Meditation: Perception

Perception, even trying to define the word can create a challenge.  Let us see how various sources of information do this.  On Wikipedia it states the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment. Merriam-Webster dictionary states awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation. The Free Dictionary states, the process by which an organism detects and interprets information from the external world by means of the sensory receptors. This is how we develop are belief system, through are senses. Some of us develop very strong beliefs that can never be changed, by an outside party.  It is through these perceptions that people think our President is great or is horrible. No matter how the person thinks about the President it is unlikely that anybody is going to change his or her mind.  There are many subjects that can create very broad opinions and debates. On most of these subjects the way a person thinks or feels is not going to be changed. This is all brought about, on how each individual, perceives the subject.  Are any of our perceptions that we feel, hear, smell, taste and see, really correct.  Is our world something that we just create, to make ourselves feel better, or worse. How would we even know?  Let us look at one thing that we know is constant, and how we perceive it.

Everybody knows that time is a constant.  A second is a second, a minute is a minute, an hour is an hour, and 24 hours is a day.  But does it really feel that way?  Is that what your senses are telling you?  The answer is no.  When you are waiting in line, or for someone, 5 minutes can see like an eternity.  How does time feel when you are stuck in traffic?  How about when you are spending time with someone you really like or playing a game on your phone? Before you know it, 30 to 60 minutes is gone.  Seeing a very good movie, that takes 2 hours and 20 minutes, seems like nothing, but spend that same time waiting for your delayed flight, and you might think, you are never getting on board. You hear people talk about time even in the long term. It was a short summer and a long winter. No, it is the exact same number of days, each year.  I can’t believe that he’s 5 years old already, when talking about children or grandchildren. I don’t know where the time went.  I can’t believe its been x amount of years, when talking about any life event.  Time flies when you are having fun.  Maybe that’s why, we don’t want to have fun more often, just so we can slow time down. You can argue that these are just sayings, and people really don’t feel this way, but people do lose all concept of time, depending on what they are doing.  Our perceptions of time, can be way off on what the true reality is.  This is a fact, Jack.  If our perceptions of time can be this far off, could our perceptions of other things, be just as far off.  Most people would say, I know what I am seeing and feeling in other areas, and I know this is correct.  Well, I would not be too sure.  Having strong beliefs, will limit your thinking. It may be time to step back, and try look at situations from all sides, and double check, what you think may be going on around you, and other people.  Robert Burns said it best in the 1700’s when he wrote” O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us”. Since that is unlikely to happen, we need to take that inward look and check those perceptions.

Golf: When is a Fault a Fault

It has been one month since I have written anything about golf.  I have  played 2 rounds, since the last blog, thanks to some of the up and down weather, we have been having this winter. Nothing major to report on my own game, and was just happy to get out, and play once in January, and this past Monday, in February. No matter how good we play, we are always looking at our swings, and feeling, that in someway, we have some kind of flaw, in the way we swing a golf club. Even when I was trying to do, what I called 100% Mental Golf, I would find myself, still trying to think about my swing, and make it “better”.  I am not as bad as I use to be, because I can play the game without swing thoughts, during the round, but I still think about, what I could do to improve my swing, when I am off the course.  I continue to do this, even though I know, there is nothing I can do to improve my swing. My swing  is my swing.  With an index now, of 4.7, thanks to the new handicapping rules, my swing can not be all that bad. Yeah, that’s one way to lower your handicap, have the USGA,  just change the rules. No practice is necessary, which I don’t do anyway. Can a single digit handicapper, have a swing flaw that is keeping them from improving. My guess is they do not.  Some instructors, when talking about golf swing flaws, often like to use the Jim McLean term, “death move”.  This is a term used to describe a flaw in the golf swing, that keeps you from hitting the golf ball with any accuracy, or even hitting the golf ball at all.  Depending on what year it is, there are anywhere from 21 to 25 death moves, described by  Jim McLean. Do you really think so? I doubt it.  I tried to find these death moves on the internet and some of them are not death moves at all.  One of them is being shut faced or closed at the top of the swing.  Dustin Johnson and Lexi Thompson give back all your money, because there is no way you could hit the ball that well, and be as  shut faced at the top, without some non-conforming help. There are other  moves mentioned, but are they being done by anybody, who has played  the game for awhile, and shooting below 90, not very likely.  Yes, these moves are being done by beginners, but if they are getting any lessons at all they are all easily correctable.

