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Blackjack Don

Mindful Golf

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In the spirit of the new year, resolutions and all that BS, I submit to you a new year's resolution that works, not only for golf, but for ones whole life. Most people have heard of mindfulness, but most of those who have heard of it don't know what it is. Not really. So, this is my contribution to TST and the wider golf universe: Sit down, and be quiet. Follow your breath.

Much of the game of golf is played in what is called the most important six inches--between the ears. Everyone has heard of "being in the moment." Most of us have experienced being in the moment, if not for long. Unfortunately that experience is not only fleeting, but seemingly out of the player's control. Unfortunately, too, this seems to most as mystical, hippie stuff. I'm a Buddhist. I've experienced this reaction many times when I explain to people about meditation and mindfulness. You don't have to sit on the floor in a full lotus position, light incense and candles, and chant. Meditation is nearly as easy to do as falling asleep, and often times that's exactly what happens. (Listening to someone snore while everyone else is meditating is interesting, to say the least.) It doesn't take long--20 minutes is perfect--and doesn't take any special talent or equipment. The results, however, are priceless.

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Golf offers a perfect case in point. Beginning in the 1970s, Tim Gallwey (The Inner Game of Golf) and Michael Murphy (Golf in the Kingdom) used both science and metaphor to promote the notion that peak performance and mental equanimity could and would emerge naturally if golfers could reduce anxiety, negative self-judgments, and the self-critical stories they created about themselves and their potential. Based on the assumption that bringing mindfulness and a deeper psychosomatic awareness to the golf swing have great value, this emerging paradigm teaches that the body’s innate intelligence can produce swings that are natural, effective, and athletic if that intelligence is freed up and properly focused.

That quotation is from an article in Psychology Today in 2013 by Michael Bader.

None of this happens without one thing: meditation. It's a practice that takes time and effort, self-disclipline to do it, and a desire to get better. 

There are more benefits to meditation and can be or need to be listed here, but I'll guarantee you will benefit in more ways than you can know now. The only thing you have to believe about meditiation is it works. You have to believe it long enough to prove it to yourself, and it will in time. About three months. If you sit for twenty minutes, and bring your mind back to your breath every time it wanders away, do this many, many times, for 90 days, you will experience something magical. Mindfulness meditation--called Vipassana in my school--is magical. It changes the mind.

I could give you scientific studies, or say how this is 2600 years old and has worked for millions of people, but the proof is in your own mind. When it comes to focusing, relaxing, awareness, only vipassana trains the mind to be completely aware of both mind and body.

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“Mental coaches,” of course, are now quite common and have helped sensitize golfers and instructors alike to the importance of blending mind and body by encouraging students to have a more positive attitude, to visualize success, to practice focusing techniques, and to soften their (our) collective intolerance and impatience with mistakes, failures, and frustrations on and off the course.

You don't need a coach. You only need to do it. Sit, close your eyes, focus on your breathing. Pick a point--the tip of the nose, the tip of your upper lip, the belly--and concentrate on it as your breath goes in and out. Count breaths, five at first or ten in and out, then up to ten breaths. Start over. This is a good way for the beginner--or anyone doing it, actually--to focus. Tell your mind to relax, settle down. Focus on the breath. The mind will wander away. It does this. That inner voice is not connected to you. Let it go. When it wanders off again, note it. Just see it for what it is, without any judgement of doing it right or wrong. Let it go and go back to your breath. Note it, and let it go. That's all there is. There is nothing else to do.

If you want to, make this a New Year's resolution. Just sit for twenty minutes. Until the end of March. Then, again at the end of April, check yourself. It takes awhile for the changes to take place and even longer before you're aware something has happened. People will think you're different. You smile more. Stuff that used to bother you a lot doesn't seem to get to you. Life seems easier. This is the benefit, and the only way to get into that zone, where you "see the ball, be the ball." Yes, it seems mystical and Eastern and weird, but it's about as scientific as one can get. It works for everyone who tries it. It is amazing, and easier than dieting and exercise as a resolution to keep. Just sit and breathe. 

Trust me, it will make 2017 better.

Namasakan, and happy new year.

Don--who was once called Ajahn Gatasaro.

