Centering, In Golf and Elsewhere

In Jerry's piece from Monday, he built on his earlier descriptions of centering to describe for the first time what centering might look like in the context of golf. Did you notice that nowhere in there did he speak in the language we've gotten so used to seeing when communicating golf instruction? There was no, "Stand with your feet here, put your hands in this position." The instruction for finding the right stance was, "Does the breath flow or do it not?" The instruction for finding the right grip was, "Does the breath flow or does it not?" In many ways, that's all you need to know about the proper stance and the proper grip.

Jerry taught me centering in early September, 2015, and the more I practice the deeper the practice goes.

Here's a list of activities in which I try to practice staying in center:

  • All of them.

Which isn't to suggest that I succeed all or even most of the time. I regularly lose center. As often as I am able to remember, I check in via the breath: In my current position, can I bring the breath up smoothly all the way through my body? If not, what kind of adjustments can I make to bring more freedom and flow to the breath?

When I say that I practice centering in every activity I participate in, I mean it. Let's say I'm writing. Maybe I hit a point where the flow of words stops. I get stuck. That's a good time to notice how long it's been since I checked in with the breath. The feedback of what I feel through that practice will tell me something about what's going on with my body and my energy. Often, just taking a moment to re-center will get the words flowing again.

And how does this apply to golf? Golf is an especially difficult activity to stay centered in. Unlike, say, soccer, in which the play flows and flows, in golf, the vast majority of time you are between shots. The mind has plenty of time to start to wander. You start thinking about how you feel about your previous shot, and about your playing partner's previous shot, and what you hope to do with your next shot, and how if you hit the next one well you might be on the green in regulation, which will set you up for a birdie putt, and the next thing you know you are mentally buying everyone beers in the clubhouse after the round, celebrating the best score of your life. Which is to say, you are walking along in a story of your own creation, rather than being actually physically present in the moment. And then when you come up to actually physically hit your shot, is it any wonder that you find yourself scattered, unable to focus, with your mind chattering away?

So what do you do about it? You center.

Your mind has wandered. Okay, fine. Now then: where is the breath? Notice the breath in the body. Can you breathe in such a way that it flows freely through the body?

You can.

As you meet center, the gibbering thoughts begin to fall away. You return to the present moment.

And where else can you hit the ball from, but the present moment?

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