Golf

Golf, the sport that I have been playing for around 60 years, with the exceptions of 1964 and 1995. It is an activity that has given me enjoyment, heartbreak, and has kept me fascinated the entire time I have been playing. I was introduced to the game, as I was introduced to all sports, by my father. Our three main sports, were bowling, baseball and golf. I have many fond memories of golfing and bowling with my Dad, that will be with me forever. One of the things my Dad would always do, when we had to wait on the tee box, was to look for tees. During the round he and I would find anywhere from 20 to 30 tees per round. To this day, when there is a delay on the tee box, I do this, just as a remembrance to my Dad. The game has come a long way since those teenage days of the sixties. However, the game has taken a downturn in participation, since the turn of this century. The reasons given are, the economy, since the 2008 crash, not as much leisure time, it is not a game for the millennials, and it is just too hard to learn. It is a difficult game to learn, and then go out and play for the first time. There are people in front of and behind you, seemingly watching your every move. If you are learning and you play slow, which goes hand in hand, it can be stressful trying to keep up with the group in front of you. You have enough stress in life. You don’t need more, doing some leisure activity. Golf courses are not being built any more in the U.S, but there is still plenty of places to play. There is no doubt that it is a consumer market right now. Golf rates to play are more than reasonable.

If you have never played golf and are thinking about starting, now is as good as any, to give it a try. There are plenty of times when courses are not busy, and you can get out and get started. The best way to start is to take a lesson, but if you don’t want to get into that expense, then there are many great instructional books that can get you started in the game. If you have a group of friends that might want to start together, group lessons are usually very reasonable. To get started, hit balls at a driving range, for a few times. Then play par 3 courses and what’s called executive courses that are courses that have mostly par 3’s and some short par 4 holes. If you have a week day off, then play in the middle of day when these courses are not crowded. You should have freedom to take your time and learn the game. After playing these kinds of courses for about 5 or 6 times, then try a regulation course, that is around 6000 yards. Playing in the middle of the day on a week day, should work on these courses, as well. Sometimes very early in the morning will be good and weekends around 5pm, or after will find courses that are not crowded. Some of my favorite rounds were playing in the evening on Saturdays with my Dad. Most golf courses offer discounts for late in the day weekend play. Generally courses with only nine holes are not as busy. Equipment does not have to be expensive. Walking into a golf shop or sporting goods store and looking at new golf equipment can send you into sticker shock. You will fine one club costing over $500 and some sets of irons running around $1500 to $2000. You can find new equipment on E-Bay and other local pro shops that are older models for reasonable prices. A very good set of clubs can be had for under $500 very easily.

If you decide to take up golf, you will find it is a great way to spend time with family and friends. The environment is beautiful and the challenges are many. There is one caveat. Many people feel that golf is not a very physically demanding sport. This is one of many misconceptions about the game. When you learn to swing a golf club, you will be using muscles that you have never used in your life. That is how unique the golf swing is. It’s not to discourage you in starting to play golf, but more of a word to the wise. The greatest part of golf is that no two rounds are ever the same. Golfing in less than ideal weather can be fun and increase the challenge. This is also a good time to get out when the course is not that crowded. I feel you can play golf comfortable in temperatures around 38 degrees, as long as there is not a lot of wind. The most essential pieces of equipment in weather like this, is a good toboggan hat and golf winter gloves. Even playing in a light drizzle with temperatures in the 50’s is not bad, if there is very little wind. Golf will get you outdoors and just make you feel better for doing it. The game has frustrated me to no end, because I have always had some competitive goals when it comes to golf and in general have failed miserably to reach them. I will always be glad and thankful that I took up the game at an early age and have explored this game, more than anything else. It has been a very rewarding spiritual experience. The next blog on Golf will discuss the complex relationship golf has had with society.

