June 22, 2010
Ricky Williams was a two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy winner before exploding onto the scene in the National Football League in 1999. His early promise was dampened by fans' confusion with his eccentric behavior, not to mention a failed drug test or two. But despite the disappointments and uneven play over the years, Williams has remained a fan favorite and his smallest action makes headlines.
So why isn't anyone coming to his meditation class? Tim Graham of ESPN.com writes:
For the past five Wednesdays and continuing as long as anybody wants to experience it, Williams has extended an open invitation to meditate with him in a quiet classroom on the Nova Southeastern University campus. It's where he's working on his undergraduate degree. He might get into osteopathy. He charges no fee to stop by for some oms.
Mystifying is that more people don't attend. He sends out frequent reminders of the time and location on his Twitter account. You'd expect a handful of lookie loos or die-hard Dolphins fans would show. But on this Wednesday, only eight people participated. That's the most so far, and the main reason Williams called the session his most energetic.
The idea of opening the door to such a personal endeavor would seem counterintuitive, but Williams explained, "For me, [meditation] is like food. It's spiritual food, and I need to be fed. ... If I didn't share this passion with people, it would be a sin."
His Wednesday sessions are another example of a deep compassion Williams is showing more readily in public than before. He recently revived the Ricky Williams Foundation to help disadvantaged youth. He raised money for Haiti after the January earthquake.
"I've found I'm very passionate -- in one form or another -- alleviating people's suffering, whether it be emotional suffering, physical suffering, mental suffering," Williams said. "The act of giving is a very healing thing."
Williams' sometimes infamous quest for inner peace has lasted years and probably will continue forever. His name still conjures immediate references to smoking marijuana, NFL suspensions, personality disorders and his abrupt decision to leave the Dolphins in 2004 to find himself.
Williams now meditates every morning and has for years. If his behavior on and off the field has bewildered some, there was a rawness and honesty to everything he did that kept fans from turning their backs on him. ESPN calls him "one of the NFL's most spellbinding figures" and it's true that all he needs to do to get headlines is show up somewhere. On and off the field, he is completely unlike any other professional football player. His uniqueness makes him compulsively watchable.
Williams will no doubt be mocked for his meditation class, as he was mocked for his haircut, his beard, his decision to stop playing football, his decision to return to football, his suspension for marijuana use, and more. His difference made him a little frightening to people. But his pursuit of peace through meditation seems honest, and admirable. As in earlier endeavors, he probably won't care. We join his many fans in wishing him the best.
[Top photo by Tom DiPace for ESPN.com]