The Art of Zen Golf

English: Golf ball.

Doesn’t This Just Look Peaceful?

I just got home about an hour ago from my first round of golf in at least 2 years. I haven’t even held a club in all that time. There were a few times where I wanted to go, but either couldn’t afford it or couldn’t find anyone who would go with me. And there were a few times in the last two years where I was invited to play or could have played, but chose not to because I was too busy with drugs or I didn’t feel well enough.

So today felt somewhat like a miracle. We didn’t rent a cart and I, with perhaps overmuch bravado, decided to carry my clubs instead of getting pull carts like everyone else. I figured, hey, I’ve been working out, I’ve been lifting weights. This bag isn’t that heavy and it has double-straps so its kinda like a bulky, odd sized  backpack. So I should be able to carry it no problem.

Wow, was I wrong. I made it through the first nine holes just fine. In fact, I wasn’t even tired. Kate, Richard and I played with my other aunt Laura, who completely defied the fact the she is 70 years old by outshooting all of us on the front nine. Unfortunately Laura had to leave at the turn. Up until that point, we hadn’t been sure if we would play just 9 or a full 18 holes. But since Kate and I were still quite peppy and Richard cordially agreed to humor us, we kept going, onto the back nine.

Unfortunately for me, my stamina began to flag around the 12th or 13th hole. And by the time we got to hole 16, I was exhausted. I don’t know if it was the strain of carrying the awkward golf-bag or if it was the twisting motion of my swing, or a bit of both, but by the end, my back had begun to feel quite painful. Even now after having been home for over an hour and after showering and eating some lovely Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles) with Tofu from Daang’s Thai Kitchen….despite all that, my back still feels like someone is taking a baseball bat right to the upper-middle part of my back. Yowch!

But even with that pain and with my exhaustion (I could most likely fall asleep right here at my computer) I am thrilled that I played. Like I said before, it felt something like a miracle, and, in fact, my aunt Laura used that very word to describe how it felt to her to have me out on the course with them.

And I am so, so grateful, so immensely grateful for this amazing opportunity that has been given me by Richard and Kate, Laura, my own parents Rob and Karen, my sister Rachael, and  many others as well. I am so blessed.

Now, here is what I really wanted to write about. All through the golf game, I hit bad shots. Yes, I hit some good ones too, but they were faaaaarrr outnumbered by the bad ones. But, even with all the bad shots, I didn’t lose my temper. I can tell that I have been making progress over the last six weeks, just because I hardly got upset through the entire game. Even though I hit some awful shots, I was able to just brush it off and move on.

I also noticed that the few times I was able to sink into that state of relaxed awareness that I have been cultivating in my meditation practice, I made much better shots. When I became overly concerned with my performance and tried too hard, I sent the ball straight forward into the dirt or flying wide left or right into trees and bushes. But on one particular hole, I stood on the tea, chose my 8-Iron calmly and without question, stepped forward and placed my tee in the ground and my ball on the tee. Then I let myself clear the anxieties from my mind and just let the club swing itself. And I dropped the ball right onto the green. Or, should  I say, the ball dropped itself right onto the green. That hole reminded me of the story I read recently about two Zen Buddhist monks and their Zen Master. The two monks stood arguing about the nature of a flag that was waving in the breeze. One monk insisted, “it is obvious that the flag is what is waving”. The other monk argued, “no, can’t you see that it is the wind, which, as it blows, causes the flag to wave.” Their master then approached them and they fell upon him beseechingly: “Master, Master, tell us the nature of the waving flag!”. The master did not reproach them. Instead, he was quiet for a moment. He then said, “Neither the flag nor the wind is waving. It is your mind that waves them both.”

I loved this story when I read it, and was reminded of it today when I was striking the golf-ball. I wondered if it was the club striking the ball or the ball striking the club. Then I thought about the story and realized that it was neither. It was my mind that was creating the stroke. After that, if it hadn’t been for my sheer exhaustion, I think I would have played better. I know that I certainly was able to relax more while I was teeing off.

Anyway, I just wanted to make this post a simple tribute to my family, the game of golf, and the beautiful day in which I was able to enjoy both. And, of course, to briefly lead us all to think about the idea of meditation being possible even during a game of golf (and also during many other more mundane activities). Plus I just love the idea of Zen Golfing! It has a nice ring to it huh?

But now I am falling asleep at my computer, and I must get my meds done and get to bed.

So I bid you all goodnight, and farewell until we meet again (as in, tomorrow, haha)

Thanks,

-Nathan

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One response to “The Art of Zen Golf

  1. Wow – maybe I could even golf if I try the Zen approach instead of “fighting the mechanics” which is how I’ve felt the few times I’ve played ( or tried)
    THe picture of you golfing with family brought me joy – probably more joy than if I was playing but i’m game now!

    Mom

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