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Archive for the ‘Mindful Golf’ Category

We’ve all felt it. A tightening of the muscles around the neck. A lump in the throat. A rising of blood to the forehead. A quickening heartbeat. Sweaty palms. In golf, it’s particularly troublesome, we are told. It’s a game that requires precision timing and coordination. It requires being in the moment, dealing only with the matter at hand, namely wielding an unwieldy metal club, attempting to hit a small white dimpled ball to a target over 300 yards away. Any tightening, sweating, beating, or blood rising beyond the norm will truncate that process and dynamite any chance for success. We feel it elsewhere too, like at work when the our supervisor comes by and asks to have a “word with you,” or when a cop pulls us over, or when our spouse “needs to talk.” Pressure greets us almost daily with its bared teeth and a scowl. An overdue phone bill. Noisy neighbors that need quieting. Humans have always known it. We have much experience dealing with it, yet it’s as difficult to handle now as it was in the caves of France thousands of years ago.

In golf, no tournament is as pressure packed as a match play event, like the one being played this week in the Arizona desert. Every hole is as pressure packed as the last, and the last may well be your last before your flight home. How do these guys handle it? How do they maintain their level of concentration? How do they keep their swings from crumbling (more…)

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First, congratulations to Phil Mickelson on winning the Masters. He showed true grit coming down the stretch, a champion’s disposition, the heart of a samurai, a deep meditator without even knowing he was meditating, focused and flexible, a Light Brigade in the form of a golfer. I had advised in a previous post that he go home and be with his wife, that she was too much on his mind to concentrate on golf. I was wrong. Instead, he dedicated his performance to his wife, thereby remaining a man fully in the moment, for the moment was a representation of her and his family. And she came to him, which I didn’t anticipate since I didn’t know her ability to do so. It was one of the great inspirational performances in the history of sport. His approach shot through the trees on 13 from the pine straw, over Rae’s Creek, hitting the green and making birdie was a golfer acting at the very highest levels of skill and courage. I would include it with the best of any shot I’ve ever seen, and will heretofore use it as a model for all the golf I have left to play. Phil, his caddie, Bones, and his wife Amy are true class acts.

Next, Tiger. He impressed me with his golf, of course, but also with his humanness: his connection with the fans, his giving out autographs, his warm relationship with K.J. Choi whom he chatted with and put his hand on his shoulder, his relative restraint around fist pumps and profanity. There’s no quit to this guy, and that too is a trait I highly admire. Given the scandal, (more…)

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At Tiger’s news conference Monday, the most significant revelation was that his troubles started when he stopped meditating, when he stopped practicing the Buddhist religion which he shares with his mother. That’s when he lost his moral compass.Being a Buddhist, Tiger is involved with more than a religion. In fact, Buddhism, at its core, is more a spiritual practice than a set of beliefs that make up most religions. As the late philosopher Alan Watts once said, “Buddhism never uttered its final doctrine.” Essentially, through trial and error, the practitioner finds out what is the truth for himself. It’s a path that requires taking total responsibility. You can’t retreat to God or a set of truths to guide you: You are the captain of your own ship. It’s why monotheistic religions often don’t buy into Buddhism: There’s a basic belief human beings need help, and that help comes from a higher power. These other religions involve prayer and meditation just like Buddhism, but with Buddhism  the higher power is essentially called your True Self, or that which is always in the present and not subject to birth or death (more on this in another post). It’s a part of you that is always there, if you can get in touch with it. When you meditate according to Buddhist instructions, you simply stay with your own body and mind and breath in the present moment. When Tiger stopped meditating, (more…)

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Phil Mickelson is struggling some this year. Without Tiger on the card up to now, he should have won a couple, leaving the spotlight to Ernie Els. Both his driving and putting are off, the double dip death for the touring pro. What’s going on?

Golf is an extraordinary game. One stray thought that enters the mind while swinging interrupts the flow and throws off the timing, usually ruining any chance of hitting the kind of shots needed to win tournaments. Phil’s wife, Amy, is being treated for cancer and therein lies the answer to the conundrum. She is on his mind and his heart. He’s worried and concerned,  and can’t concentrate fully on his golf. You can see it in his face, his posture, his demeanor. He is bravely putting on a good show but his swing is just a bit loose, his putting stroke a bit hesitant, his moxie a bit lacking. It all sort of came to a head yesterday when his drive landed in a bush, (more…)

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Ernie Els is a man of high integrity. The Big Easy is also a fabulous golfer. But he will be just as remembered for bringing to the public’s attention the plight of autism. His seven-year-old son, Ben, is autistic, and Ernie and his wife Lisl bravely chose to reveal this and form a foundation educating the public about this tragic and debilitating illness. As a social worker and counselor with over 30 years in the field, I’ve worked with people with autism and related Asperger’s syndrome, and can tell you it adversely affects every aspect of life, both the individual’s and their family’s. There are different levels of autism, ranging from complete separation from others, such as rocking and obsessing on their fingers, to a social disorder, of varying degree, where the person is of normal or higher intelligence but has difficulty  communicating and making friends and relationships. I’ve worked with autistic kids who can only rock in a chair all day and night, absorbed totally with themselves, and others who’ve gone on to college and work. The entire illness is now known in the DSM-IV as the Autism Spectrum, with a wide range of functionality.

There’s been much misunderstanding, fear, and prejudice around autism over the years, (more…)

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