Creating Balance

Creating Balance

Last week, I talked about using TTW and the principles that it’s founded upon to help create a stabilizing force to bring balance to our ailing nation.

The first part of creating balance is being centered. This week, in preparation for beginning a meditation practice, I thought I would review how to center when seated.

Seated Center

Wherever you find yourself reading this – take a minute, notice where your feet are. Notice your posture. Where are your shoulders in relation to your hips? Is your breath deep or shallow? Are you breathing consciously or unconsciously? How aware are you of your surroundings?

Now take a minute, put your feet firmly on the ground hip-to-shoulder width apart.
Have your knees bent 90 degrees.

Sit up so your shoulders are directly over your hips.

Now, gently raise your diaphragm – notice how your shoulders drop when you do this.

Relax your feet by wiggling your toes and letting your arches soften. As your feet relax your legs will relax.

Now, take a nice easy breath up through your hips and into your upper chest and shoulders. Did your breath rise? Try it again.

Notice your breath as it moves up through your pelvis, past your belly button, through the diaphragm and into your upper chest. Now, take another easy breath. Allow yourself the luxury of feeling what an open flowing breath feels like.

When your breath flows freely from your pelvis into your upper chest and shoulders you are CENTERED.

Centering when seated is the starting position to begin a meditation practice.

Practice maintaining this position and focusing on your breath for 3-5 minutes once or twice per day. Next week I will introduce some basic breathing and visualization techniques to begin the meditation practice.


In thanksgiving:

I am grateful for the work I've gotten to do with Jerry. I am grateful at how transformative I've found our work together to be. I am grateful that I can look at my life before and after and see how much better things are now. I am grateful that my exploration of the TTW principles takes me outside to play. I am grateful for soccer and golf and tennis and mountain biking. I am grateful for skiing and snowboarding. I am grateful to be in a place with great weather and great natural beauty so that I want to be outside every day. I am grateful for having a teacher as adept as Jerry, someone who is inclined to experiment, to play--this is how TTW came to be, this is why it has worked. I am grateful to the clients we have worked with so far. I am grateful for the clients yet to come.

I am grateful that our idea worked, and I am grateful to have learned that change is more complicated than I thought. There is no magic switch here. Our patterns do not just go away. I am grateful to have seen that truth so clearly through this year of exploration. And I am grateful, deeply grateful, that change is possible.

Change is always possible.

Moving Forward

Last Wednesday evening, Ben and I took a long walk and talked about how to move forward with TTW in the post-election world that we now live in. By then, I was in a better state of mind and ready to begin exploring this new world that has been thrust upon us.

To truly understand what is needed, I think it is necessary to take a brief look at how we got here. Over the last 16 years or so, I have watched as our political parties have become completely polarized. As the right became more conservative, the left responded by becoming more liberal. Now, I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong. I’m simply talking about the energy dynamics involved when two opposing forces become polarized.

Many years ago, the Democrats and the Republicans could agree on what the issues were, they just disagreed on how to fix them. Over the years, people within the power structure realized that by creating conflict between the parties they could separate and divide the American people. By dividing us, they could control the government and keep themselves in power perpetually.

As the parties got further and further from center, the base of that power – we, the people--became weaker and weaker. Heading into this election, I felt that the people’s power base was the weakest I have ever seen in the 51 years that I have been alive.

It’s no wonder that Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great again” appealed to so many. What he was promising, whether he knew it or not, was a returning of power to the base (the people), and a drawing it away from the powers that be. That message of returning the power to the people was so strong that it didn’t matter that he’s not only unqualified for the job, but that for all intent and purposes, he appears to be a despicable human being.

As I watch him appoint his cabinet and prepare to assume control, it seems obvious that he’s aligned himself with the ultra-conservative right and that this dividing of the people will be greater than ever. If he was actually going to return power to the people, his cabinet would be much more diverse and not filled with hatemongers, ultra-conservatives, and known racists.

This is where TTW comes in. We are going to create a balancing force to help stabilize our country and pull energy from both the left and right back towards the center. As much as I’d like to protest, riot and create a resistance movement, right now what we need is to create stability.

TTW and the Election

Jerry's piece this week took me by surprise. We both took the election really hard, but Jerry is usually so grounded that I expected his shock would wear off over the weekend, and he'd return to something like normalcy. So I was certainly surprised by the continued note of despondency in his piece.

As the days go on, however, I'm becoming more and more aware that there is not and will not be a return to normalcy, not as we knew it, on this side of this election. The political divisions between red and blue have been getting sharper for years, but this election was so divisive, and the sense of recrimination, disgust and betrayal so deep, that our society seems to have split asunder.

We have been talking here about how the purpose of TTW is not primarily to make ourselves or our clients into better athletes. That's just a side effect. Rather, we're engaging in concrete, embodied practices with the goal of becoming better people.

So now the universe has seen fit to give us a new playing field--one with the highest of stakes--to really test the TTW principles. What does "better people" mean in a divided nation? What does "better people" mean in a country in which the legitimacy of our governmental system is breaking to pieces before our eyes?

If TTW is more than just talk--and it is--then here is where the rubber hits the road. It may look like we're trying to be better golfers, or tennis players, or whatever. But by practicing being in the present moment, not fleeing from what is, we become more skillful at living in this challenging world.


I’ve tried hard to write Training Tiger Woods part 4 this week. It just didn’t seem to matter in the wake of the election results. For the first couple of days, I walked around feeling like I had witnessed 9/11 all over again. I remember those feelings of shock and disbelief alternating with rage towards my fellow man that marked the days and weeks after 9/11.

As I watch the president- elect fill his cabinet with ultra-conservatives and hate-mongers, I keep asking myself, “How could we do this to ourselves?”

