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Every four years, the world assembles in a ‘summer’ or ‘winter’ city, in what is ostensibly a celebration of ‘Olympic’ ideals and values. Athletes and their supporting caste of administrators, friends and parents spend roughly two weeks in ‘competition’, to test their mettle with the ‘best of the best’.

We, the ‘non-Olympians’, look on, cheer on, and hope on that the athletes get an opportunity to perform at their best. Some of us, including me, hope that the competitors perform with the Olympic spirit in mind, and in heart. For, all things being equal – which they rarely are – those who demonstrate the greatest heart, are the ones who leave a lasting impression on us.

Yes, there are the feats that defy our idea of what mere-mortal human physical capacity can achieve. The first perfect score(s) in gymnastics (Nadia Comaneci, 1972), the ‘rag-tag’ USA ice-hockey team prevailing over the favorite USSR in 1980, the plethora of swimming medals by Michael Phelps, and the list goes on.

192px Milkha Singh

And then, there are the ones who did not taste ‘victory’ by winning any medals, but instead, won our hearts, and were forever established in the consciousness of their nations. One of the least known examples (at least among non-Indian readers) is perhaps, Milkha Singh, The Flying Sikh. The race for which Singh is best remembered is his fourth-place finish in the 400 metres final at the 1960 Olympic Games. He overcame considerable childhood trauma, including being orphaned during the partition of India, to establish himself in a billion hearts and minds… a huge ‘winner’ in the “inner” Olympics.

In the context of spirituality, we often talk about “inner” growth and “outer” actions separately, although we often conclude that the inner and the outer are simply reflections of each other. There is a lot that the “outer” Olympics can teach, or lend, to those who are engaged in “inner” Olympics, via sports like Journaling, Healing, Yoga, Meditation and more. For one, the Olympic motto of “Citius, Altius, Fortius” – Swifter, Higher, Stronger – has a lot of connotations in our “inner” Olympics. In addition, the “inner” Olympics can draw inspiration from the ubiquitous Olympic symbol – the five interconnected colored rings on a white background – in the sense of infinity, unity, oneness, harmony, diversity and more.

So, as we observe and watch the Olympics over the next two weeks, let us pay some attention to the life lessons, the stories, the struggles, the preparation, the sacrifices, of these athletes. For beyond all the confetti and the celebration, the commentaries and the criticisms, the defeats and the disappointments, the judging and the judgements, the politics and the punditry, there lies a field – where the “inner” Olympics, the greater,’invisible’ spiritual battle is fought. Let us congregate there, in the Olympic spirit, and reflect – how do we get to the ‘victory’ podium in our “inner” Olympics?

For without that ‘victory’, which brings everlasting Joy and Peace, all other victories are perhaps moot…


P.S. Please join our chat on twitter on Sunday February 9th at 9am ET in hashtag #spiritchat as we discuss – Spirituality and the Inner Olympics. In addition, I would love to hear any stories about “fourth-place” finishers that are embedded in your heart and mind… Thank you. Namaste!

Here are the questions asked during the live chat. The answers are compiled in the storify summary. A full, complete transcript is also available at the hashtracking site (1394 tweets, 115 contributors, 5.4M timeline deliveries, 0.56M reach). Enjoy!

Let's light it up. Q1. Consider the phrase, "Inner Olympics" - what feelings does it evoke within you? #spiritchat

Q2. In your 'inner' Olympics, what's your favorite 'event(s)'? How do you train/practice? Yoga, prayer, or... #spiritchat

Q3. "Swifter, higher, stronger" - which of these three inspires your inner practice the most? Why?  #spiritchat

Focusing on Citius. Q4. The desire to be "faster" - how can this help or hurt our 'inner' practice? #spiritchat

Q5. In the context of 'inner' Olympics, who or what is our true competition? #spiritchat

Q6. If "The most important thing is not to win but to take part." then, Is 'winning' relevant? #spiritchat

Q7. Consider the symbology of the five rings - how does this impact our 'inner' journey? #spiritchat

Final Q8. Three things you would say to your fellow 'inner' Olympians... #spiritchat