Like many of you, I have been glued to the television these past few weeks watching the Olympics in Rio. The pageantry, beauty, and exquisite performances from the world’s top athletes infuses more than ego-driven competition into the air. A mysterious recognition emerges when our collective consciousness inhabits this ancient tradition. Some part of you is called to remember and transform itself into something greater.
In the winter of 2003, I journeyed into the heart of Turkey. Traveling along the country’s western Mediterranean coast, I stopped at the ancient ruins of Olympos. First mentioned by the Lycians in the 2nd century BC, this ancient city worshipped Hephaestors (Vulcan), the god of fire. Not far from the city is the mysterious Chimaera, an eternal flame that still springs from the earth. I climbed the rocky volcanic slopes of Mount Olympos and witnessed the Chimaera’s spontaneous flames erupt from the crevices between the rocks at my feet. Gas seeps from the earth and bursts into flame upon contact with the air. The exact composition of the gas is still unknown.
It’s easy to see why ancient peoples attribute these extraordinary flames to the threat of a monster – part lion, goat, and dragon. In mythology, the Chimaera was the son of Typhon, the fierce monstrous son of Gaia, the earth goddess. He was so frightening that Zeus set him on fire and buried him alive under Mt. Etna, thereby creating the volcano.
The Greeks and prominent scholars will tell you the Olympic flame commemorates the theft of fire from Zeus by Prometheus and the flame for the games originates in Greece brought into being now by 7 women, a mirror, and the sun. The Turks believe the ancient Greeks sailed across the channel and collected the flame of the Chimaera as Zeus’s “fire.” What is central to this story is the presence of an eternal flame, a spark of the divine.
How can you, as a modern person, make meaning and benefit from the Olympic Games?
You are your most fierce competition. The Games are a call for you to step into your own greatness exactly where you are right now, and to do so, you have to enter your inner, eternal flame as a crucible for what stands between you and your highest self.
The Games are a celebration of human excellence, capacity, and imagination. The hill tribes that lived along the Aegean, who influenced and were incorporated into the rise of Western civilization, would compete to give human strength to the gods and goddesses that inhabited this earth plane with us. The games then weren’t performed so athletes could get million dollar endorsements from Nike; rather, they were performed to feed what is unseen, the spirit of the place and forces that make human life possible like the wind, rain, crops, and so forth.
What presided over the games? The eternal flame.
The ancient competitor in you understands that your best performance is life; whether that is to be a great friend, mother, lover, or business owner, you must possess incredible inner emotional and spiritual strength. To do so, you must become the alchemist.
Alchemy, which appeared in the 1st century, is the scientific belief that lead can be heated and turned into gold. As a metaphor for the human condition, it means burning through the lead of limiting beliefs, fear, self-doubt or perceived weaknesses and releasing your own golden light, your essential nature as pure spirit. Courage, confidence, and a sense of power to co-create your world with the forces of nature are what propel you into a life you never imagined.
Every modern-day Olympian is running this race on the inside to get to the Games. When one of them wins, we all win. Something gets put back together inside of us at the sight of the torch, the shine of the medals, and the smiling uncontrollable tears of a human who for just that moment gets to be a god or goddess, infinite and limitless.
How will you go for gold today?
In psyche and spirit,