Master the Mind to Master the Game
BY: AIMEE HUGHES
“I remember the moment I had what I call my ‘golf game epiphany,’” recalls Steve Hughes, a passionate golfer from Richmond, Missouri. “I realized that my main obstacles were in my head, and from that day on, my golf game changed.”
In any athletic or fitness endeavor, the pursuit of excellence unfolds an array of challenges. While golf presents some of the toughest hurdles to improvement, any links enthusiast can better their game by acquiring a champion’s mindset. Applying a few Zen techniques and disciplines adapted from the Buddhist tradition of mindful awareness—which teaches that the mind is everything—can work wonders.
Zen Golf master and performance psychologist Joe Parent, Ph.D., of Ojai, California, advises: “The key is finding a way to let the ‘thinking’ mind do all the preliminaries to physical performance—selecting a target, judging the lie, gauging weather influences, etc.—and then letting our ‘intuitive’ mind take over, enabling our body to make a swing that’s free from second-guessing ourselves.” He calls the optimal playing mentality, “Not too tight, not too loose.” It’s the sweet spot that allows us to perform via our best self. Some key techniques prepare us to find and reside in this just-right Goldilocks place of being not too hot and not too cold.
Developing mental fortitude takes us even further than we can imagine. Mastery is born from discipline, focused attention and a deep core desire to adopt habits and behaviors that will upgrade our mindset.
Author of Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game, Parent teaches his students to enter a state that he calls “trusting versus trying.” He teaches a “one stroke at a time” approach, which emphasizes awareness of being in the present moment, as many contemplative spiritual traditions do. When the golfer is deeply engaged in the present moment with just the right level of emotional intensity, free of distractions and worries about future swings, they become integrated with what’s taking place on the course in the here and now to the point of total absorption. Read More