Are there swing faults, that are keeping players from improving their game? Well, maybe, but I am having my doubts, more every day, and my new hero is Matthew Wolff, on the PGA tour, and he has already won a tournament. He no doubt, has the worse golf swing, in the history of tour. The only one that is even close, is Miller Barber of the 1960’s.  Because he has won a tournament, and drives the ball a long, long way, all anybody wants to talk about, is how great his swing is, and all the good things he does. The golfing public would be so much better served, by showing and emphasizing all the things he does wrong, from the standard golf swing techniques.  I would say that he does at least 7 of the so called death moves. I am not being critical  of Mr. Wolff, or his swing. I am being critical of what everybody his saying about his swing and how it could be the swing of the future.  Are you kidding me?  There have been articles that state, that there are things in Matthew Wolff’s swing,  that the average golfer should try and incorporate in their own swings.  I would say, if the average golfer tries to do this, he will probably wind up in the hospital, in traction.  Everybody is eventually going to have a golf swing, that they can call their own, if they let it happen, and it will serve them well.  Once you get to a certain point in playing golf, there should be other things you concentrate on rather than your swing.  The bottom line is this.  There are no faults, in anyone’s golf swing, that is keeping them from improving. Once you realize that, you will improve, at a rate that you may not believe.

Sports: Astros Much Ado About Nothing

The sign stealing scandal of the Houston Astros has the baseball world talking, with   MLB Network almost giving  it 24 hour coverage.  There is outrage everywhere, and talk of vacating the Astros World Series title. According to the media, players have been scarred for life, because of the way the Astros beat them.   Some of the coverage and writing acts like this is something new to baseball, cheating.  You have got to be kidding, me.  Baseball has had the most cheating, and circumventing of the rules than any sport in history, and this goes back to the very beginning of the game.  The team of the 90’s, the Baltimore Orioles were one of most cheating teams in all of baseball.  The Baltimore Orioles were the  team of the 90’s? Yes, they were the best team of the 1890’s.  More on that later, but let me clear up one thing here.  I do not condone what the Astros did in the least.  In fact, I am not sure the penalties were harsh enough.  I suspect that Alex Cora may get a 2 year suspension.  However, this idea that the Astros title should be vacated is absurd.  None of the biggest cheaters have ever had their records removed from baseball.  Go to any statistical site and you will find that Barry Bonds is  the all time home run leader.  In my mind Hank Aaron still is.    People that write about vacating the Astros title, probably vote for Bonds and Clemens to get into the Hall of Fame.  Let’s look at all the cheating that has gone on in baseball over the years, and I will try to keep this brief, but it will be difficult.

There are many areas of the game that players and coaches have figured out, how to cheat. . The steroid era, which saw so many home run records broken, and MLB did nothing about it, until forced, because home runs started to fill the seats, when it was desperately needed.  In fact, 6 of the top 15 home run leaders all time were considered steroid users.  Considering the steroid era lasted around 10 years, that is quite a high number.  Nobody is changing the records books any time soon. Many people feel that steroids saved baseball, because of all the exciting home run races and the records that were broken in a short period of time.  Next we have pitchers, doctoring up the ball, by applying substances to the ball or roughing up the ball with sandpaper and nail files.  The spit ball has a long and interesting history.  It  was made illegal, when it was thought a spit ball  hit a player in the head and killed him around 1920.  What was interesting about making the spitball against the rules, was that pitchers that were highly skilled in throwing the pitch were grandfathered in, and were allowed to throw the pitch until they retired.  See, baseball has always had screwed up thinking.  The advantage of  making the ball slippery whether by spit, or a substance like vaseline, is that it would take spin off the ball so the ball would act a lot like a knuckle ball, but with more speed.  The most famous spit ball pitcher of the modern era was Gaylord Perry  and of course he was rewarded for his cheating by being elected to the Hall of Fame.  Another victory for cheating in baseball.  Then we have doctoring the bat by using pin tar and cork.  The best bat doctoring though has to be by those 1890’s Baltimore Orioles, who would shave down one side of the bat to make bunting easier, which was a major part of the game at that time.  Finally there has been gambling, that has tainted baseball.  Pete Rose and the Chicago White Sox of 1919 and the players involved were banned from baseball for life.  You can do lot’s of things in baseball but don’t bet.

