…the inner game and its challenge…

“The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. … at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.” – W. Timothy Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis

The Inner Game of Tennis changed a lot of people’s conception of trust and engagement.  The inner game’s environment is the inner game of focus.  Putting 100% of yourself out there because you keep up a concentrated focus and because you get caught up, involuntarily, in the goal you seek.  Wait!  Did I say “involuntarily”?  That must have been a mistake.  Concentrated focus takes work and effort; it requires commitment and dedication; it is just about as far away from involuntary as you can imagine.  Or is it?

One of the great breakthroughs that Gallwey uncovered was that concentrated focus has many involuntary edges.  He talks about quieting “Self 1” and trusting “Self 2.”  But what exactly is the difference between Self 1 and Self 2? And why are there so many involuntary edges? 

According to Gallwey, Self 1 distracts by design.  Self 1 is that inner voice that questions and doubts; it chastises and harangues; it is the inner voice that once we appease it, by giving it our attention, we can no longer make use of Self 2. 

And what is Self 2?  It is the natural state of energy and flow that we give to what ever we want.  Self 2 possesses “our inner ideal”; it knows the person we are meant to be, and it knows that only as an involuntary ideal, as a wish that lives in the moment.  We cannot will ourselves into achieving the ideal state of Self 2 – we can only give focus to that which we love and to that which we are called to do with the very next the moment at hand

Self 2 is the inner focus we either concentrate (or squander) with every moment of our lives. And by knowing that, we still cannot make its “knowing” a conscious one.  The involuntary nature of Self 2, plays games with our edges.  It plays games with those places where identity and vulnerability make us resist and become defended.  The deep humility of Self 2 requires from us the very thing that our edges seem to take away: Freedom.  Self 2 requires the freedom be more than what we might expect or believe.  

So here is the expression of our highest and best selves:  concentrated attention harnessed by a natural wish, innate, in borne, and without any agenda.  The problem with Self 1 is the agenda.  It is the virulent voice of ego-busting or ego-boosting that throws us out of focus and puts us into our heads.  Self 2 does not trust anything that feels foisted or feigned, for just as Shakespeare said, “that way madness lies.”

So The Inner Game of Tennis changed a lot of people’s ideas about trust and engagement.  And much like the difference between memory and imagination; memory’s guidance carries us only so far because it confirms what we already know consciously.  Imagination, however, carries us to realms beyond our own knowing.  And it is ever faithful to the best we hold within us.  Thanks for listening.


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