Chi-Power Golf Part 8 - How meditation can help you relax and eliminate negative chatter
‘SPONTANEOUS EXCELLENCE' –THE ABILITY TO
PRODUCE SPECTACULAR SHOTS WITH SEEMINGLY
LITTLE EFFORT – IS THE THING THAT KEEPS
US ALL WATCHING, PLAYING AND LOVINGTHE
GAME. SO HOW CAN YOU EXPERIENCE THIS
STATE MORE OFTEN? JAYNE STOREY, FOUNDER
OF CHI-POWER GOLF EXPLAINS.
Phrases like ‘peak performance', ‘transcendence',
the ‘flow-state' and ‘the
zone', all refer to the bursts of spontaneous
excellence experienced by many
golfers, however briefly, and describe a
state where actions are easy, focus is
100% and the player knows instinctively
what to do to succeed.
What we know about the experience
of the zone is that the golfer is totally
focused, actions are automatic and intuitive
and he/she doesn't take in any information
from the outside environment
or talk to him/herself at all about the
game, opponents, weather conditions or
personal performance level.
Action and awareness therefore
merge when the golfer becomes totally
absorbed in what they are doing, when
they have the skills to meet the challenge
and focus all of their attention on
the task at hand. This total absorption or
immersion in the game is one of three
core components of the zone/flow-state.
These are: Skill + Passion + Immersion.
You may also be familiar with the
‘Inner Game 'model, which states that
peak performance is a natural result of
talent minus interference.
The experience of the zone usually
takes the player by surprise, as it comes
at a moment of intense physical effort
and mental concentration. It is almost as
though golfers who push themselves to
their limits often experience something
like a transcendent state which some
have referred to as mystical or otherworldly
– a state similar to the ‘Samadhi'
experience of inner peace achieved by
those who practise meditation.
The attainment of the flow-state
makes possible superior or peak performances
that seem effortless, in which
the player allows his or her mind and
body to excel, without any conscious interference,
in the way of self-doubt, loss
of confidence, nerves or stress.
So, how can you achieve the ‘flow
state'?Well, in order to become immersed
in your game – and therefore create
the conditions necessary for
‘spontaneous excellence' to occur – the
conscious mind needs to be anchored in
a natural process, the simplest one being
to focus on your breathing. In doing so,
the skills and the technique you've honed
through experience (during lessons with
your local professional and time spent on
the practise ground) can be allowed to
manifest without desire, doubt or anxiety
creeping in to wreck your game-plan.
Put another way, the zone is a state in
which your conscious mind/super-ego
stops telling you why you can't make
the shot and lets the rest of your
mind/body get on with it!
Zen – the doorway into the Flow-State
Commonly known as Zen, this is the
Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese
ch'an (derived originally from the Sanskrit
dhyana) which may be translated as
meditation or contemplation. Very simply,
meditation is the art of sitting quietly,
focusing on your breathing.
Why does it work?
The brain undergoes subtle changes during meditation.
Research shows that
meditation can actually train the mind
and reshape the brain. Tests using the
most sophisticated imaging techniques
suggest that meditation can actually
reset the brain, changing the point at
which a fluffed bunker shot, for instance,
sets the blood boiling.
What the scientists discovered
through these studies is that with
enough practise, the neurons in the
brain will re-shape themselves, and
many parts of the brain responsible for
taking in information actually slow
down or go off-line altogether, enabling
the practitioner to have amore positive
experience of themselves and detach
from negative feelings and situations.
How will your game benefit?
Golfers who've made a commitment to
this simple practise have reported many
benefits, including feeling a greater
sense of freedom and being more relaxed
around the course, stopping negative
thought-chains (‘chatter'!), reducing
self- interference, and even better powers
Bringing your attention to your breath
also helps to increase concentration during
your pre-shot routine. Focusing on
the T'an tien (see Stage Three) is ideal for
helping you feel relaxed yet strongly
rooted into the ground at address, as it
encourages a lowering of your centre of
gravity. You can also use short bursts of
meditation (a few deep breaths) any time
you need to let go of poor shots.
Stages of Meditation
It is important to find which of the following
stages work best for you. As a
general guide, try to practise each stage
for a minimum of 3 weeks. For each
stage, breathe in and out through the
nose, making each breath as long,
smooth and silent as you can.
Stage one – Watching: Sit quietly for
twenty minutes and simply be aware of
yourself breathing in and breathing out.
Tune into the feeling of yourself breathing
and follow each breath with a warm hearted mind.
Stage two – Counting: On the first breath,
count one silently as you inhale and
count one again silently as you exhale.
Continue like like this, counting up to ten
breaths.When you reach ten, start counting
from one again. If you lose your
place, start counting from one again.
Stage three – T'an tien: Breathe in
through the nose and when you exhale
concentrate on pushing some of the
breath down into the navel area (T'an
tien) . Of course, the breath does not actually move
to the lower abdomen, but
concentration on the navel will help you
to produce a very composed and concentrated
state of mind and experience
more physical stability.
What to expect
Over time, you will gradually find your breathing becomes deeper and slower
and you will feel yourself getting physically
and mentally stronger and feeling
A good time to practise meditation is
first thing in the morning. This helps to
energise you and refreshes your mind
for the rest of the day. Do not look for
the ‘perfect' place, which you may never
find; sitting on the edge of the bath is
fine, if that's the only quiet place in the
house! Aim for 20 minutes, four days
out of seven.
The night before a big tournament or
competition it is usually quite difficult to
sleep. Instead of lying there worrying,
get out of bed and practise meditation
for 5 or 10minutes and restore a calm
state of mind In the morning., practise
meditation for 5 or 10minutes immediately
upon getting out of bed. From then
on do short bursts of meditation to help
maintain calmness and focus until the
As the competition approaches, the
‘bursts' of meditation should be more
frequent. Any panic or negative thoughts
can be controlled in this way. Use short
bursts too as you drive and then walk to
the club house or changing area, and
while lacing up your golf shoes and picking
up your bag.
As you set up for each shot, practise focusing
on one or two breaths before
striking the ball. It may be particularly
useful to use stage three T'an tien
breathing, which will help to centre you
physically and emotionally and produce
a strong feeling of stability in your lower
body. Some golfers have even reported
that this stage of meditation makes
them feel more powerful.
When you have finished your shot
and are walking to the ball again, stay focused
on your breathing. You may even
like to match the rhythm of your breathing
to your foot-steps.
To learn more about Chi-Power Golf, visit www.chipowergolf.com where you can find out about personal tuition, talks and workshops, and also sign up for a free newsletter, "The Mindful Golfer".
To contact Jayne Storey, ring 07986 447250
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine