Thursday, November 24, 2005

Golfing Zen #4 - Why Do We Forget?

About Golfing Zen: This is the fourth in a continuing series of short essays dealing with the application of Eastern spiritual philosophy to your golf game.

The surface intent is that, as you apply the ideas, your golf and your enjoyment of the game will grow. However there is also an underlying motive: as you are able to see gains on the course, you’ll then be moved to alter your approach to life as well.

Today’s Topic: Why Do We Forget?

In the last essay, I laid out a paradox:

• All the information that we need about how to swing is right in front of us.
• The skill required to perform the act (at least) reasonably well is easily within our grasp (assuming no major physical handicap).

And yet…

• 60% of us have handicaps over 18, while less than 10% have a handicap less than 10.

The conclusion is that, in some strange way, we either choose to cripple ourselves or we forget what we should know.

So, can I find a Zen parallel as an answer to the paradox? Yes, I can.

In an early essay I talked about the Fundamental Truth: that life is about suffering (“dukkah”), which comes from desire. Another word for desire is “attachment” and the Easterner would hold that all our negatives are born through attachment.

What negatives? All the usual suspects: avarice, greed, jealousy, pride, anger, etc. In the West, these are all considered a normal part of our makeup, unavoidable but held within control in the healthy mind.

In the Eastern mind, these negatives are not a given at all; they come out of attachment. An example: listen to this typical inner dialog.

I want a new sports car… I’ll be happy just as soon as I get one, but I can’t afford it. Bob has one… why does he have his when I can’t have mine? I’m ashamed to be seen in my old rattle-trap. No one will love me until I have a better car.

It’s easy to hear the negative emotions, but it goes beyond the obvious. Attachment re-enforces the sense (illusion) of separation (I see the car over there, yet I’m over here.), which strengthens and activates one’s ego state (the cobbled together false image of who we are, or are not.), and it leads to low self worth (because I have a junky car). All that… growing, in our own mind, out of attachment.

How does this apply to golf in general, and/or to my premise that we ignore what we know about the game?

Quite obviously, we’re attached to golf. We want/need to play better, and that must create — off in some corner of our mind — a potpourri of emotions: jealousy (I wish I could play like Bob.), anger (That’s not fair…why did that happen to me?), pride, and fear (If I miss this putt everyone will think I’m a loser.)

Of those, the two over-riding emotions are avarice and fear: we want it badly and we’re afraid we’re not going to get it.

This plays out in at least three ways:

1. Impatience. We want it right now! Yes, I know I should take lessons and practice, but I don’t have time. Besides, I took a lesson last year, and that didn’t work. Maybe if I just try harder…
2. Getting better means getting worse. Given that we’re not experts, our mechanics are a patchwork quilt of errors and compensations. We literally fend off the effect of one error by introducing a compensating error. Then when the pro gives us a lesson that fixes a flaw, we immediately get worse because the compensation is now exposed.
3. Deep down in our core, we don’t really believe or trust in our self. If I really try, then I might visibly fail. Better just to laugh and say, “I can’t.” I won’t fail if I don’t try.

The obvious question: how do we break out of that, without being prideful or attached?

Next Time: Teaching versus Learning


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