:)

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I'm going to try it.  I've long been aware that worries and other disturbing thoughts dominate my mind, and I've been thinking  about how I was as a child, totally in the moment, just enjoying what I was doing. 

My best times on the golf course are when I look up at the clouds and the contrast between the green trees and the blue sky, and just take it all in- the whole idea of being where I am at that moment.  

So, great post, Blackjack Don. 

Edited by Marty2019

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Thanks Don. Just reading a Raymond Floyd book and he has a section on "Being mindful". Mindful of the shot, not what happened in the past, not will happen, just the shot. 

I try not to think as I walk to my next shot. Can be a bitch at times, Takes practice.

Namaste

 

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Great post. Have you read Extraordinary Golf by Fred Shoemaker? You'd probably enjoy it. 

Sending you a PM to ask something OT. 

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"If it's not too personal to ask, what made you decide to disrobe?"

Thanks for the question. Not personal at all. 

That's always the best question anyone asks. There were a number of reasons. After a year, Thai food was no longer my favorite thing to eat, and I don't believe I've eaten any since. Sleeping on the floor wasn't bad, nor were the chores. Living a monk's life wasn't all that much different than my life before. Nothing was really onerous, but the benefits were hard to understand, deeply . It took me awhile to get it. My time at the monastery, all the meditation and thinking, the walking meditation, the intensity of it all, changed my mind. I wasn't the same person. My way of thinking, the mental process, had improved. A state of awareness existed. I was aware of it.

Then, a friend challenged me. "Sure," she said, "It's easy when you're living a 'life of leisure,'"-which she knew is what the Thais call a monk's life, but it isn't the same understanding of the word 'leisure,'--"try it outside the protection of the monastery." So, I left. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I'm struggling on. 

Most Westerners think when one takes the vows of a monk, they spend the rest of their life as a monk. Some even think a Buddhist monk takes a vow of silence. Heaven forbid. NO WAY I'm shutting up.

The Thais have a different culture. For them, to become a monk is the story. Disrobing isn't the end of the world. Traditionally, every Thai male is encouraged to go into robes. Many do so when their mothers pass, and they officiate the funeral. Then, the go back into life. Great honor; good karma. They were so proud of me becoming a monk. Still are. The Thais who support the Bodhiyanna temple still call me "Ajahn Don." I haven't seen that kind of respect much. It was an incredible experience--the best of my life. Sadly, the Thai culture is not my native culture, and I was too old to learn a new language. Even that probably wouldn't have been enough. To the Thais, Buddhism is a religion. To me, it's not spiritual at all. There is no metaphysics in the Buddha's teachings. It's all logical. For this reason alone, it's called the religion of science. What science is finding is that the Buddha's teachings have a basis in science. It has been shown in over a thousand studies, meditation changes the human mind.

I call it a software upgrade. I'm still waiting for Windows to catch up to what the Buddha knew 2600 years ago. I started with DOS 3.3, way back. As impressive as Microsoft's path has been, it can't touch what mindful meditation can produce. It's sort of a cosmic shift in the brain.

I've met many people who understand exactly what I'm saying. We don't understand it the same way, but the substance we do. It can't be described, only experienced, and I'm fortunate to have experienced it the way I did, and have, even today continue to be. I'm so grateful, every day, for taking such an extreme path. (When I was a monk, in the US there were fewer white guys in orange robes than the starting lineup of an NBA team.)

I've used the training I got learning to play poker--intense study--which led to Buddhist study and mindfulness practice--now to golf. It has worked beautifully with golf, as it has my family life--I'm now happily married--and my job, which sucks a whole lot more than anyone knows, dealing gambling games in Las Vegas. But people know me by my smile. I am loving life.

TLDR, sorry

If you are still reading, you can experience some good stuff if you stop several times a day and take three deep breaths. That's it. Just three, a few times a day. One moment spent mindfully is a really good moment in life. It is life, its own self.

Thanks for the good question,

Don

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3 hours ago, Marty2019 said:

 

I'm going to try it.  I've long been aware that worries and other disturbing thoughts dominate my mind, and I've been thinking  about how I was as a child, totally in the moment, just enjoying what I was doing. 