Meditation

Now that it has been established how important meditation is in life, how do you get started. Before we get to that, I thought it would be a good idea to get a solid definition of meditation. After looking up the definition of meditation, I am not too sure now, that it was such a good idea. It seems meditation is hard to define. Who would have thunk it? Wikipedia states scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions, and within them. Let’s look at five sources and see what they said. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states it is a discourse intended to express its author’s reflections or to guide others in contemplation. The Medical Dictionary has a definition. A practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Dictionary.com states meditation is continued or extended thought; reflection, contemplation, devout religious contemplation, or spiritual introspection. It comes from the Latin word thinking over. Cambridge English dictionary says it is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as way of becoming calm and relaxed. Finally good old Webster defines meditation as a practice in which an individual trains the mind, or induces a mode of consciousness either to realize some benefit or as an end in itself.

What is my take on all these definitions? It means that you can do pretty much what you want when you meditate. I do not see anything religious in meditation. It should be a personal endeavor and religion should have nothing to with it. If you want to put a more religious aspect to your meditative practice, then that is fine, but don’t feel that it is a necessity. Meditation has been associated with various philosophies and historical individuals. Again, something that is not necessary to incorporate, to meditate. If you want to follow someone’s meditative practices or guidance, that is good, if this is what gets you started or keeps you going in meditation. There should not be any goals in meditation except to relax and look inward. The benefits listed for meditation will just happen and in some respects can be overly optimistic, just to try and get you to meditate. Most of the definitions make meditation feel like a thinking process which in my view it is not. Yes if you are going to look inward and see your true self some thought is going to have to be involved. One of the purposes of meditation is to calm the brain and stop the thinking on the outside world. Now that we have , let’s say a working definition of meditation, how do we get started.

Although fear is the biggest reason people do not meditate, the other big excuses are time and I just can’t sit still for 20 minutes and think of nothing. Most likely these people are right. But I bet they can not run a marathon, do 100 push ups, or play golf in the 70’s if they have never golfed. Meditation is like any endeavor, you must start small and work your way up to big. When I started to meditate, I began meditating for one minute. That was it. I could do that, and I could do it every day. You can start even shorter than that if you want. Thirty seconds, 5 seconds even, it does not matter. What matters is you do it, and then slowly but surely increase the time every 4 to 7 days. How fast you go, is up to you. When I started, I increased my time by one minute every 5 days, and then when I got out to 8 minutes, I increase by increments to 2 minutes, until I reached 20 minutes. This took about 10 weeks to do. Even though there are many how to books and apps on meditation, I am going to give a few basics to get started. First, getting into that comfortable position. Your meditation position can be anything you want. You do not have to get into to that semi-lotus cross legged position to meditate. You can sit in a chair, or couch, and even lying down is a perfectly good position to meditate. The only danger in lying down to meditate is falling asleep. If you are starting from scratch, and follow the above advice of only meditating for one minute, that is highly unlikely. The best way to start is to count your breaths and I believe in always counting the full cycle breath. One count for every inhale and exhale. Next up we will discuss breathing in a relaxed way, and getting to know your inner self, get started please.

Sports

Sports the last subject in making life work. Sports can always be a two edge sword. Some people can be obsessed with a particular sport or a team, and it may prove detrimental to their well being and have a negative impact on most of their relationships. As a general rule I feel that being a sports fan has more benefits than problems. Its like anything in life, you must keep things in perspective, and not let the results of a sports event have too big of impact on your life. As a general rule I feel that people who follow sports, and participate in some kind of sporting activity, are more fun to be around, than people who have no interest at all in sports. There are some exceptions to this but I do feel this is significant.

So for myself, I golf, follow the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Pittsburgh Steeler, College Football, the PGA Tour, and the LPGA tour. Following sports is a nice distraction from the everyday happenings in your life and it allows you to focus on something that really has no negative consequences on how you do it. It can give you something to look forward to at the end of the day or the week. It is like any endeavor, you have to know what to follow and what to ignore. In the case of sports, you want to focus on the game and the action, not what is going on outside the sport. Athletes behaving badly, contract disputes, drug issues and controversies outside of the playing field are things that can make sports very distasteful to some. If you want to just follow it fine, but don’t get too caught up in it. The one world sport out there is soccer. Passion can run really high in soccer. There have been incidences where fans have been injured, and even killed after controversial endings in soccer games. Maybe its not such a bad thing that soccer has not caught on quite that much in the USA. That is carry things way to far. Love the game, love your team but accept the results and move on. Another one of life’s lesson that sports can help you learn.

