“It’s one of our most important challenges,” he stated emphatically.
“Sure is,” I agreed, as we ambled easily down the fairway. We were ambling easy now, but we sure weren’t a few minutes ago, stomping off the green like I did after blowing the last hole. I had to quickly put that out of my mind before making my my tee shot or surely I would have messed it up too!
“It has as much influence on our state of happiness and enjoyment of life as anything else in our control.”
“Couldn’t agree more,” I concurred, scanning the grass up ahead for my ball.
“In each moment, we need only concern ourselves with one thing … doing the best we can at whatever it is we’re doing.”
“In that moment!” I said, finishing his train of thought.
“Yep! And nowhere is that more evident than where we are right now.”
“On the golf course!” I said excitedly, finally spotting my ball.
“Absolutely! Time and again, be it pros or weekend hackers, we bare witness to golfers making poor shots because they’re thinking about ‘winning the tournament’ or the ‘amount of money they’re going to make’ …”
“Or the putt they just missed,” I interjected, suddenly worried that perhaps I was finishing too many of his sentences.
“Yes, and whatever the reason, their minds clearly weren’t in the present moment.”
“Why is it so difficult to stay present, when it seems such a simple concept?” I asked.
“It’s not ingrained in our culture,” he replied.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Golfers seem to talk about it a lot.”
“Yes, I know. And Ron Washington extolled the virtues of staying present, to keep his Texas Rangers players focussed so that they might win the World Series last year. But it’s something parents don’t teach their children, nor is it taught in schools. In certain circles, we may talk about it, but more often than not we don’t succeed in staying in the moment.”
“That’s true,” I agreed, checking out the lie of my golf ball and scanning the green for the whereabouts of the flag. “We need to teach in to our children and constantly reinforce it as they’re growing up. Eckhart Tolle’s book would be a great tool to use.”
“The Power of Now … awesome book! More people should read it.”
“Yep! So what do you do in order to stay in the present moment?” I asked.
“Breathing, trigger words, focussing on the task at hand and repetition,” he replied.
“In other words, training,” I said, standing over my ball, repeating out loud all the things I needed to do in order to execute a good shot. “Stay relaxed, left arm straight, light right hand grip, slow take away on my back swing, shift weight to right foot then back to left on the down swing, follow through towards the green.”
Whap! Damn! I watched helplessly as my balled hopped comically down the fairway … about 50 yards!
My partner looked at me with amusement.
“Yes, I know,” I said sheepishly. “And keep my head down.”
“Definitely,” he agreed with a broad grin, nodding his head. “Lift your head and you’ll top the ball every time.”
After collecting myself, I watched admiringly as my partner knocked the ball on the green with an effortless swing of his five iron. “What exactly do you mean by breathing and trigger words?” I inquired, as I took the short walk up to my ‘still-on-the-fairway’ ball. I was aware of the concept of staying in the moment, but hadn’t heard about breathing, other than to try and relax, or trigger words.
“Deep breathing is critical to bring our minds into the present moment, because typically when we take a deep breath, we don’t think about anything else. Try it,” he suggested.
I took a deep, slow breath, in through my nose, held it in my lungs momentarily, before exhaling it through my mouth. “You’re right,” I said, excitedly. “For that brief instant while I was breathing I only thought about breathing, and I wasn’t feeling frustrated about my last shot.”
“Awesome,” he smiled.
“And what about trigger words?” I asked, feeling euphoric after taking another deep breath, then knocking a nifty nine iron shot onto the green.
“After I take a deep breath, I then say, ‘now I’m placing my mind in the present moment.’ Then I just focus on doing my best at the task at hand, whether I’m at the office, doing chores around the house…”
“Or taking a golf shot!” I added.
My partner gave me another broad smile.
“Kids live ‘in-the-moment’ naturally,” I stated.
“They do indeed,” he agreed. “When they’re by themselves. But then they’re exposed to adult conversations, threats of punishment and so on that teach them to project and worry.”
“Yes, I know what you mean. Parents are always saying things like, ‘do this, or you’ll be grounded.’”
“You’d better do well on your test, or you won’t be allowed to watch TV tonight,” he echoed.
“I guess our reward and punishment system isn’t conducive to staying present, is it?” I said, surveying the lay of the green in order to read my putt.
“Not at all! Nor is thinking about all the ‘what ifs’ … what if I don’t get this done on time, what if I’m late, what if she says no …”
“Or, what if I miss this shot?”
“We need to stop thinking about the outcome. All it does is put more pressure on us, while taking our minds off the task at hand.”
“And I guess brooding about the past doesn’t help either?”
“Nope. It’s certainly never helped me!”
“I guess living in the present moment is one of those things that could really change our experience here on Earth,” I said. This was more of a statement than a question.
“It certainly is. Think of all the conflict that exists because of something that happened decades, heck, even lifetimes ago!”
My golf partner was right on, and it made my think about how, over 2,000 years later, Jewish people are still being persecuted for what happened to Jesus. Talk about insanity!
“What about when ‘nerves’ and worry do set in?” I asked, standing over my ball. “After all, we are only human.”
“Go back to your training,” he replied.
“Breathe, say your trigger words and bring your mind back to the task at hand,” I said.
“And focus on doing your best … in that moment!”
“I can do it,” I smiled triumphantly, draining a 30 foot putt!
“You sure can,” he beamed.
Have an awesomely present day!