Where Does All The Wisdom Go?

I came across an article in the January 2011 issue of Golf Digest, titled, “Make Golf More Fun.” It was, well, fun. Eighteen of the Golf Digest editors and contributors came up with eighteen ways to make golf more fun. While they were all quite entertaining, the one by Bob Carney really stood out for me.

14. FREE YOUR MIND

Once, about 10 years ago, I attended a golf school led by Chuck Hogan, a sport psychologist then working with Peter Jacobsen and Mike Reid. You think Hogan, you don’t tend to think fun, but Chuck was a different kind of Hogan. As we warmed up, he gave me his first piece of instruction: “Hit a few shots over that fat cloud over there.”

Huh?

For two days that’s what we did. We hit balls over clouds, under airplanes, into volcanoes and the mouths of beasts. We got putts rolling on imaginary toy-train tracks and allowed them to be sucked into holes by vacuum cleaners. If you mistakenly hit a shot into the water, Hogan would say, “Great shot. You thought water, you hit water! Now imagine the green is a pond.” I remember preparing to hit a short-iron shot picturing a plum blasted high into the sky and landing on a huge pumpkin pie. I watched my plum fly up, saw it plop into the filling, felt the splash, and knew that my real shot would fly with the same trajectory and land exactly the same way. It did. With Chuck, you hit a lot of shots and smiled.

Shortly after that weekend, armed with Hogan’s silly visualization, I shot two-under 68 at a very good course in Connecticut, the only time I’ve ever broken 70.

That was fun. Remind me to get back to that. –Bob Carney

The link to the entire article is here

While the stuff about hitting imaginative shots was a refreshing mind-breeze, the thing that got me was the last sentence, “Remind me to get back to that.” It reminded me of a chapter in my forthcoming book, “Going For It! A Spiritual Adventure on the Champions Tour.” It’s titled, “Amnesia,” and it was a lament about how all the cumulative wisdom–in my case, of rebuilding a golf swing–suddenly vanishes in the heat of battle or even in just the hum of daily life:  

…Why couldn’t I re-create and sustain these great things on an ongoing basis? Why did it always seem necessary that I had to rise to the occasion rather than having already been up and operating powerfully and fearlessly? 

And that was when I recognized the hum of life, the status quo, the comforting hook of it all, the lulling sameness of it all. While I loved the narcotic of adrenaline pumping through my veins, I also enjoyed the placid comfort of no physical stimulation. And, it seemed, the comfort more than the adrenaline. 

And then having seen that so clearly, I looked for where the line of demarcation was. Where did I go from being a fearless Champions Tour player and revert back to the fearful dullard?  It was always at the brink of a golf shot, that brink from the abstraction of empowerment to the physical reality of calling up a good golf swing.

The previous two and a half years working with [my coaches] Jim Deiters and Jim Flick had all been about changing my instinctive, perfectly effective golf swing into a Tour-quality golf swing. I had the mechanics of it in three weeks and could play on the Tour with it in three months.

But I didn’t know the nooks and crannies of it in the same way that I hadn’t known the nooks and crannies of my old swing. It was that ignorance of the old swing that caused it to break down under pressure—there was no base, no foundation to it that I could rely on. There was only my trust of it…just not on Mondays when I was caught up in my humanity, needed it to perform and my ignorance of it made me fearful…

…[But in time] I had trained my body to the new swing. And when I didn’t make it, I had become able to feel all of the inefficiencies of old tendencies that my body had brilliantly compensated for. I had “freewheeling” back, but in a whole new context, in the context of a rational foundation of sequential physical movements on an efficient swing plane aimed at a target.

The lesson in all of this for me was that wisdom comes and wisdom goes in the game of golf and that its going is very much akin to amnesia. It’s not personal, it’s part of the human condition.

And the only thing to do about it is to just stay in the process, trust the magic of the body, trust the instinctive intelligence of your higher consciousness…and just get the reps in. It crowds out the fear, allows you to truly pay attention and makes it ever so much easier to remember.

Thank you, Bob Carney, for reminding me about that…and giving me back the shimmering memory of once having hit golf balls into the billowing sails of a hard-charging pirate galleon.

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