evolution. The promise of your purpose and you yourself did not or could not know until you’re challenged because a spiritual understanding not practiced under fire is without value.”
Athletic competition and athletic endeavor – whether competing at a professional level or maintaining a healthy lifestyle riding a bicycle into old age – teaches us valuable lessons. For that reason, I encourage everyone who is physically capable to heed Dr. Aluli Meyer’s words. Challenge yourself, and if you know young children – they may be friends, they may be your own children or grandchildren – challenge them as well.
The Secret Is the Challenge
The challenge to practice under fire extends far beyond the ‘fields of friendly strife.’ We can challenge ourselves intellectually, and we can challenge ourselves spiritually. The secret is the challenge. IF you challenge yourself, sooner than later, you WILL find yourself under fire, and your baptism under fire WILL bring value to your life and to those around you.
“A Spiritual Understanding Not Practiced Under Fire Is Without Value”