Let’s Us Now Begin to Cultivate Joy

Yesterday evening I went to play soccer. I have not been having much fun with my soccer this season. I don't know why, I just haven't. I've felt no drive off the field and pissed off on it. My play has been tight, angry, with no risk-taking and no flow. It's like I put my game inside a big rock and from that rock I carved a mask of grim determination and I have been wearing it, grey and hard, over my face.

I'm getting tired of not enjoying the things I do for fun.

So before I left the house, I declared, "Today in my game I will cultivate joy." I asked myself, "What is my favorite thing to do on the soccer field, something of which I have full control?" I answered that I love beating someone for pace. So I set this goal: that at least twice in the match, once in each half, I would try to dribble by a defender. I didn't have to beat him, I just had to try.

I gave myself permission to just go for it, and go for it I did. A couple of times in each half I found the ball at my feet and saw space around the defender and I revved myself through the gears and pushed the ball toward that space, and I found a freedom that I hadn't seen in my game in I don't know how long, and I smiled and I laughed and I smiled.

For those of us fortunate enough to have put aside making money as a reason we play the games we play, what keeps us playing? Only one answer makes sense: we go out to these parks and play these silly games because doing so makes our lives more full, more joyful, better. Let us begin, then, to find the parameters within our control that enable us to shatter these grim masks and reveal us underneath, smiling.

Goal Setting: Meeting the Future in the Present

By meeting change, ever inevitable, from within consciousness, you can provide direction. This person in the future whom you wish to be: it is you, expanded. This is your goal. But remember: life happens in the present. This expanded, future you: that person would feel more open, more in flow, yes? Now ask: In what ways? How and where would it be different? Where would the openness be? Where is there tightness or constriction in your energy that is keeping you from being that person? Find it in your body. Now, in that place of constriction: begin to open.

The Language of Goal-Setting: And Now Let Us Step Boldly Into the Future!

In a sense, a goal invokes movement toward becoming someone in the future who is different (at least a little different) from the person you are right now. But this is no excuse to start living in the future. The future is the ultimate out there, never more than a dream. Really, there is only ever a present, constantly unfolding.

(Know this: whatever happens, you will be a different person in the future. Change is the only constant. But you can choose to meet that change consciously. Or not.)

The Language of Goal-Setting (II)

I think maybe our goals shouldn't exist out there. Our goals should be in here. I think maybe we should express our goals like this: "My goal is to be a person who hits his drives 210 yards and straight." Now the goal stops being an object, something we wish to possess. Now the goal is inside us. Stated this way, the goal becomes synonymous with us. It becomes the subject.

By making the goal something we wish to be, we open ourselves up to the change necessary to bring that goal about.

The Language of Goal-Setting (I)

It occurred to me over the weekend that perhaps we're doing this whole goal-setting thing wrong. Generally we state our goals like this: My goal is to achieve x.

For example: "My goal is to hit my drives 210 yards and straight."

Why might this be a problem? When we speak this way, the goal becomes an object, some shiny thing that exists out there. It's just a thing we hope to obtain. We might as well be saying, "My goal is to have a Ferrari."

How Language Limits Us

If the body doesn't know "not," then what happens when we say a sentence like, "I'm not a good golfer?" Does the body hear, "I'm a good golfer?"

It does not. When we say that the body doesn't know not, we are saying that an affirmative statement is met as concretely real in the body, whereas not is an abstraction, which takes it out of the realm of the body and into the realm of the mind.

We cannot make energy flow by using the mind. Energy flows by moving to center, by connecting to the open, flowing breath, and allowing the breath to draw energy into and through us. We cannot think our way to flow.

However, we can definitely think our way out of it. When we say a sentence like "I'm not a good golfer," we're using the power of the mind to clamp down on flow. The essential guiding hypothesis of TTW is that athletic ability (any ability, really) depends on an open, unfettered flow of energy. Any blockage in that flow will inevitably limit one's abilities.

Thus, no matter what our skill at the sport, saying, "I'm not a good golfer" becomes true to some extent just by saying it.

Don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself. Center. Establish an open, flowing breath until you can feel the energy flowing. Now, pick something that you are working at meeting your potential in. It can be anything, just as long as it's something you care about. Now, say to yourself, "I'm not a good _______." What did you notice about the breath? What did you notice about the energy in the body? Did you find that the breath didn't flow as cleanly (if at all), and the energy in the body closed up or fell away?

For now, try to start being aware of times you use language to limit your flow. Awareness is the first step to changing that pattern.


