Muhammad Ali exemplifies the heart of a champion.  Time and time again in his life he withstood seemingly insurmountable t challenges by relying upon his heart.  Ali once told a group of Harvard students not to  look for miracles from outside of themselves, but instead , he told them that the greatest miracles came from within their  hearts.

He went on to explain to them that the most powerful force in the universe is love.  The love of one’s self allows one to love everyone else.  Once we tap into that source, he told the students anything is possible. Another great quote attributed to Ali was, “If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, I can achieve it.

Ali had innumerable unique gifts from God. He was loquacious, innately intelligent, charming and handsome. He also had an awareness of his connection to God. He learned to call God Allah.  I believe the Universal Source of all there is goes by many names.  It is one of the stated goals of this column to elucidate to all that it does not matter what you call God, just that you are aware of God’s presence and acknowledge it as the source of all that exists. Ali knew that he was connected to God. I heard Ali state in the movie When We Were Kings that he was aware that when he focused upon himself he was limited. He stated that when he focused only upon himself that he was like any other man who felt fear and doubt and could be beaten. However, when he focused upon Allah and realized that he was acting at Allah’s behest for the rest of the world, he was limitless and could accomplish any goal.

If he was acting just for himself, he would have cut a deal with the Federal Government and joined the service and probably would have done USO work similar to Elvis. He probably would have been allowed to box and make money for his family. Instead, he was led by his heart and exercised his right to be a conscientious objector. He did so out of respect for his religion and a feeling that it was not right to fight a war against people who had not harmed him, nor his country.

Most boxing fans would agree that a true champion is known not solely by his ability to knock out his opponents, but also on his ability to take a punch and not give up.   It is commonly called the heart of a champion. Great champions can withstand the attack of others and somehow survive. They survive because they have the heart of a champion. Most people would have gone down when George Foreman hit them, yet Ali summoned the strength within his heart and took Foreman’s powerful blows and kept standing.  Most people would have retired to a life of seclusion after being Parkinson’s disease took away what appeared to be their greatest assets. Ali, after Parkinson’s   could no longer move people with his eloquence or impress people with his physical grace. Most would have been too embarrassed, or too arrogant to allow the world to see them in a diminished state. Ali was not in a diminished state because he knew in his heart that everything that happened to him in his life was the will of God. He knew, from a lifetime of contact with that Universal Source which he gladly called Allah that if one connects with the God within us all, only good things spring forth.

He revealed to millions of people how to stand up for their beliefs.   He manifested to us all how to accept the path that God has given us with dignity.  He accepted his role as a leader when he was a boxer, civil rights activist, and pacifist as well as someone with a debilitating disease. He acted with aplomb in all cases.

Ali was not a perfect man, yet he showed us perfectly how to look within our hearts and to connect to the God that is within. Once we make that connection, great things are possible.  As the song about him says, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”  Once we take that first step and love who we are, our path will unfold before us and it will be a thing of beauty.

Thank you Muhammad Ali for being an exemplar. You revealed for us love, true courage and devotion.  We are all the better for it.

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