The Silent Treat­ment

Why med­i­ta­tion could be just what your game needs

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Life - BY BOB CAR­NEY

Mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion – stay­ing qui­etly in the present – has been shown to in­crease cre­ativ­ity, the abil­ity to man­age pain and the power to re­lieve anx­i­ety. For golfers, the last one might be most im­por­tant.

There are as many kinds of med­i­ta­tion as there are cof­fees at Star­bucks. Some med­i­ta­tors fo­cus on num­bers, phrases or mantras. They even med­i­tate as they walk, count­ing foot­falls. Some sit qui­etly and con­cen­trate on the sounds around them.To start, keep it sim­ple: Sit up­right, close your eyes and fo­cus on your breath – the flow of air, the ex­pan­sion of your chest in and out.When your mind wan­ders, no­tice that, and bring it back to your breath. “It’ll take about two breaths be­fore the thoughts start,” laughs tour pro Luke Don­ald, who says re­turn­ing to med­i­ta­tion in 2014 helped him re­cover con­trol over his mind­set and mood at a time when he was in a freefall from his No 1 rank­ing.

You don’t need shrines, spe­cial rooms or lo­tus pil­lows. “The eas­ier, the more por­ta­ble, the more prac­ti­cal, the bet­ter,” says Dan Har­ris, whose on-air panic at­tack on “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” more than a decade ago led to 10% Hap­pier, a book about his ex­pe­ri­ence.

Wher­ever you do it, try to do it reg­u­larly, say, 10 min­utes a day. Don­ald says his new strat­egy is three lit­tle ses­sions of five min­utes each day.

Psy­chol­o­gist Michael Ger­vais, whose clients in­clude Don­ald, says the point isn’t just aware­ness. It’s in­sight.“For some golfers, the ul­ti­mate in­sight might be: It’s just a game. But you start by be­com­ing aware of your emo­tions, body sen­sa­tions and the un­fold­ing en­vi­ron­ment.” Har­ris talks about “in­ves­ti­gat­ing” what you no­tice and feel. “Prac­tis­ing mind­ful­ness helps you lean into feel­ings, ac­cept them rather than fight them,” he says.“That’s when the magic hap­pens.”

Nat­u­rally there are apps for this. Some “game” the process, al­low­ing you to mea­sure how long you fo­cus be­fore your mind wan­ders. Check out Headspace, Muse, Har­ris’ 10% Hap­pier and Opti-Brain, an app built on the Muse soft­ware by sport psy­chol­ogy con­sul­tant Deb­bie Crews. She put brain­wave-mea­sur­ing head­bands on teach­ers at last year’s PGA show, demon­strat­ing how much bet­ter they putted when they got their brain­waves to a rest­ing state.

So now ... sit up straight. Close your eyes.Take a deeeeeep breath ... and let the birdies come.

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