It was a year ago this week that Jerry and I published our first pieces for TTW and began the project in earnest.

Earlier today, we were at the chipping green practicing our chips and pitches, and I was reflecting on just how far we've come.

We still mis-hit shots sometimes. Not every one even stays on the green. But the grouping of our shots, as it emerges, is unmistakable: our shots group around the flag.

It didn't used to be that way.

My goal when I came back to practicing golf after all these years was to break 100 within five years. I'd never even come close to breaking 100, but five years still seemed realistic if I was willing to work hard.

Jerry thinks I will succeed in that goal before the snow flies this year. I'm not convinced yet. But I have witnessed our short games progress radically in just a year of regular (but hardly daily) practice. This first year, we've put the bulk of our practice in on the chipping green. For the second year, we'll put the bulk of our practice in on the driving range. If our long games improve as much next year as our short games did this year, I will certainly break 100 before this time next year. Jerry will be breaking 90 regularly.

In the pieces I've published so far this week, I've been writing about language and the ways in which we use it to help or hinder our attempts to change. Today I am reflecting on how far we've come, and I have to wonder: just how much magic did we set free in our lives when we set out on this project with the idea that, "Yeah, we can do that?"

Practice – The Journey Continues

Over the 12months of the TTW project, Ben and I have tried to stress the role practicing plays in this process. Now that we’re working with students, I find that practice will play an even greater role than we anticipated.

When I have a few days between practice sessions, I notice that it takes a little longer to feel the balance in my stance, the flow within my swing, and a sense of confidence that I can hit my shot. The more I practice, the easier it all comes together.

When working with clients in the gym, especially in the beginning, I give them short, low intensity workouts and request that they practice daily. Over the years, this has produced consistent and measurable results. Those who are more consistent simply progress faster.

Using this successful model from my training business, I’ve put together a basic practice guide for beginning TTW students.

Day 1:
10 full practice swings from center.

Day 2:
5 full practice swings. Hit 5 foam balls

Day 3:
10 full practice swings. Hit 10 foam balls.

Day 4:
Hit 10 foam balls with full pre-shot ritual.

Day 5:
5 full practice swings with full pre-shot ritual. Hit 5 foam balls with full pre-shot ritual.

Obviously, you can substitute hitting real balls at the driving range in place of hitting foam balls. Using foam balls allows you to practice closer to home and limit the amount of time necessary for each practice session.

What I am trying to do here is to make sure that every day we’re practicing being centered while holding a golf club. These practice sessions shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to complete. This is the bare minimum amount of practice necessary to make progress.


One day I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and I was trying to convince her that she should learn to ski or snowboard, and she was having none of it. Now, she may have many million reasons for not wanting to learn, but what she said to me that day was, "I'm a total klutz. I'll just hurt myself."

But I think back to another time we were hanging out, and something in our conversation inspired her to move into the yoga pose Natarajasana, or Dancer's Pose. It's a pose that requires substantial flexibility and balance, and she did it effortlessly, without thinking or becoming self-conscious at all. It was quite beautiful.

We are so quick to argue for our limitations.

The Body Doesn’t Know Not

There's a videogame I play which I call Game, and one of the features and challenges of Game is that, though you can save your progress between sessions, you cannot save your progress during a session--that is, when you make a mistake and die, you have to start over all the way at the beginning.

Earlier today I allowed myself to start up a saved session and play about five minutes of Game and during that time I made a very, very stupid mistake and died, and just like that ten-and-a-half hours of gameplay disappeared and, once again, I'm back to the start.

One of the things I like about Game is that because the stakes are simultaneously so high (die and start over) and so low (it's still just a video game), it provides a surprisingly good platform for learning about yourself and discovering opportunities for growth.

So today, after I died, I wanted to make sure that I would learn something from the stupid, stupid thing I'd done, and so I started articulating to myself what I'd like that to be. "I will not continually make the same stupid mistakes," was one thing I said to myself. That'd be a good thing to learn, right?

And it was then that I realized that I had something salient to share here. An important teaching of Jerry's is, "The body doesn't know 'not.'" He means that the body deals only in concrete realities, whereas the negation of something is an abstraction. Thus, if I want to effect a change in my life--if I want my recreation to be an opportunity for learning and growth, if I want it to help teach me something about living a better life--then I have to find a way to articulate what I want to learn as a positive and concrete affirmation.

Here you might expect me to share exactly how I've come to articulate the change I wish to see after today's events, but I haven't gotten to that point yet. So instead of rushing into an answer, I am for now keeping myself open to the question: How best do I make this experience into a gift?