“How did you play today?” I have a great wife. Helene actually cares about the answer to that question.
“Not as good as Monday,” I replied.
“I spent all day trying to do what worked Monday rather than really paying attention to what I was doing today.”
That, in a nutshell, is a perfect example of the elusive nature of the moment and why we have so much difficulty keeping up with our golf swings.
And it really is a matter of keeping up. The golf swing you have is the golf swing you have now, not the one you thought you had yesterday. Surely yesterday’s swing is a building block with which to build today’s swing, but the melding of the two—the ideas and memories from yesterday and the physical reality from today—gets sorted out and reconciled on the range. What you have to go to the course with is today’s physical reality bolstered by yesterday’s memories.
So, for example, what I was working on “today” was the sequencing of the swing and the release of the club through impact (it doesn’t really matter what it was). But that myopia didn’t allow me to feel that I wasn’t making a complete backswing (it doesn’t really matter what it was). It caused me to be shorter and quicker rather than long and flowing. Not good for a golf swing. You need your full range of motion. You want athletic rather than pedantic, natural rather than contrived. Target, ball, club, body.
The ideas and memories from yesterday are vital. But they’re akin to guardrails on a highway: they keep you on the highway, but the freedom is on the highway itself; the freedom found in freewheeling athleticism.
We all know that we have to stay in the moment to play well. It is that place where the relaxed focus of our attention can be brought to the entire tapestry of our swing.
Here is an example of just how deep the moment can be. In his groundbreaking book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle (tow lee) described his experience of becoming completely engrossed in the moment…for years:
What was left then [when I finally got there] was my true nature as the ever-present I am: consciousness in its pure state prior to identification with form. Later I also learned to go into that inner timeless and deathless realm that I had originally perceived as a void and remain fully conscious. I dwelt in states of such indescribable bliss and sacredness that even the original [cataclysmic spiritual epiphany] pales in comparison. A time came when, for a while, I was left with nothing on the physical plane. I had no relationships, no job, no home, no socially defined identity. I spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of the most intense joy.
Obviously, we want something somewhere between Tolle’s years of struggle to enlightenment and our fleeting moments in the sun on the golf course. I know those park benches wouldn’t quite work for me.
But his complete demolition of his ego-construct gives us a marker out there in the distance that makes it safe for us to dip our toes into those waters too—“I don’t have to go that far.” It makes twenty minutes of tranquil meditation, as practice for being completely immersed in the moment, not seem such a stretch. Even the idea of it is centering and calming. That’s where access to our true swing, to our true selves, can be found, in the moment.
And as near as I can tell, that’s where everything else that’s true in our lives can be found too: our true relationship with our spouses, our kids, our friends, our colleagues, our customers. All of it is authentically in the present, not in the cloisters of our minds.
That’s why I know that Helene’s question about how I played was authentic and not just because I’m giving her golf lessons and she “juuust” wants to be sure that I know what I’m talkin’ about.