 

It will work for that, indeed. In fact, it's the reason to do it. It takes dedication, but the results are definitely worth it. Most of the times you will benefit, you won't even realize it's the result of your work. The times you do realize it will blow your mind. It's not hard, but harder than you think it will be. Once you figure that one out, you'll be well on your way.

:)

12 hours ago, natureboy said:

Calisthenics for the executive functions.

If calisthenics were the most peaceful, relaxing thing you do all day. I understand why it would be called exercise for the mind, and sometimes it is taxing like exercise, but I also understand why meditation is called feeding the soul. It's that, too. This difficulty in describing it is why it's so intriguing to me. It's really reaching deep into things we can't understand fully until we experience them. Few people do.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity for sowing confusion.

:-D

2 hours ago, uitar9 said:

Thanks Don. Just reading a Raymond Floyd book and he has a section on "Being mindful". Mindful of the shot, not what happened in the past, not will happen, just the shot. 

I try not to think as I walk to my next shot. Can be a bitch at times, Takes practice.

Namaste

 

What is hard for me to suck up is the desire to yell out, "You can't do it that easily" It takes practice, and that takes training. Those who have a solid mindfulness practice are able to be "in the moment" on command. Some are able to be this way all the time, whether they realize it or not. It's like tranquility insurance, as my wife once said. It's there when you need it.

When I hit a bad shot, I want to smash the club into the ground. Then, suddenly, I want to laugh at my antics. I'm sure fully in the moment at that moment. Then, I forget about it and go five yards to the next shot. That kind of mind thing took a lot of practice to get to that point.

No human can stop their emotions. It's beyond thinking. But that's not the point. The point is to do exactly what one does "on the cushion" as we say, or through the meditation practice. See the thought, and let it go. Go back to the breath.

It works in golf. It works in life.

Namasakan

2 hours ago, Ernest Jones said:

 

Great post. Have you read Extraordinary Golf by Fred Shoemaker? You'd probably enjoy it. 

 

Just ran across Mr. Shoemaker yesterday! I think he's probably saying the same thing I'm saying. He probably has a meditation practice. Here's my problem, and I might as well be public with this unpopular opinion, too. People who make money off mindfulness, without actually having a practice, are a problem for me. I know there is only ONE way to get that kind of mindfulness. If Mr. Shoemaker is suggesting it can be done with a conscious thought without practice, I'll call shenanigans. This is something I know. Been there, done that.

Throughout the centuries there have been lots of charlatans who have made money off telling people they could be mindful without meditation. Years ago, I went to a lot of "positive thinking" seminars and such. I was fired up when I left, and it was gone by the time I got to my car. It never survived standing in line at Walmart. Or traffic lights. Or a domestic argument. My mindfulness practice makes all those things a part OF the practice. A chance to practice my mindfulness, which merely means controlling the emotions that positive thinking is designed to exploit. Weird, huh?

So I'm going to check out his program. Even if he doesn't practice, I do! I can use what he's teaching. It's right down my alley, on the path.

 

Thanks for all the great questions. I don't really many answers. It's the questions that fascinate me. Finding the answers to those questions leads to more questions, and that's where the fun is. For me.

Best wishes, and don't forget to breathe.

Don

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Okay, I checked out Mr. Shoemaker's work. First of all, if there isn't an E-version, I'm not going to read it. I don't have time to sit down with a paperback. I haven't read one in three years. However, I didn't realize he is also the author of Kingdom of Golf, which I read an excerpt and thought it was hokey. If Mr. Shoemaker really thinks a person can be mindful without meditation, then he hasn't got a prayer. You can't get to Cleveland without a way to get there. I am a skeptic, then a Buddhist.

:D

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A while back I was having a rough time. Told a friend about my problems. He asked me a couple of questions. Was I safe? Was I warm? Had I eaten? He the n asked "whats your f-----g problem? He asked me to clap my hands. That space in-between , is now. He told me to stay in that space. I can find that on command. Been doing it for 5 years, I go there when golfing.

 

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10 hours ago, Blackjack Don said:

If Mr. Shoemaker really thinks a person can be mindful without meditation, then he hasn't got a prayer.

I only saw the movie, which didn't impress me, so can't comment on the ideas in the book. But I think an attitude of only meditation will increase mindfulness is a bit Manichean in outlook. Surely there are degrees of mindfulness. Do only those who've achieved a perfect state of Nirvana benefit from it?

