“So often our possessions sleep.”
This quote popped into my head soon after finishing my last post. The ability to attend, stay present, to breathe and move consciously are skills (or tools) that I have honed over many years. The fact that they stay locked in my tool box on occasion doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is the realization that through simple habit, I could unconsciously lock that tool box and severely limit my ability to perform.
With that in mind, I planned to meet Ben at the driving range. Upon my arrival Ben was already on the chipping green. He greeted me with “What’s the plan?” Which turned out to be perfect, because I had to stop and think about how to proceed. As I reached for a club, I could feel apprehension and even tension begin to build in my body. I put the club back and took a breath. I suggested we start with some stretching. Some conscious movement that was breath-focused seemed to be practical for creating new movement and energy patterns around golfing.
So we talked about if for a while, did some stretches and headed to our position on the chipping green. Again, reaching for the club, I could feel the tension begin to rise within my body. I took a deep breath and Ben and I began talking about and breaking down the mechanics of chipping. We talked about stance, and breathing, while looking at aim point and energy dynamics. When actually chipping, we would alternate shots so we could watch the others body mechanics, breath and energy. After three shots each we would talk about the results and make suggestions for better form.
It didn’t take long for us to find the form we were looking for and to begin creating a pattern that would elicit the desired results. We were both hitting some pretty good chips and the talk changed into critiquing performance. Almost immediately, I lost my form and couldn’t control my shots. I realized that my breathing had changed and all my energy had moved up into my head. I had once again triggered my habitual response and my form had fallen apart. I could tell that Ben had noticed as well. I excused myself and went to the pro shop to get some water.
During the walk I took the time to ground myself and shift my energetic focus. Upon my return, I decided to shift my focus back to the mechanics rather than the performance. Almost immediately, I was once again hitting quality shots. So what changed in the space between working on the mechanics of chipping and analyzing the results of said chipping?
The easy answer is FLOW. The ritual of grounding my energy and focusing on my breath while preparing to chip created a sense of flow and ease in my body that allowed my body to do what I was trying to do. The more caught up in the actual results I got, the worse my breathing and grounding grew and I lost the sense of flow. Without being able to feel the flow and energy of the chipping motion, I was stuck with the less than adequate physical mechanics that I had developed over the years.
Moving forward, I see the necessity of creating grounding and breathing exercises for the typical types of shots that I can expect to hit during a round of golf, in an attempt to break the habituated response that blocks my sense of flow and limits my ability to perform.
This should make for an interesting week of practice.
Between now and my next post, try this grounding exercise.
Either sitting or standing assume the centered pose to practice your breathing.
Begin focusing your exhales through the bottom of your feet and into the ground.
Separate from your exhale and let your inhale happen automatically.
Try taking 5 breaths this way 5 times per day.