As many of you know, I've been really into golf lately. This was a sport I started to play back in college, but then months later, broke my collarbone and had to stop. Little did I know it would take over a decade for me to get back into the game. Just like the attitude I take with most things I do--such as into baking, traveling, or writing--it's all or nothing. Since golf is now back on my horizon, I think about it often, and visualize my successful strokes even in my morning meditations (just like I create new cocktails and food recipes during that quiet time, too).
But that's a whole 'nother story.
I think one of the real reasons golf strikes my fancy is it requires an immense amount of concentration in the present moment.
This is a concept I often remind students of during yoga, just as I'm reminded of it during time spent on my mat. True, yoga can seem much more physical than golf when you're standing on your hands, or feet, and sweating bullets through numerous vinyasa flows. Yoga, like golf, is just as much--if not more so--a mental practice. Its a training ground to be in the moment, without resisting what is. For example, if you're in warrior 2 pose for a minute or longer, there might be some strong burning sensations coming from your legs. Your mind can wander, and wish you were anywhere but there. In these uncomfortable situations on the mat--just as in life--we tend to disassociate. And, as Joe Dispenza proclaims, most of us lose our attention--or disassociate, or get distracted--six to ten times each minute. (Yikes! Not much focus with those stats!)
If we take this concept back to the golf course, you get one chance to hit the ball off the tee at each hole. Now, it might be easy to think about the people who are watching, the obstacles that stand between you and the green, the annoying fly that seems to buzz louder by your ear at this moment, or even the last shank of a shot you had minutes ago.
If we mentally follow any of these distractions, we've lost our focus. We've lost all of our power to hit the ball like we've practiced over and over again, and our ability to connect with direction in which we want to go.
Golf gives us an instant read of our level of focus, which is why I like it so much. If I am present, breathing, and focused on my target (which is head down--looking at the ball, not thinking about making a birdie, when taking a stroke), I know instantly if I was on target.
When I'm focused, the connection with the ball feels effortless. When this happens, the ball flies in the direction I had intended, and I feel good inside. There have even been times a shout of excitement has come out of my mouth--even though I'm pretty sure silent celebrations are more appreciated in this proper sport.
Whether or not you ever decide to get a hold of a club and take a few swings, you always have the chance to enhance your level of focus. This skill, like golf and yoga, really does take hours of practice.
Here are some ways that I enjoy to continually build my focus:
- Meditate in the morning: This includes setting a timer, sitting comfortably in a quiet place, and using the mind to track my breath. Often the mind wanders here, but increasing your ability to observe when this happens serves us well in other areas of life beyond words. it also creates the quiet, internal space from which to act with confidence, clarity, and purpose.
- Take time outs during the day: Many times I take a walk between classes, clients, or projects. By observing nature, and being pressent with my steps and the state of nature around me, I feel connected back to the moment. This includes appreciating the wisdom of the trees to blossom in perfect timing, to rest when needed, and hearing the abundance of busy birds in the trees--who sing beautiful songs free of worry, stress, or future-planning.
- Pranayama: This is a fancy term for breathing techniques, which can be very helpful in those times where I can't leave my desk. In these moments, I take 1-5 minutes to close my eyes, and slow down the rhytym of my breath. I try to inhale, counting to 5, and exhale counting to 5. Slowing this down, and creating an internal sense of balance here, helps me stay focused on the other things i have to return to after my mini mental vacation.
- Inspirational talks about focus: When I can't sleep at night, instead of lying in bed wondering when I can go to sleep, I listen to an uplifting talk on consciousness and the power of the mind.
Thankfully our success in life, just like golf, is not determined by one single swing, action, or choice. If we mess up, or lose our focus and end up somewhere we don't like, we get to make a new decision in this moment to move forward.
Yet, the common thread is that our enhanced ability to focus can give us the insight to make choices that best align with our goals. Our focus can let us know when we are off-track, and change direction before things get out of hand. And, our focus gives us the clarity to listen within and trust our inner guidance to move forward with the most joy, inspiration, and empowerment possible.
I'm off to the golf course to practice my focus. What about you?