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19 minutes ago, natureboy said:

I only saw the movie, which didn't impress me, so can't comment on the ideas in the book. But I think an attitude of only meditation will increase mindfulness is a bit Manichean in outlook. Surely there are degrees of mindfulness. Do only those who've achieved a perfect state of Nirvana benefit from it?

 

Of course it's not the only way, but I can't imagine another path myself.  Don't claim that's for everyone, and Eckhardt Tolle had a spontaneous enlightenment experience and all, but...  For me at least I've learned things that way I can't imagine quite learning another way. 

All I'd really say is you 100% don't have to become a Buddhist, even a little bit, to jump in.  I started with an MBSR course (look it up, it's incredibly good, super highly recommended).  It's based on insight meditation, which comes primarily out of a secularized version of the Burmese vipassana meditation tradition Don is talking about that was brought back to the US starting back in the 70s.

And it has totally helped my mental game on the course, though that's not really the point of course.  Bad rounds didn't use to be fun.  Sure, they're still not quite as fun as rounds flirting with personal bests or anything, but they're still fun.

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11 hours ago, natureboy said:

I only saw the movie, which didn't impress me, so can't comment on the ideas in the book. But I think an attitude of only meditation will increase mindfulness is a bit Manichean in outlook. Surely there are degrees of mindfulness. Do only those who've achieved a perfect state of Nirvana benefit from it?

Can you run without walking? Can you fly without a plane? Believe me, if there were any way to get mindfulness without a meditation practice, I don't know of it. That's the frustrating part to me. How to overcome the resistance to sitting down and doing the practice, every day, until the individual can see results for him or her self. Meditation is the vehicle which leads to mindfulness. There simply aren't any shortcuts that produce the results we want.

To ask if one has to achieve a perfect state before getting benefits is really begging the question. Try three months. That's what the most surprising study back in 2010 found. It doesn't take as long as people thought. It doesn't take years, and hours and hours of meditation. It only takes about three months for the brain to change the pathways of thinking. It was measurable by fMRI. It was an amazing finding. I have found this to be true in people I've taught.

Now, what no one else has said and I claim is once you get to a certain point--and how knows what that point is--it doesn't go away if you stop. I can sit and immediately get right back where I've always been, sometimes even better, or I can go awhile without sitting and still have a high degree of mindfulness. That's the good news to me. It's not like weight-lifting or running, where, if you stop, you rust.

Mindfulness is awareness. It's being conscious of the situation as it develops or unfolds. It's being aware of emotion--all of them, without judgment--and letting go of them. It's a pretty amazing thing to work with.

Best wishes.

Don

10 hours ago, mdl said:

Eckhardt Tolle had a spontaneous enlightenment experience and all

Sorry, Tolle is a fraud. There is NO SUCH THING as spontaneous enlightenment. There are Ah Ha! moments, but no sudden change. It's a process. It's hard. Tolle probably has hurt the mindfulness movement far more than any good he's ever done. He's a charlatan.

Those are the strongest words you'll ever hear me say about anyone. There's a reason it's called a practice. It has to be done over and over well to achieve the results you want.

10 hours ago, Ernest Jones said:

What movie are y'all talking about? 

Shoemaker's DVD. 

One doesn't have to be a Buddhist. Like 90% of Buddhists do not mediate. You don't have to become a monk, do walking meditation, do hours on retreat to get results. MBSR is fantastic and Jon Kabat-Zinn is a saint. A bodhisattva if there ever was one. But even he will tell you it isn't just sitting down and breathing. It's specific, and it requires effort, but the results are well worth it.

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3 hours ago, Blackjack Don said:

Sorry, Tolle is a fraud. There is NO SUCH THING as spontaneous enlightenment. There are Ah Ha! moments, but no sudden change. It's a process. It's hard. Tolle probably has hurt the mindfulness movement far more than any good he's ever done. He's a charlatan.

Those are the strongest words you'll ever hear me say about anyone. There's a reason it's called a practice. It has to be done over and over well to achieve the results you want.

