Golf is a simple game. Mental golf wisdom requires the mind more than the body, although golfing success is contingent on both.
Consistency plays a pivotal role in mental golf wisdom. However, consistent golf is not a matter of technically improving your shots during the game; it is a matter of emotional self-mastery in the key moments of a round.
The vast majority of golfers have exactly the same reaction to a poor shot or round:
· They become frustrated and even angry at the poor outcome. They demonstrate no mental golf wisdom.
· They become anxious about the next shot, worried it might be as bad as the previous one.
· They become upset about their sudden loss of confidence, and intuitively tell themselves to “get over it.” They are aware of the importance of mental golf but they show no wisdom in that.
· Then they approach the next shot with tension. They often inadvertently put pressure on themselves to correct eagerly the problem. They may even start thinking about their swing or technique to make sure the next shot is better than the previous one. They are at a loss as to how to apply the mental golf wisdom to their game.
The problem is that none of these reactions leads to magnificent, consistent, and enjoyable golf. They miss the gist of mental golf wisdom.
What is Zen golf wisdom?
Essentially, it is mastery of the mind, which is the mastery of mental golf. There is no sport requiring as much complete control of the mind as the game of golf.
Golfing success wisdom stems from the Oriental wisdom of thinking and the mind. Specifically, it is the wisdom of Zen.
Tiger Woods once said: “My mother’s a Buddhist. In Buddhism, if you want to achieve enlightenment, you have to do it through meditation and self-improvement through the mind. That’s something she passed on to me: to be able to calm myself down and use my mind as my main asset.”
Tiger Woods also commented on the golfing success of Jack Nicklaus, “The biggest thing is to have the mindset and the belief you can win every tournament going on. A lot of guys don’t have that; Nicklaus had it. He felt he was going to beat everybody.”
If you are playing your very best, you are in a state ofmeditation, transcendence — the ideal condition for mental golf success.
So, what exactly is the wisdom of Zen golf or mental golf wisdom?
The word “Zen” is Japanese, but it derives from the Chinese, meaning “meditation.”
According to the legend, one day when Buddha was growing old, he gathered all his disciples for an important discourse. As soon as all his disciples sat down silently, Buddha arose, picked up a flower and raised it to his eyes. Then, without uttering a word of sermon, he returned to his seat. All his disciples looked at each other in bewilderment — except one disciple, who apparently was the only one in the audience to have perceived the significance of the meaning of silence of his Master. That disciple smiled at Buddha, who also smiled back as a silent bequeathment of the spiritual meaning of his silent sermon. According to the legend, that was how Zen came into existence. And that was the origin of mental golf.
Zen means waking up to the present moment. In other words, you perceive this very moment exactly as it is, and your thinking should not be adulterated by preconceived ideas, opinions, or notions. This mindset is the groundwork for mental golf.
To illustrate, you ask yourself the simple question: “WHAT are you doing?”
“I don’t know” may be the Zen answer, instead of “I am working at my computer,” because the former comesbefore the thinking, which will give you the obvious answer: “I am working at my computer.”
Once, you perceive the nuance and subtlety of “keeping everything moment to moment,” then you will become enlightened, and everything will be as clear as a crystal to you.
Remember, each moment remains with that moment; so, whatever you are doing, just do it — the moment before and the moment after this moment has absolutely no bearing on this very moment.
To find out more about Zen wisdom, read Living By Zen, which is an excellent book on understanding the philosophy and the psychology of Zen. Discover how you can feel calm, balanced and positive no matter what is going on in your life; and find out exactly what it is that causes pain, crisis and sorrow, and how to quickly turn them around. Living By Zen is not just about applying Zen wisdom to your golfing success; it is about waking you up so you can enjoy your life completely. It is one of the most readable books on Zen way of life.
If you are interested in the Zen philosophy of love, life, and death, you can read my novel, Forever Yin and Yang, which is a haunting tale about unrequited love, life and death, and Nirvana, which is the ultimate truth of Zen wisdom.
To find out more about how to discipline your mind, go to my web page: The Pillar of Mind Power.
Truly, from the Zen perspective, existence is something that is happening spontaneously, and it is not just your thoughts. All of life that you perceive is constantly in a state of change: every atom in the universe is somehow different every millionth of a second. Therefore, existence — as well as every golf swing you make — is no more than instantaneous. As a matter of fact, everything that you can explain, including a perfect golf swing, must be past tense, because it is no longer the same experience the very second after it filters through your mind.
Zen wisdom instills a less subjective awareness through silent meditation. It aims at attaining a state of mind known as “enlightenment.” Enlightenment is not easy to describe. Simply put, it is the liberation from the material world and “self,” thereby experiencing “all is one, and one is all.”
Interestingly, Zen is neither a theory nor an idea; it is not even an intellectual concept. Zen is merely a practice which brings about an internal awareness, a profound wisdom unattainable through logical thought alone. It is this wisdom of awareness that has become the essence of mental golf wisdom.
Zen wisdom in your golfing success means effortless focus, equanimity and timelessness, great self-confidence, freedom from anxiety. These are not abstract concepts or theories, but tangible results attainable in mental golf through an internal awareness.