But, as they say, life goes on. Because I cannot simply uproot my life and leave this country and its troubles behind, I must find a way to find balance and help those around me try to create something positive from this madness.

How? I’m not sure yet. But for now, I’m going to start at the beginning. I’m going to center and breathe.

My Experience with Moving from the Athletic Model

While I'm not a Tiger Woods-level athlete (to say the least), I had a substantial history with weight-training when I first started working with Jerry. I started lifting weights as a freshman in college, got certified as a personal trainer in my early 20s, and have included weight-training as part of my exercise routine throughout my adult life. I had my first session with Jerry at the age of 40, so at that point I had been involved in weight-training for literally more than half my life.

In our first session, we started with centering and the breath, and then Jerry explained to me the problems with the athletic model of training. We went out to the weight room, and Jerry instructed me on how to lift with a focus on breath and feeling. The intensity of the workout was less than I was used to--no more sets to failure--but Jerry explained that I'd be able to work out more frequently, because the lower intensity meant I didn't need a day off for recovery.

Jerry sent me off with the instruction to practice, and so I did. I worked out nearly every day. I was not suffering from physical injury when Jerry and I started, but the relationship between myself and my body was definitely askew. To my fascination, it wasn't long at all before that started to change.

Training Tiger Woods Part 3

Training someone with an exercise history like Tiger’s is always interesting. Usually, they have been well trained and lift with acceptable form and technique within what I call the traditional athletic model, which is with too much weight and intensity. When an athlete lifts in this manner quite often his mental and emotional strength gets tied to his physical strength.

If you go back to 1994 when Tiger was a student at Stanford, his pictures show a fit young man, but not the physical specimen that he became on the pro tour. In fact, when he entered the pro tour, the benefits of weight lifting and physical fitness weren't widely acknowledged. When Tiger was a student at Stanford he only weighed 158 pounds and stood 6’2”. In his glory days on the PGA Tour, Tiger weighed in at just under 190 pounds. With the added strength and confidence that his exercise regime generated, it wasn’t long before Tiger began dominating the tour. As his competitors began taking notice of his physical change, the fitness craze that has captured golf was born.

From the way in which he carried himself on the course, I would say that Tiger took at a lot of his mental toughness from the strength that radiated from his body. Unfortunately, when his body began breaking down, which was almost destined from the way in which he trained, his mental strength also began breaking down.

You see, when athletes' bodies begin breaking down, that breakdown cannot help but to affect them mentally and emotionally. Often, athletes' bodies are the mechanisms that have propelled them to the heights of success that they have enjoyed. As age or injury diminishes their abilities, it can be as if the body has betrayed them.

This is the “in” I was talking about last week. After all his injuries and subsequent rehabs, the physical strength has returned to Tiger’s body, but the mental toughness and the union between mind and body hasn’t. That’s the contradiction I see between the confident man that stands in front of the camera giving an interview and the diminished athlete I see on the golf course.

What we must do is repair the relationship between the athlete and his body. And that starts at the beginning, in the gym, changing his relationship to lifting weights and working out.

Reversing the Poles

Last week I was watching Andy Murray play Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, and during the match Murray reverted to his tendency to angrily mutter in the direction of his player box when things weren't going his way. I realized that I see that same sort of behavior all the time in the sports I practice and play. In fact, it happens so often that I don't even think twice about it. Someone muttering angrily to himself after mishitting a shot on the practice tee? Totally normal.

After a bit of reflection, I noticed that what I don't see is people talking animatedly with themselves when things go right. Indeed, when I took a moment to imagine someone doing so, the image I saw in my mind's eye was of the kind of person at whom we either stare or else consciously look away.

How strange, I thought. We take it as normal when someone watches a good shot and then moves on to the next one but scolds himself when he hits a bad shot; but the opposite--letting the bad ones go but offering himself out-loud congratulations when things go right--seems weird, even a bit crazy.

From an energy perspective, by engaging in these behaviors, aren't we leaving ourselves little room for growth? We shrug off the positives, giving ourselves no space to be delighted and thus rejecting the energetic expansion on offer, while meeting negative experiences either by constricting our flow around them or by expending extra energy in self-recrimination. Notice how insidious this is. As non-flow gets more and more ingrained, change becomes gets harder and harder.

This week I have been exploring a new approach: letting the negative things pass with as little extra energy as possible (like a cloud passes in front of the sun) while trying to open my energy, as in gratitude, when I experience the positive ones. I'm finding this surprisingly difficult. But with growth as the goal, surely this is the better approach.

Training Tiger Woods Part 2

Take a minute and center yourself.

Take a breath.

Feel it rise comfortably up through your body.

Feel what it is to be in a state of flow.

Last week I stated that with Tiger, as with anyone else, I would start with centering and breath. I start here because for any of this to work, we must be able to breathe. Now, I’m not talking about respiration. I am talking about centered and conscious breathing.

A conscious breath not only creates flow, but establishes our ability to feel the truth within our bodies. By being centered and breathing consciously, we are capable of honest and open communication.

The ability to communicate is critical to this process. Think about it: I don’t know Tiger. We have yet to meet. I have an awareness of his public persona, but I would not disrespect him, or any other client, by pretending that I know them based solely on my perceptions.

So, we center and breathe while spending a little time getting to know each other. This usually takes the form of talking about health and fitness, as I try to gain an understanding of who he is and what he knows.

At this point, what I am looking for is a way “in.” Usually, there will be a contradiction between what a client is saying and what they are showing me physically or energetically. In Tiger’s case, I see it between the facade he shows publicly and how he carries himself while on the course playing. This disharmony is what needs to be addressed. But, unless he sees the same contradiction, I will not be able to start there.

So, with Tiger, I think the next step would be to head to the gym. I know the “in” I’m looking for, and it can be exposed and addressed there.