Hope you all had a great weekend and had some fun doing whatever it is you enjoy. I competed in my 2nd competitive amateur golf tournament and placed 10th, which I am fairly happy with. Just keep improving right. I did have a couple blow up holes that pretty much cost me a place within the top 10; however, what saved my round and secured my 10th place finish was learning to be present during my round. In other words, live in the now, or simply focus on one shot at a time, and forget the previous shot.
Be Present – The Art of Mindfulness
Being present/living in the now, as I am sure you all know, can have a huge impact on our lives and stress levels. It’s not only beneficial for golf :-). There is plenty of evidence that the ability to be present and experience/recognize the current moment, also referred to as mindfulness, can have many beneficial impacts on our health from a stress reduction point of view. These effects manifest themselves as a reduction in blood pressure response to stressors (1), increased positive moods (2), increased concentration levels (2), increased memory (2), increased ability to control emotions under distress (2). Mindfulness training has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels (3). I am sure you could go nuts on looking up the scientific evidence on the benefits of mindfulness since a simple PubMed search of “mindfulness” produces 263,205 results, but who has the time to read all those studies! So let’s agree that the ability to Be Present is beneficial to us for many reasons, some of which we will probably never understand fully.
The book I am currently reading (Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing)also speaks about how it is important for us to be present in our lives and live within a reasonable time-frame of “the now”. The warning attached to not living in the now is that we begin to enter a time warp. Now we aren’t speaking about an actual time warp like time travel or anything, although if that were the case, then maybe we wouldn’t need to live in the now because time travel would be super easy. But alas, this time warp we are at risk of entering is the idea that if we hold on to past experiences for far too long, we begin to view the situations that arise in the “now” through the eyes of our past self; and thus, we experience the current situation under a bias from that past self. That means there is no objectivity in our experience of the current situation, and we cannot fully experience it and respond appropriately in light of the fact the our perspective of the situation is based on past experiences. That being said, past experiences help us learn to navigate this thing called life, and there are great lessons that come from each experience we have. I think there seems to be a fine line between taking only what we need from each of our experiences and forgetting/releasing that parts of those experiences that are attached to negative feeling. Anyway, here are a couple examples to illustrate the time warp I am trying to explain:
Be Present – Example 1
Imagine someone you are very close with and spend a lot of time around, maybe a spouse or best friend. You know this person very well, and you know that they get really stressed out when they can’t find something to wear for a dinner or night out. Because you have experienced this situation so many times in the past, as soon as they even begin to get a bit stressed about it, you immediately react with your own frustration because maybe you think it is ridiculous or just don’t want to deal with it again.
Now, put yourself in that same situation; however, this time replace the person you know very well with someone you have just met. You have no prior bias or expectation for this person in the specific situation and when they begin to get upset about not being able to find something to wear, your first reaction is likely going to be much different, maybe you would even say to them “I know it’s tough sometimes to pick out an outfit, why don’t we look at some together, you can try some on, and we can pick the best one”.
Obviously the second situation is what we would be looking for in attempting to apply mindfulness to the first situation Can you see how much less stressful it would be for both yourself and the other person.
Be Present – Example 2
Golf time! Imagine you have just triple bogeyed your first hole, you sliced your tee shot, duffed your second shot, hit the water on your third shot, and finished with a big fat snowman, an 8 on a par 5. Now you are on the second tee box, and no doubt you are thinking something like “don’t slice it, don’t slice it”, and then guess what happens…you slice it. Then on your second shot you think to yourself “don’t put it in the water”, and guess what happens…you put it in the water. What you are doing here is basing your expectation of your current shot on what happened on your previous shots.
Now imagine that you just birdied you first hole with 4 perfect shots. Now you head to the second tee box thinking I am going to hit it straight in the middle of the fairway etc, etc, and guess what happens…you hit it in the fairway.
So, obviously we want to be able to approach each and every shot without a prior conceived notion of how it will turn out. Be present for each and every shot you make and judge the situation surrounding each shot on the merits of that situation only! I promise you will have better results, you may not be Tiger, but you will play better, and also have more fun!
Clearly there is supportive evidence that the ability to be present, and fully appreciate the moment as it is, without past or future thought, is beneficial to our health; but who cares what the scientific studies say, it has been proven via reports from people all over the world who practice mindfulness. So, why not try it for ourselves and see how it works. I know the above examples are super simple situations and not every situation that arises in life is easy to experience without prior bias, especially if the given situation is leading to feelings of hurt and insult which have occurred many times in the past. But you know what, I think if we can be fully present in those difficult moments and experience them for the “first time” without thinking how they made us feel in the past, we could honestly navigate them with a reduced impact on our health and well being and easily apply it to less difficult situations.
Remember, if we can be present, we are not ignoring the feelings of that moment, we are simply experiencing those feelings without the influence of previous experiences, or thoughts of future outcomes. I am no expert on Mindfulness and how to achieve it, and I do not feel it is something that is easy for everyone and it definitely takes practice. What type of practice is another question I have yet to figure out, but is something I am working towards. I leave you with some quotes on Mindfulness to motivate you to be present.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it
“Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow.”
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
“In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility.”
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
The Barefoot Golfer