On many summer evenings after dinner, my husband and I take a walk. As we stroll through a particular neighborhood not far from our home, we often see bunnies. The critters are often hard to spot as they quiver beneath a hedge or blend into a sandy spot beneath a tree. At dusk, they’re even often hard to identify in the grass. Of course, it’s the ears that usually give them away.
As we walk, chatting about our day, our kids, and other subjects, we invariably try to spot bunnies, and we usually end up engaging in friendly competition, though I must admit when my husband sees more bunnies than I do, I’m miffed. Why do I want to win the bunny war? Beats me, because there’s absolutely no reward for winning, other than getting to say, “I saw more bunnies than you!” And no one keeps track, so night after night, the war repeats, with neither of us coming out ahead in the longrun.
I never considered myself to be a particularly competitive person, yet the annoyance I feel when I’m behind in the bunny count seems to indicate otherwise. I’ve been examining this quality lately, too, because of my yoga practice. I’ve finally come to realize that there is absolutely no reason to look at what anyone else is doing on their mat (unless you’d like to learn how to do a particular pose that you’re having trouble with). But there’s no point, in yoga, to compare and compete. Your practice is your own.
I’m sure there is something called “healthy competition” that does exist. There’s nothing wrong with beating someone at tennis or squash, or winning at a swim meet, or getting awarded a bid to build or design a house. And I’m sure it’s okay to audition for an orchestra and win because you’re absolutely the best flute player around, or to come home with the Pulitzer Prize for writing the great American novel. In fact, it’s probably natural and normal to compete, and that is probably why, as soon as I round the corner to what my hubby and I affectionately call “Bunny Lane,” my ears and eyes go on high alert.
But….on the other hand, I wonder where competition leads. Are we doing it to better ourselves and our world, or to make someone else feel small or inferior? And when we lose, do we accept our loss with grace, or do we stomp around feeling thwarted and insignificant?
In spite of my penchant for rabbit counting, and my tendency to let my gaze stray to another yogi’s form on the mat, I have a feeling that competition isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I’ve seen it too often in parenting (as in my kid’s an Honor Roll student), and in folks who compare everything from granite countertops to doorknobs. Competition is a cousin to envy and jealousy—two qualities I struggle to avoid.
This is not to say that I have any intention of giving up on the bunny wars. In fact, I’m heading out right now, and I’m completely determined to spot more bunnies than my spouse.