How is Zen wisdom applicable to your mental golf?
· Apply Zen wisdom to mental golf, so that you have a different perspective on the game. You play golf for enjoyment and personal growth. You measure your success on the process, rather than the outcome.
· Apply Zen wisdom to your mind, which is the main asset of mental game. Enhanced golf equipment, sophisticated training aids, state-of-the-art videos for swing analysis may result in appreciable improvement of your techniques, but the mental golf wisdom holds the key to your ultimate golfing success.
· Apply Zen wisdom to any difficult golf situation you may find yourself in. Mental golf wisdom decrees that you stay in the present, keep focused, clear you mind of any distraction, and do not get down on yourself after a poor shot or round.
If you are in a hazard, focus only on “getting out of it,” and hence the outcome would become insignificant.
In Zen wisdom, emphasis is always on the process, never the outcome; it is always in the present, not the future.
· Apply Zen wisdom to your attitude and mentality. How can you learn or improve if your mind is already full of your own opinions and thoughts? Empty your mind first! Have the beginner’s mentality: learn from everyone andeverything, and there is always more to learn. Settle and center your mind and body to change any unhelpful habit or behavior detrimental to your golfing success. The right attitude and mentality to learning and improving are part of your mental golf wisdom.
Empty any thought of having already accomplished some golfing success, otherwise you may lack motivation to forge yourself forward.
Remember, your mind has the potential to be as big as the universe. The more you empty your mind, the bigger it is. Do not just focus tightly on the hole: let your mind gobeyond. This is mental golf wisdom.
· Apply Zen wisdom to control your thinking and your thoughts. In addition to “always in the present moment,” Zen wisdom is also about awareness, about action with awareness. In Zen, awareness and mind are synonymous. Awareness is like a mirror, reflecting all your thoughts, perceptions, and feelings, but they are only reflections. Likewise, you have thoughts, but you are not your thoughts, because your thoughts are not your mind which is merely a reflection of those thoughts of yours.
Changing the thoughts can change the self: this is essence of mental golf wisdom.
How can you separate the thoughts from the self?
You identify with awareness, not your mind which is only a reflection of that awareness. As thoughts arise, you just let them come up and go by; you do not purposely invite them nor do you consciously dismiss them. Just let them be, because you are not your thoughts. With this perspective, your thoughts are merely words or images coursing through your mind, with no more tangible reality than those pictures flashing on a TV screen.
That is exactly what happens during a meditation: you focus on something, whether it is a thought or an object, and everything else may come and go, and your mind stays focused. (Go to my web page: Meditation Techniques to learn how to focus your mind.)
· Apply Zen wisdom to perception of your true self, which is basically good. Give yourself the self-confidence that you rightly deserve. You do not need to prove yourself that you could be Tiger Woods. You do not evaluate your performance based on how you play your golf shots; if you do, you may come up with quick fixes and patch-up jobs, only further undermining your golfing success. Mental golf instills self-confidence into you.
The self-confidence engendered by Zen wisdom, however, is different from the “false” self-confidence based on unrealistic goals, or dependent on only positive results.
The Zen self-confidence is totally unconditional: your swing becomes free and spontaneous, and you play without anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and frustration. Your action becomes spontaneous, and so is the outcome. The self-confidence inspired by mental golf is unadulterated and unaffected.
In addition, Zen self-confidence is enlightening: you recognize some of your self-defeating habits and behavior that may hinder your golfing success. Do not analyze or change your swing; instead, change your perspective of how you should apply mental golf to the game for golfing success.
Develop a strategy before you hit the ball. Good preparation produces clarity of mind, concentration, and composure — the ingredients of mental golf wisdom. In addition, it is a strong testament of your full commitment, which ensures golfing success and breeds self-confidence.
Clarity of mind enhances your mental image of your shot — how it should be played, the target aimed at, and the path intended for the ball.
In mental golf wisdom, concentration frees your mind from any distracted thoughts that may arise from the self or from the environment.
Composure, a result of both clarity of mind and concentration, creates confidence and focus, which are necessary for mental golf success.
You should focus on sending the ball to a target, rather than targeting on hitting the ball. Targeting the ball is often a problematic perspective.
When you visualize the image of sending a ball to a target, you swing becomes more spontaneous, free from any self-conscious interference. Remember, a too self-conscious swing, due to the fear of making mistakes, often inhibits a free, full swing, leading to a poor shot.
But how do you visualize a vivid image of your shot?
Practice the Zen’s awareness of your sense perception to enhance your vivid image created in your mind’s eye. Fully utilize the power of mental golf.
· Sit upright, your feet flat and your hands palm-down on your knees.
· Turn your awareness to your sense perceptions, one by one.
· Without moving your eyes, notice as much as you can within your field of vision.
· Notice their color and shapes.
· Notice the extent of your vision by shifting your eyes up and down, left and right.
· Gradually, shift your awareness to notice your bodily sensation, such as your breathing and heartbeats.
Remember, focusing on only one sense while letting the others fade into oblivion helps you deal with any distracting thought during your swing routine.
