Practicing Mindfulness through Golf
Mindful Putting during the Coronavirus Outbreak
We've never lived through a time like this. It feels as if a silent war has begun around us. I want to send a message of comfort but don't know where to begin. Walking through the grocery store yesterday, the sensation of fear was palpable. What can we do? What can I say? I've grown tired of watching the news on tv. As the Director of the Shivas Irons Society, what should I do. And as my friend and fellow SIS member Doug Adams would say, "Ben, don't should yourself". So, I'll just start......
Random thoughts go through my brain. Today would have been my father's 90th birthday. He's been gone now for almost 30 years. Life is precious and fleeting. And, I love golf. I love what golf teaches me and how it tortures me and what it has yet to teach me. I believe that this game that we love has different things to teach each one of us. Think for a moment what the game has been trying to say to you, through you.
So, let me just share here what I believe golf has to teach me. In a word, presence. If you've ever played golf with me, you've witnessed post-adolescent hyperactivity in motion. I'm impatient, not so much with my playing partners, but in my approach to the game, which is to say in my life; and I overdo almost everything in my attempt to improve. When, as a young adult, I was taking piano lessons, Ron Elliston, my beloved teacher, would instruct me to play a short passage. And when I got to the end of the phrase and just kept on playing, Ron would roll his smiling eyes and lovingly shout, "this time, you've gone too far!" And so it is with golf, too. I swing too hard, and move too fast, and end up with a sore back that has become quite a chronic condition. So now, I don't practice my golf swing very much, my back hurts too much between my regular Friday rounds with the fine men at Quail Lodge and Golf Club. So, every day, I practice my putting stroke in the bedroom on a carpet that stimps out at about eleven. And I make it a practice of patience..... of presence..... and of mindfulness.
When I moved to California sixteen years ago, I knew that I wanted to spend more time around this game that had become a passion. So, I pursued a degree in Sport Psychology and self-servingly wrote a Masters thesis about Mindfulness Meditation and the Anxious Golfer. For a long time, I had dabbled in meditation and in yoga, knowing they were good for me. But I had a hard time sticking with the daily meditation, even though I once attended a ten day silent meditation retreat where I sat meditating fourteen hours a day. So my most consistent meditation practice these days is to practice mindfulness while putting. I work on developing a consistent technique by developing awareness of certain aspects of my stroke that I have learned to place my attention on. Credit goes to Fred Shoemaker founder of the Extraordinary Golf School, for showing me the fundamentals I am developing distinctions of, and refining through my putting meditation practice. I won't go over those technical aspects here but I will share that with focused practice, my putting stroke has improved and at the same time, I feel as though I'm getting the benefit of meditation as well.
As we go through these very disconcerting and difficult times, I hope that everyone in the Shivas Irons Society community and their loved ones stay healthy and lives as free as possible from suffering and anxiety. Find a way to cultivate your own mindfulness. Maybe it's watching spiritual videos from teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh, or practicing yoga or going for a walk or jog in nature. And even if you are not able to move about your community, find a way to practice the game we love and develop and deepen the spiritual connections you have to golf, to yourself, and to others. Feel free to share with me your journey with developing self through the practice of golf.
In true gravity,