Now, lets turn to that team of the 1890’s the Baltimore Orioles of the National League, the only league at the time. They were, by far, the dominate team of the decade.  This team did not stop at just shaving bats to gain an edge.  This team sneaked balls into the outfield so if a ball got past them they would be able to get to the other ball quicker. They blocked opposing runners in the base paths. They interfered with foul balls near their dugout. They did many other things to break the rules.  The press called their play “aggressive” and chastised teams that played more by the  rules.  The entire National League was a rough and rowdy league.  Fans were finally beginning to tire of the act.  Thus the American League was born, and vowed to clean up the game and play by the rules.   The league was founded in 1901, which was basically a league derived from the Western League.  Their success was rapid to the point, that the first World Series was played in 1903 between the two leagues, with the Boston Americans beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 9 game series.  If it wasn’t for cheating the American League may have never existed.  That brings us back to sign stealing, which has been going on forever.  Now, even Bobby Thompson’s shot heard around the world is “tainted” because the Giants devised something to get the info to Thompson before the pitch.  Really now, after almost 70 years that home run is diminished.  Maybe we should vacate the Giants National League pennant.  Let’s face it cheating has benefited the game more than it has hurt it.  Steroids brought the crowds back into the stadium, it helped start the American League, and it got rid of the dead ball era after the Black Sox scandal. Ten years from now someone will find a new way to circumvent the rules.   Cheating is part of the folklore of baseball and despite the severe penalties for this latest sign stealing scandal, the game will move on and most likely thrive. Let’s hope the media can, but I am not too sure.

Meditation: Old vs. Young

Most of the blogs I write require some research into the subject I am writing about.  Even golf articles, I will research certain ideas, to see what other people’s opinions are.  This blog will be an exception, in that I will be writing and discussing strictly from experience. What does old vs. young mean.  It is the long standing belief, of the older generation that the youth of today, have it easy,  are lazy, and in fact are not very intelligent.  I grew up hearing this from my elders, and about 4 years ago I experienced the other end of the spectrum, when I heard some of my former classmates from high school, talk about today’s young people.  They particularly hit hard on the intelligence of the  younger generation.  One  was a former school teacher, so I guess she felt that she should know.    How did all this get started, where the older generation thinks that the younger generation, has it so much easier than they did.  Besides that, it seems that this type of thinking can pervade everyone’s thinking no matter what the age of the person. There is the old saying, the grass is always greener on the other side.  I think that should be changed to the grass is easier to take care of on the other side.  Let’s look at my experiences with this.

I grew up having the best father a child could have.  He taught me how to play baseball, golf, and bowling and he taught me well. He spent many hours with me and to this day was my main mentor in life. He taught me more about life than any person I have ever known, and I will always be grateful.  But even he fell into this analysis.  When he thought I was being a shiftless 10 year old, he told me that when he was 10, he and his brother laid a concrete sidewalk around and through his parents property.  He gave me other examples of how tough things were doing the depression, and how easy I had it. One can hear stories like this, even if the age difference between people is not that great.  When I was in the 5th grade, I would hear from my older friends how much harder the 8th grade was.  When I was in veterinary school, I heard how much harder it is out in the “real world” when I would be trying to work for a living.  But you know what I found out? It was not harder but just different.  As you grow older, and go through life, things are changing, you make adjustments and most of the time things will work out.  Life can give you some harsh blows, with the loss of love ones and health issues.  These things in life do not make you stupid or lazy or less than the older generation.   Of course, this goes in the other direction where young people think the older generation, is feeble, losing skills, out of touch, and is taking up space where younger people could do a better job.  As I moved into my 30’s and 40’s and had my own successful veterinary practice my father gave me more credit and respected my work ethic.  But he put that moniker on my daughter’s generation as the ones who were now the lazy group, and their life was now too easy.  He was saying the same thing about that generation, that he had said about my generation, but it looked like I had turned out pretty well.. I wonder if he thought he had a hand in that, because of him telling me how lazy I was as a youth.  I really don’t think he thought that way.