Before each swing, develop a good image of your ball flying to the spot you wish it would land, bounce, and roll to a stop in the right spot on the fairway. Even if the ball has landed at the place you least desire, avoid having a negative attitude about yourself.
In golf, as in life, you have to make decisive decisions. How do you shape your shot? Do you hit the ball firmly, sending it through the break and past the hole, or hit the ball softly, making the putt fall off below the hole? These are some of the crucial decisions you may have to make on the fairway.
Your decision and the action that entails are determined by both your conscious mind and your subconscious mind.Your conscious mind is the thinking mind that plans, while your subconscious mind is the mind thatcoordinates your body movements. Your planning mind sends a message to your coordinating mind, giving your body an image of what your body is supposed to do. Unfortunately, if you do not make a decisive decision, your coordinating mind receives “two” different images, and thus becomes “confused,” rendering improper bodily movements that may derail your shot.
So, be decisive. However, it does not mean you should go ahead and hit the ball anyway. Avoid the anyways, such as having the wrong club for the shot and hit it anyway, feeling too close or too far from the ball and hit it anyway, or the ball is teed up too high or too low and hit it anyway. These anyways suggest only inadequate commitment on your part. These anyways do not reflect mental golf wisdom.
Once you have prepared mentally for your shot as best you can, with a vivid image of the outcome, you mustcommit to it with your body. However, it is important to remember that commitment does not guarantee successful outcome: it only gives you the best chance of success.
Therefore, pre-acceptance of the outcome, whatever it may be, is essential to golfing success. Why? Because golf is a game of percentages. You can still score well with good misses. So commit to your shot — giving it all the best you can do — even if it misses. And learn to be forgiving of yourself for those misses too!
In addition, pre-acceptance prepares you for any negative repercussion of stepping into the unknown future.
Just take your best shot and deal with the outcome.
Commitment is essentially an expression of your unconditional confidence in your golf. Commitment is not something that can be taught: it is acquired through pre-acceptance. Having dissipated your fear of undesirable results, commitment often comes as a second nature to you.
Right before the swing, your mind may become distracted with “internal conversations.” Do not fight them. Remember, your thoughts are not you, and you are notyour thoughts. Just empty your mind, or let your random thoughts come and go, without being perturbed by them. This is mental golf. Train your mind to treat your thoughts objectively. This is mental golf wisdom. Learn to relax to play golf, not playing golf to relax. Relaxation is attained through awareness and meditation. This is also mental golf wisdom.
Practice awareness, in particular, your awareness of any tension.
· Lie on your back, close your eyes, directing yourawareness to each part of your body, beginning with your toes, your feet, your ankles, your legs, your fingers, your hands, your arms, your shoulders, your lower and upper back, your neck, your mouth, your nose, your ears, your eyebrows, your eyes, and finally your hair on your head. Awareness is mental golf wisdom.
· Repeat the awareness practice while sitting down. Then do it while standing up on the golf course, starting at the top of your head, your scalp, face, jaw, and neck, then to your shoulders, arms, and hands, your chest, upper back, lower back, belly, pelvis, legs, thighs, knees, calves, feet and toes.
The only tension you need is to hold your posture and hold onto your club for mental golf success.
Practice your awareness until you master it. Do it before each shot. Tension tends to build up in your jaws, shoulder tops, hands and deep belly.
In addition, enhance your awareness of your body’s center of gravity, which is the source of movement and energy. When you make the swing, you will feel your body’s center of gravity located a few inches below your navel. However, note that your state of mind affects your body’s center of gravity. That is, if your mind is full of distracting thoughts and tension, your body’s center of gravity will shift accordingly towards your head.
To diffuse any tension before and during your swing, learn to breath deeply and fully. Correct breathing enhances your mental golf.
What is a deep and full breath?
Stand with good posture, close your eyes, breathe gently and slowly through your nostrils. Visualize your breath filling out your lungs and the rest of your body.
Here is an illustration of putting Zen wisdom on the golf course.
Stand approximately eight to twelve feet behind the ball. Look straight at your aim line. Make a decision on how you will swing the ball. Conjure up a vivid mental image of your swing and shot.
Take a full and deep breath, inhaling gently and exhaling through your nostrils. Upon completion of your exhalation, approach the ball.
Walk mindfully by directing your awareness to the feeling of your body, as well as the ground as you walk. Meanwhile, continue to breathe slowly and fully.
Take your stance. Make your transition into the takeaway: you need to feel set, clear of distracting thoughts, and ready to swing from your body’s center of gravity. Take a last look at the target. Do not rush, but do not delay. Stay in the flowing tempo — only you know what you feel best and what that tempo is like. If you feel yourself out of flow of the tempo, take a time-out, go back behind the ball and begin your approach once again.
For a perfect golf swing, your body and mind should be synchronized in the present moment, thereby instrumental in preparing you for mental golf wisdom. Remember, your mind not only directs your body but also gets feedback from your body. Learn to trust your swing and enjoy the game.
(For more information and tips on golf swing, go to Basic Golf Techniques and Mastering Golf Basics.)