I disagree.  I don't find it that hard to believe that the kind of neuro/psychological experience of intensely deep depression leading towards suicide could plausibly, though not probably, and only for a very particular person, lead to a sort of massive, acute shift in perspective and pyschology, akin to a spontaneous awakening.  And I have a number of friends who were brought along towards a practice by first reading Tolle.  So I don't think he's obviously a fraud, and I disagree that his writing has necessarily hurt the mindfulness movement.  Though I can see the argument that his emphasis on just up and deciding to wake up without being rooted in the ancient practice that everyone else needs to walk that path could lead some astray.

One doesn't have to be a Buddhist. Like 90% of Buddhists do not mediate. You don't have to become a monk, do walking meditation, do hours on retreat to get results. MBSR is fantastic and Jon Kabat-Zinn is a saint. A bodhisattva if there ever was one. But even he will tell you it isn't just sitting down and breathing. It's specific, and it requires effort, but the results are well worth it.

Agree with all of this.  Though sitting down and breathing is a key place to start!

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https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/jan/05/spiritual-sedona-arizona-vortex-wellbeing-new-age-hotels

Quote

Near the centre of town, the McLean Meditation Institute avoids the language of what owner Sarah McLean calls the “woos” – those locals who take their magic and their crystals a bit too seriously – by offering mindfulness and meditation classes that, though influenced by eastern traditions, are geared toward the spiritual and the just-plain-stressed alike.

When I sit cross-legged in her studio, which overlooks a hiking supply store and several Native American-inspired art galleries, McLean identifies my neuroses and gives me a few maxims for meditation: focus less on the future and on all that work I have to do, and give myself over to awareness of the present.

It’s easy to be sceptical about Sedona. The relentless barrage of wellness and self-improvement-focused tourism can border on the cloying (after a delicately-spiced breakfast of quinoa and almond milk at ChocolaTree, I find myself all but begging a waitress at a nearby downmarket diner to give me the strongest, worst-quality filter coffee she can find). My vortex tour with Mark Griffon of Sedona Mystical Tours ($135, three hours) – who starts off the morning with a sage cleansing near a stone-circle “medicine wheel” he’s assembled himself in his backyard – is at times uncomfortably intense, as one of the attendees breaks down into sobs during a meditation against a juniper tree called Fred.

This article says Sedona, AZ is the new-age capital of America. Combine that with some good nearby courses, and there'll be some serious mindful golf on vacation there. 

(just stumbled on the link today and thought of this thread)

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oh what da heck..I'll give it a try.

I tried so much in golf by now..seating down for 20' meditating is if anything appealing.

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5 hours ago, Blackjack Don said:

Can you run without walking?

I don't think that's the right analogy. Are you just trying to sound quasi-mystical? :-P

Both move you toward your destination. One is faster than the other. In order to run at a fast speed one typically has to start with some slower steps.

My point is that there are other approaches to 'mindfulness' that have real, practical value even if they are not quite as intense or even effective as meditation. There are always many valid paths.

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10 hours ago, mdl said:

I have a number of friends who were brought along towards a practice by first reading Tolle.

I do as well, but that doesn't sway me. I think he is a cheap trick. Just my opinion. One has to put in the effort.

 

10 hours ago, RandallT said:

This article says Sedona, AZ is the new-age capital of America.

I've meditated in Sedona. Meh. I'm not the person to go to on metaphysics. I'll stick to the physical, not the spiritual. I'm interested in this life. I like things that can be proven. 

The more I can live without superstition, the better off I am.

8 hours ago, natureboy said:

My point is that there are other approaches to 'mindfulness' that have real, practical value even if they are not quite as intense or even effective as meditation. There are always many valid paths.

Tell me more! Seriously. If you know of anything which can do what meditation does, with a shortcut, man I'm all ears. There are many paths up the mountain, they say, but it's still a mountain to climb. Yes?

I have seen many claims, but every single person who claimed something or other has fallen short of where I've seen people who have a meditation practice. The level of awareness is too different. I only have found one way. Even yoga doesn't do the same thing, and frankly, there are other ways of meditating that might work. Even prayer. They haven't worked for me. Vipassana did. (Actually, it might have been walking meditation which pushed me a long way down the path, too.)

But if you know of something better, I'll sure listen.

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