So in the coming days and weeks, that is what this site is going to be about. I will continue to blog 100% Mental Golf, Golf in general, Meditation, Food, and Sports, in no particular order to help make life work. This not a self help site where this is going to help you achieve your goals, make great relationships and have great happiness. Hopefully it will help you make your life work. What does that mean. Well let’s look at other things in your life. Let’s look at your car. Everybody wants their car to work. When you get in your car you expect it to start. You expect it to take you from point A to point B and most likely back again. When it rains you expect the wipers to work. You want the car to stop properly, and when you hit the gas for the car to have a little pep and get your there quicker. In order for the car to work well, it needs to be taken care of. When all goes well , we sometimes take this for granted and when things don’t work quite right, it can be upsetting. This is the same as life. You want your life to work. It doesn’t have to be successful, but it has to get you from point A to point B and back again. It needs to know when to stop and go. In order for life to work well, it needs to be taken care of. It needs to be appreciative and thankful when things go well, and it needs to know what to do and how to react, when things don’t go that well. Life needs to work. Death is inevitable, no problem there.

Food

Food, another subject near and dear to my heart. Such a simple thing, food, or it should be. In order to live we have to consume food. If you would stop eating, and drank water to keep yourself hydrated, it is estimated you could live anywhere from 21 to 40 days. If you stopped drinking water then you would be lucky to last one week. You have to eat to live, but many of us live to eat, with me as your president. I love to eat. Although I have been trying to lose 10 pounds, for the last 35 years, I have been able to keep my weight between 170 and 175 pounds, most of the time. I feel my ideal weight should be 160 to 165, and I guess you could say I have given up on that goal, but you never know. People that know me will not believe the next statement, but over the years my weight has fluctuated from a low of 152 pounds to a high of 184. The low was due to having braces on my teeth in my mid thirties. When you have to cut sandwiches with a knife and fork to eat them, it does have a tendency to control your eating. Even though I enjoy eating as much as any human could, I have been able to keep my weight under control. There are many people out there that have a real issue of keeping their weight at an ideal level, and that is where the problem arises when it comes to food. The weight loss diet raises its ugly head in every conceivable area. Books, apps, and organizations, are all out there to help or guarantee you to loose weight, even down to so many pounds in so many weeks.

To sum up these diets in one sentence, is that they all work for some people but they don’t work for all people. The only thing that you can say for sure about these diets is they make a lot of money for whosever name is associated with it. Foodists ( my name for Nutritionists) are not much help either. I have read lots of studies on nutrition and food and what ever conclusions are drawn in a particular study is always tempered with the phrase more studies are needed. Over the years there have been more conflicting things written about food than any other subject that I know. We as a people have to develop a better relationship with food. We need to look at food as our friend. A friend who is absolutely essential to our existence but we don’t want this friend to contribute to our early demise. We need to get away from this feeling of worrying or wondering what is good for us and what is bad for us when it comes to food. There was an author in England who wrote a book No Bad Dogs, on dog training. That should be our thought process when it comes to food, no bad foods. I think that we eat certain foods because we think that they are bad for us, just to act out and then feel guilty about it.

My purpose for writing the food blogs is not to get people to eat “healthy” but to look at food in a different way. I want to turn everybody into a foodie. There are two kinds of people out there, foodies and non-foodies. To go back to the definition again, a non-foodie eats to live and a foodie lives to eat. Let’s face it you have to eat anyway so you might as well enjoy it and savor every bite of that beautiful delicious food that some foodist says will make your liver shrivel up to the size of a pea, or maybe make your pancreas explode like an M-80. They don’t know that for sure though, until more studies are done. I’m hungry see you later.

