Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons – Some rights reserved by Department for Culture, Media and Sport

For the last twelve days, I have watched more TV that I usually do in a year. And it happens every two years when – you guessed it – the Olympics are on. I enjoy watching the coverage of sports that I don’t get to see often – gymnastics, swimming, diving, track, beach volleyball. I like the nationalism of the athletes, the mostly good natured competition and the camaraderie.

Then there’s the part that I find somewhat disturbing. That is, when in certain sports, the athletes cry or pout when they win a silver or bronze medal instead of gold. Yes, I know – they have spent their entire lives training for their sport, but in some of the popular olympic sports, like gymnastics where the athletes come in expecting to win gold and they don’t, they’re devastated. Nothing is good enough except that gold medal. Where many are simply thrilled to be able to compete in the Olympics, these athletes cannot accept anything less than being the very best. Well, I think this is the good side and the bad side of competition.

Since humans have been on this Earth, we have been competing – for mates, food, territory, recognition. It’s in our nature. And the modern Olympics is a perfect example of how winning that gold medal can bring all of the above and more to a successful athlete.

Sports is about competition. It’s a metaphor for life. Or at least, we think it is. Sports teach us that when someone wins, another loses. And it reinforces our belief that there isn’t enough to go around. When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I competed in middle-distance running events as well as cycling road races. And I mean – I competed. I trained hard and won many awards in both sports. And it brought out the best and sometimes the worst in me.

I would train hard and, especially in foot races, I competed against myself. Shaving off a few seconds in a 10K was something I really enjoyed. And if I had a bad day, I just chalked it up to not being “on.” Cycling, on the other hand, is much more of a team sport and at the level that I raced, was far more competitive. I remember more than once being pushed off the side of the road, run over or yelled at by other riders (especially when the “big girls” came to town – those high-level amateur women who rode full-time), and these incidents were some of the reasons I quit. Still, I find myself competing even now. Maybe it’s in my nature, maybe it’s in everyone’s nature but I share it as a way of laughing at (and with) myself. Just so you know who you’re dealing with…

Last Saturday, Peter and I decided to ride our bikes to the Larimer (Colorado) County Fair. It was a beautiful day and much cooler than it has been for most of the summer, so the 32 mile round trip was really heaven. When we got to the fair, we locked our bikes and walked through the exhibit halls which included buildings with 4H animals – rabbits, goats, sheep, cows, horses, alpacas and everything was being judged. There were blue, red and yellow ribbons everywhere.

In one hall, people had submitted crafts – baked goods, quilts, photography, even vegetables and all of those categories had been judged. As we walked through the vegetable section, Peter said: “Your herbs look better than those with the blue ribbon!”

I looked at him and replied, “Yeah, I should find out where to submit my herbs next year.   I could beat all these people!” As we rode home, I started thinking – “Really, Cathy? You want to compete in growing sage???? It’s not like you have anything to prove – at least in that department. Or like you have much to do with how they turn out except just planting, feeding and watering them.” So I gave up on that idea and told the competitive gremlin to settle down.

Competition sparks us to do our best. And yes, the Olympics is about bringing together the best athletes in the world. It creates national pride and awareness of the excellence that can be achieved with hard work as well as natural talent. But it has become such an iconic goal for many athletes, that not winning the gold somehow negates everything they have done up to that point. And that feels sad, to me.

I often say that we are human beings, not human doings. Competitiveness says that one has to be the best. But viewing our experiences – whether we’re competing on a playing field or anything else – as the energy of doing our best rather than having to be the best is healthier, I think.



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012



While you can’t keep your heart from getting broken, you can stop breaking your own heart…once you realize the difference between what you can control and what you can’t, and that it’s far, far more fun to lavish all that attention on your own self-worth.

—  Leigh Newman

I found this quote on Oprah’s “Thought for Today” newsletter. And while it really needs no further explanation, it got me thinking about worthiness.

What would our world be like if everyone felt true worthiness? Not entitlement, not narcissism, not selfishness, but worthiness? When I went to the 5-Day Silent Retreat in January, 2010, one of the things that Lola Jones said that I remember most clearly was this (and I’m paraphrasing): “Unworthiness is one of biggest barriers to enlightenment.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but it makes sense.

Unworthiness represents separation from the Divine. It means that we are not worthy of love. And if the Divine is Love and we are drops in the ocean of the Divine, then we are also Love. It’s about understanding that our Beingness and not our Doingness is what makes us worthy.

Where does unworthiness come from? It comes from people pleasing, judging our own actions, believing that we need to earn Love – living our lives where love is given and received conditionally (and I use the lower-case love intentionally here). These patterns often come from childhood – parents doing their best, but loving conditionally. Friends and teachers setting standards that encourage us to “fit-in.” Peer pressure, performance anxiety, loving ourselves and others conditionally – and the cycle continues.

What if the year 2012 is not about some cataclysmic destruction of the Earth – but a change in consciousness where we set aside unworthiness and begin to be that Love that we truly are? That we break that cycle and start a new beginning? What if we really are worthy?

I welcome your thoughts.



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Half-made Bed

I love my husband and I love my cats. This is a common occurrence in our house: Peter (and I do appreciate it) makes the bed almost every day. But if there’s a cat either lying on the bed or the decorative pillows on the floor (which we had placed there the night before to remove them from the bed so we could get in it), he either won’t make the bed or he’ll only finish up to the point where he doesn’t have to move a cat.

Cielo loves to occupy the warm spot on the bed that has recently been vacated by me. And either Leo or Cielo will also lay on the pillows on the floor. I’m not in the office today and have been working at the computer this morning, catching up on emails and blog comments. So when I went into the bedroom to get dressed for my run, here’s what I saw.


Leo on Pillows

And this:

Mostly made bed minus the pillows that are underneath Leo

What should I do?

1. Move Leo and finish making the bed?

2. Wait until he moves himself and finish making the bed?

3. Leave the job undone for the rest of the day?

What do you think?