So why does the older generation think the younger generation is going to screw up the world with their bad attitudes, laziness, and lack of intelligence. Maybe because the older generation, has already screwed up the world, and it makes them feel better to think that the next generation, will do it worse. This  breaks the basic rule of meditation.  People do not look within, they look at outside of themselves, to make decisions, and evaluate the world.  We all have had crosses to bear.  Some have had it harder than others and some people have been able to overcome great odds to have successful careers and lives.  Some of their stories have inspired many people to create a better life.  But each of us has to look within, to see what we can do to make our life better and more enjoyable. At times, this is not an easy task, no matter who we are or where we come from.  One of the things that will not make our lives better, is to compare.  That is essentially what one is doing, when it decides a generation is lacking, or a part of society has had it easier. In some cases your feelings and thoughts  maybe close to the truth. The bottom line is, that  is still not helping you to make a better life for your self. Stop caring and evaluating what that other yard looks like.   Look within and figure out what your next move will be, no matter what your age or status.  The outside world does not need your judgement on the future.    Start meditating and young people will improve, without having to age.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, here we are in November and even though there is more golf to be played the handicap season is over.  If finished the year at 4.2 a little up from my recent low of 3.9. I did have a few extenuating circumstances, getting a flu bug in the second week of October that laid me up for a week.  Over all my golf game was at least stable this last month.  In this blog it is time to reveal the new and rather bizarre putting method I use that turned around this golf season and helped reverse an eighteen month slump.

The date was June 28th, and place was Hartman’s golf course in Harmony, Pa. I had played the first 6 holes terribly, as you will soon find out, and heading toward an index of 7, at the end of the month.  On the sixth hole a 500 yard par 5, I had about an 8 foot putt to salvage a par.  I came up and out of the putt, which always results in a push, and of course I missed the putt.  The next hole is a 340 par 4 that is quite narrow. I hit a good drive, but left my sand wedge about 40 feet short of the hole. It was at that moment, I decided to putt by coming out of the putt on purpose. In other words rather than try to keep my body still, I would move my body forward with the forward stroke and come up a little bit.  I even played for the push of the putt.  Well, low and behold, I made the 40 foot putt. Probably a coincidence, and mostly luck, but the darn thing went in.  I did not get to try the method on the next hole, because from 116 yards I holed a gap wedge for an eagle 2.  On 9 I hit a wedge about 10 feet and made that putt for another birdie.  Despite those last 3 hole heroics, I still only shot 40 on the front. I continued the improved putting  and my play improved to shoot a 77 and the next  7 out of 9 rounds I broke 80, including a 74 and 75 which were my low rounds of the year, up to that time.   I continued to tweak the method, by not playing for the push any more, as I was hitting the putts on line and not really pushing them anymore. I just allow my body to move forward with the downswing of the putt. Now I still have some bad days on the green every now and again, but my putting has improved 200% and is the major reason my handicap almost came down 3 strokes in the last 3 months.  There have been some other things that I have changed that have helped my game but the new putting method is mostly responsible. I am still doing some tweaking with the method but it has held up well in some pressure situations.

Do I recommend this putting method. Absolutely not.  What I do advocate is to forget about all the so called putting rules or fundamentals and find away to get the ball into the hole, not matter what that method is.  The one and only fundamental in putting is to get the ball into the hole. Since I have adopted this “method” I have holed more putts in the last 3 and half months than I have in the last 3 years. My stroke is smooth and free and I roll the ball very true.   So figure it out and start making putts.  In the next few blogs I will discuss other things that have gotten  my game back on track.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Well, the summer has come to an end as we head into the first of  September, and this has been a good summer, at least the second half,  for my golf game. Early to mid June my handicap was at its high of 6.9, and now with the new revision, it is 4.2.  I am not quite ready to go into detail, of how I was able to bring it down almost 3 strokes, but I am going to discuss one new aspect of my game,  at the end of this blog.

