Monday, July 12, 2010

Chess Therapy

Last night I played chess for the first time in a while and was reminded of some thoughts I wrote down while traveling through Malaysia playing people in hostels.

Chess, it turns out, is kind of like therapy - or yoga (from a "yoga is a way you live your life" perspective, not a "yoga is stretching" perspective).

As "fun" and good for the mind as chess is, playing has always kinda stressed me out. When the board is getting set up, I get a little rush of nervousness and I feel emotional. You could say it's just because I'm competitive (because I am...), but I think it's more than that.

Maybe it's all the yoga philosophy I've been reading (more on that later), but I'm really seeing chess as a metaphor for life, and therefore playing as kind of like working through my issues (even though it stresses me out!).

Here are some conclusions I've come to, check it out:

1. I hate making decisions that close off certain options (hence, why I haven't chosen "what to do with my life" or even "what to do next"), I always want to be able to do anything and everything, so it's hard for me to make big moves with potentially big consequences on the board.

2. I hate being surprised because I like to know what's going on (control issues?) so I hate when I don't see a dangerous move coming (also vulnerability issues?)

3. I'm an individualist and I get sort of emotionally attached to each piece. I don't want to sacrifice anyone, even for the good of the game (alright, so maybe this helps with #1, at least I can cross of army commander and corporate exec from the list of possible jobs...)

4. I have a tendency to get too zoomed in on one part of the board (or one moment or one aspect of my life), and get into the details on the micro level. This can cause a poorly structured force on the board or a big imbalance in my life.

5. Related to the last point, I often think too much about things, trying to figure out and analyze, think too far ahead, follow through on all the details, moves and countermoves... in chess this can cause stupid moves, and in life? decision paralysis (see #1...)

I wrote some of this about a year ago, so it was interesting looking back while getting ready to publish this post because I've definitely gotten better at chess, and I think I've gotten better at life too.

After my friend and I finished our game, we were talking strategy on the walk to our dorm and another friend walking behind us asked what we were talking about. She was surprised when we said chess.

"I thought you were just talking about life," she said " 'every move should have a purpose... you don't want to have to backtrack... try to look at the whole picture... back up the moves you make... don't get too focused on one strategy...' "

"Yeah, kinda like life," I said.


Jackson Davis said...

Ooh, man, I'll have to play you again sometime, eh?

Anonymous said...

i read this after i wrote "i feel like i wanna still know you" on yer facebook two mintues ago. then i clicked on yer link and read your thoughts about chess. and i'm still thinkin i wanna still know you.
gary patrick

Anonymous said...

Hi Ali,
I've been accepted as a Kripalu Volunteer starting next month. I'm so excited and really appreciate you capturing all the awesomeness that goes on as a volunteer. I've been up there twice before for weekend programs, and it always felt like home to me. Take care,