Meditation

Meditation, a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  I have been meditating for 26 years.  I can say that it changed my life.  I believe that it is something that every one should do, and is essential to living the best life that you can.  I did not say that it would solve all your problems, and let you live a perfect life. I think that most of the benefits you read about are overly optimistic.  Meditation, according to many sources is booming right now, with almost double the amount of people meditating, compared to 2012. There are meditation apps and thousands of books on the subject.   The estimate is about 14% of the people in the U. S. meditate.   What if I told you that 14% of the population drinks enough water to survive.  That 86% of the population dies of thirst.  Water is essential to life.  Your first thought would be what is wrong with those people.  Everyone knows that you have to take fluid in to survive.   In my view meditation is the same.  Obviously if you don’t meditate, you are not going to physically die, but your life will not be as full, and your soul will whither away.  I know that may sound strong but it is what I believe. So, why don’t more people meditate? The most common reasons you read about are not enough time, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, it’s an eastern thing, and I just can’t do it.   I believe that there are only two real benefits to meditating and one of those is the reason that people do not meditate.

The first benefit of meditating is, it allows your body to totally relax for the 20 minutes that you are doing it.  I feel 20 minutes is the minimal time that you should meditate.  There are a lot of apps and articles now about how 10 minutes a day may benefit or have the same benefits, but I am not in agreement.  It is just an excuse to try to get people to meditate who say they don’t have the time.  What is amazing, is that just allowing the muscles of the body to relax for 20 minutes is all the time the body needs. It will help you have more energy and you will feel more refreshed if you meditate daily for 20 minutes.  People seem to confuse relaxation with sleeping.  They think that when I sleep my body is completely relaxed.  When you sleep you toss and turn and dream.  Your mind is still active and this can keep the muscles stiff and tense.  Dreaming can cause more issues than real life. Besides relaxing the physical body, meditating can relax the mind.  The mind can relax doing meditation, but it also can serve another purpose during meditation, which becomes the second benefit of meditating.

The second benefit, is that it makes you look at your inner self.   It makes you look inward to what makes you tic, and why you are where you are, in whatever stage of life you are in. The vast majority look at the outer world to evaluate their lives.  We have bad relationships, our job is no good,  the economy is bad,  our luck is bad, and just about anything else that someone is doing or not doing that we perceive is keeping us from reaching are goals and having a full life. This give us comfort, and blocks us from taking responsibility for where we are at the present moment.  Meditating can make you look at your inner self and it can be very scary.  It takes real guts to take a good look at how you function and why you are in the circumstances that you are in.  That is the number one reason why people do not meditate.  When you look inside and see the person you are, it can be quite disconcerting.   All those perceived benefits from meditating,  relieving stress, helping manage anxiety, helping with depression, increasing your immunity, better sleep, relieving IBS symptoms ( I had to throw that one in there), and improving your over well being, is still not enough to over come the fear of finding out your true self.  There is one site that lists 76 benefits of meditation.  Wow!   It’s always tough finding out things that you may not like about yourself, although that is the only way you are going to improve your life.

Even though I have been meditating for 26 years, I have had my ups and downs with meditating. I started in 1993 and was consistent for about 18 years. Then around 2011 I began to feel that I did not need meditation as much anymore, and began to skip days. I felt this way because so much good was going on in my life, that meditation was not as important. I was wrong. Over any life you make a lot of mistakes and do things you wish you had not done and maybe if I would have been more diligent meditating I would have made some better decisions over the last 6 years. Over the last 6 months I have gotten back on track and do feel much better. Meditation is something that is essential to living and every person that is breathing should do. On the next meditation blog, I will give some tips on how to get started. This is not really a how to blog. There is tons of apps and books on the subject, but I will go through what I think is good and what is just salesmanship on the creator . In future blogs I will discuss situations not really related directly to meditating but come about because we live in a non meditating world.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 81 to 85

Back from vacation and back to the golf grind.   Five rounds of golf played with one of those a scramble,  and little progress to report.   The four individual rounds ranged from a low of 75 to a high of 82.  Again trying to make this game 100 % Mental is turning out to be way harder than expected.  When you are trying to improve, which we are all trying to do,  it is just about impossible to not try and tinker with some part of the swing.  I even brought back the old shoulder control swing for about  33 holes but abandoned that again.  The address position thing I was doing is gone.   Despite by being unhappy at times with my ball striking, my lack of scoring comes down to one big work this year.