Today, I want to discuss one general aspect of the golf swing.  First, you must agree with this one statement.  The golf swing is a very physical demanding athletic process.  All you have to do is watch the swings of Dustin Johnson, Rory McElroy, Ricki Fowler, and Justin Thomas to believe this.  For the average or even a low handicap golfer these swings are really physically impossible to repeat, unless you want to first spend a year at cross fit and then go and try to play golf. One of the main problems with the golf swing, is that you can get into positions of the swing by using your arms and legs, that look pretty good, but are really ineffective when it comes to providing power and accuracy. So what’s a golfer to do?  The solution is to make sure you are making a full hip turn.  What is a full hip turn?  The hips should at least turn 45 degrees on the backswing. That is the minimum.  If you can turn them more fine.  Can you over turn your hips? No, as long as you obey one simple rule.  You must make sure that your weight is on the right side at the top of the swing. As long as you do this, then your hips can turn as much as you can turn them. The more you turn your hips on the backswing  the farther you will hit the ball and your accuracy will improve dramatically.  It is the purest definition of completing your backswing. By turning your hips fully you will put much less stress on your back muscles and get a much fuller shoulder turn in a very natural way.

Getting back to my own golf game, a couple of blogs back, I mentioned that I am playing the with no swing thoughts, which is what I am still doing. It has really freed up my swing and has contributed to my scoring improvement. I play now with what I call swing feels.  What’s the difference.  Well according to our language experts, a thought is a mental process, and a feeling is a process of the heart.  Now this may be getting a bit sentimental, as far as golf is concerned, but don’t knock it until you try it.  My playing golf from the heart has made a huge difference.  No more  swing thoughts.  No more low and slow, pause at the top, smooth transition, get wide, shut face or square, and nice and smooth. I’m feelin it man.  Will see what the next month brings.  Happy golfing

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

After a brief res-pet from blogging for a trip to see the Grand kids in San Diego back with another in a series of instructional conflicts. Yes, I am going to comment briefly on the Lexi Thompson incident.  This blog is going to concern itself with chipping. The two points of view.  You should chip like you putt, or you should not chip like you putt. First we need to define a chip, which to some, has changed.  In Utley’s book on the short game he has his own definition of a chip, which I am going to ignore. My definition is that a chip is a shot with little or no wrist action.  In other words,the chip has nothing to do with distance. You could chip a ball 5 yards or you can chip it 40 yards or longer.  A pitch by my definition is a shot where the wrists will cock from 45 to 90 degrees.  Again you could pitch a ball 5 yards or you can pitch it 40 yards or longer. This post is going to discuss only chipping

The first view point is, you should chip like you putt. Since there is little wrist action in both chipping and putting this would seem to make a lot of sense. However, the clubs, ranging from anywhere from a 4 iron to a lob wedge, that are used for chipping, have nothing in common, in design,  with the putter. There is going to be some adjustments, you are going to have to make. The first, you must make sure the bottom edge of the club is square. This  will put your hands ahead of the club, sometimes as much as 6 inches if you are using the lob wedge. A lot of instructors advocate using the same grip you use for putting, to execute these shots.  The weight should be on the left foot a little more. Even though you are using your putting stroke to execute these shots, they still must be hit with a descending blow and not swept along the ground. You must have a good lie to execute a chip.  With any method you can not chip from the rough with the ball down a little in the grass.

Some instructors feel you should not chip like you putt. The leaders in this group are Phil Mickelson and Stan Utley. Mickelson has his hinge and hold method and Utley tries to get his hands leading the club head on his chips to deloft the club. You can read or watch their videos to get more details on their respective methods.  There are other instructors who have a more handsy   approach to chipping.

Now to the Lexi Thompson debacle. The one thing that has got lost in the shuffle is the second penalty that was accessed for the incorrect scorecard. She may have been done in by the new rule change this year on signing for a lower score than you actually made. The LPGA should have  never assessed her that 2 stroke penalty, and they had the perfect precedent of the Tiger Woods incident 2 or 3 years ago at the Masters. After Tiger’s ball hit the pin and went into the water on 15, he dropped the ball in an improper spot. The next day he was charged a two stroke penalty, but was not disqualified for the incorrect score card on the technicality that at the time he signed it, the score was correct. If the disqualification rule would have still been in effect this year, do you think the LPGA would have walked up on that tee box and disqualified Lexi Thompson, no way.  I am sure the Tiger incident would have been cited. Because now it is a 2 stroke penalty, they in my view went ahead and  penalized her those 2 strokes incorrectly.  Technically, and its all technicalities, she signed a correct score card when she signed it, just like Tiger Woods. Obviously with only a 2 stroke penalty she would have won the tournament out right and there would have been no play off. Shame on you LPGA.