PUTTING.   Despite my problems on the greens, which there are many, I am still able to keep my index in the low 4’s, with the latest on the 15th 4.2.  I am just not getting the ball into the hole.   The first thing I am going to change is what I do with the flagstick.  I have left it in for all putts this year.  Overall I think it helps you more than hurts but after doing it all year, I think there are two points that all the flagstick testers are missing.  All flagsticks are not created equal.  I play a variety of courses and I feel there is a difference on how some flagsticks receive a ball.  I do not think there is a standard diameter for flagsticks, but even if I am wrong,  I am not sure golf courses follow it totally anyway.  There is no question the hole looks bigger with the flagstick out.  100% Mental just kicked in.   It goes back to that old Ken Venturi saying that I have quoted before.  If the flagstick is out he trying to make the chip, and if he leaves the flagstick in the hole, then he is just trying to get it close.  So, on any putt under 30 feet, I am taking the flag out the rest of the season.   Longer putts I will decide on a case by case basis.   Sounds pretty serious doesn’t it.  The second thing I am going to do is try to make the most natural stroke for me that I can, and  not use any particular method.  The thing that got me out of my slump in 2017, and improved my putting immensely, was when I started to let my body move on putts. Since then, I have gone back and forth on this method over this 2 year period.  The problem is trying to make your body move on putts, is as bad as trying to keep it still on putts.  It distracts you from keeping your focus on making the putt.  We will see how this all goes in the coming weeks.

By now you see that the blog has a little different look and a slight change in the title of the site.   Since I am beginning to see that I am not going to find the answer after 9 years, I have decided to write about other subjects, that are near and dear to my heart.  They are Meditation, Food, Sports, and I will continue to write about Golf and the quest to find the answer.  Even though I feel I won’t find the answer I am not giving up either.   I will be playing about 4 times this week and we will see how it goes.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 68 to 80

I am back to the 100% Mental Golf concept and my last 13 rounds have been pretty good. Ten of the thirteen rounds have been between 79 and 74.    One 74, four 75’s, two 76’s, one 77, and two 79’s.   A couple of blips in there with rounds in the 80’s, but over all some good if not spectacular scores.   I will be taking a small break from the game as we are heading for the beach for about five days.  The season is around half way through and I feel I am back on track with the original concept.

Again putting has been a problem, but with five rounds 75 and below it has had it’s good moments.   We played South Park today and this was one of  the 75 rounds and even though I hit a lot of good putts none of them found the hole.  I did not miss any short ones today and I had two birdie putts that were between six and 10 feet that I made. I have made some adjustments to my stance and posture and I think these may bode well for me in the future.   My short game continues to be plagued by some yipping but even that has not been too bad lately.  I am getting more comfortable with my new irons and getting use to the increased distance I am hitting the ball.  We have had a good stretch of weather during this time and that has  helped.

As I head into the second half of the season, one of the things I will be working on is trying to feel relaxed during the golf swing.   Can you be too relaxed while executing the golf swing, your short game, and putting. There are lots of instructors that think you can be.  I am not too sure this is correct.   Can you be as relaxed in your body, as when you are meditating, and still make a powerful golf swing.   Certainly any tension in your body can make executing the swing more difficult.  Not to get too deep here, but is there a spirituality in playing golf, which can be transmitted to the golf swing itself.  Can a relaxed body allow you to focus better and visualize the shot better.  I aim to find out in the coming weeks.  Won’t be playing the game for about a week, with the trip coming up, so will have to wait and see.  This has been some of the adjustments I have been making at address, with removing tension from my set up and grip.  There are others but again I have only been doing this over the last 3 rounds.  Small sample size, as they like to say on MLB Now.      See you in about 3 weeks