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Disc Golf for Mental Health

If walking is man’s best medicine and nature possesses the ability to heal us, then Disc Golf must be a proven, reliable vehicle for balancing our overall health – mentally and physically. When we love disc golf, we become acutely aware of this undeniable truth from somewhere deep within our souls. I’m not here to explain the magic of this widely-shared reality, but I value having a public platform to draw attention to it and talk about it, because it’s incredibly therapeutic! It is reported that Hippocrates (460 BC-370 BC) made both of those claims as he studied our collective health 2400 years ago. In fact, he had a lot to say about the similarities and the differences in human bodies and how they work in relation to their environment. Some of it continues to meet the test of time. For example, his clinical understanding of our physical heart still sits at the root of modern cardiology, while a few of his other hypotheses have failed to pass theoretical application. Widely touted as the Father of Modern (Western) Medicine, his influence continues to permeate the field, changing as it grows. It’s faintly reminiscent of Steady Ed’s resounding energetic effect on Disc Golf, albeit on a much larger scale.

I never got the chance to meet Steady Ed, but I would imagine his name has been mentioned in conjunction with the opening of every one of the 14000+ Disc Golf Courses that exist in the world right now. His considered intentions were as true to his heart as those of Hippocrates when he pointed his passion toward the discovery of how we can transform our illnesses before they happen. The works attributed to Hippocrates actually belong to several people, because he drew everyone he could into exploring and understanding these basic physiological principles. There is evidence that many volumes of their collective findings were destroyed in a fire, which begs the consideration of what else they believed based on their extensive research, working together to quite literally create the field of medicine. Some of their work appears to be finding its way to full circle; connecting us once again to these theoretical underpinnings, and the ongoing discovery of what heals us.

Steady Ed might not have known it (although I like to believe he did), but he and the early pioneers of our sport have infused the roots of love and disc golf with frequent signs and indicators that it is plausible that we each have some power to affect what happens around us. You simply can’t fall in love with our sport without running into that fact somewhere along the journey. We see so much magic occur before our eyes as we throw discs, moving through the landscape of our courses. We benefit from nature’s free and spontaneous gifts, and it becomes impossible to overlook how the weather, the season and the emotional vibe all play a part in how connected and healthy we are able to feel when we are on a disc golf course, having a good day…especially when we take that feeling out into the rest of the world and watch it grow.

From around 400 BC until 1973, most Doctors took the Hippocratic Oath when they claimed the practice of medicine as their own. In its initial iterations, this Oath implored physicians to “First, Do No Harm”, and I think that’s how we, as disc golfers, have approached the care and feeding of our courses. Intentional efforts such as “pack it in, pack it out” and “leave the course better than you found it'' seep organically into our consciousness, as we learn to view each course (and life itself) from multiple perspectives. Take your home course, for example. Every time you tee off, you have the opportunity for a completely different experience, and you can never be sure about what will happen until the round is over, even though you’ve played it more times than you can count. Each separate round of disc golf is approached with fresh eyes and hopeful expectation, guaranteeing a uniquely different experience every single time. Those broadened horizons give disc golfers a heightened sense of what fueled the Ancient Physicians’ desire to claim the title of Doctor in the first place. Disc Golf is an open invitation to the practice of understanding the relationship between human beings and sustaining optimal health. The tools are present in the simple magic that springs forth when we develop and nurture the habit of walking and being open within Nature.

Our Raw Material’s Food Week fosters an inner look at the simple structures that have informed the way our thoughts have developed up to this point. As we consider the influence our environment continues to have on how we see ourselves, we are able to move into easy, ongoing soul-ego understanding. What follows organically is an opportunity to glean the intrinsic value and meaning from our most difficult life experiences. This facilitates the opening and subsequent clearing of ‘The Vault’ that holds our deepest (and often repressed) traumas, while simultaneously empowering our innate healing abilities. It creates a universal acceptance of the previously unthinkable; allowing us the space to breathe and move through our triggers right as they come up, not remain stuck in the reactive mode that we have learned to accept as ‘normal’. When we know the power that comes from this awareness, something as simple as getting enough water and stating how you feel falls into natural order, assuming its rightful position as a basic fundamental of human health. Hippocrates himself invented the first water filtration system, using a cloth bag to filter the impurities found in stagnant water. The quality of water and food were integral to his determination that our health is derived from our inner and outer environments, not from attracting the attention of the gods and goddesses - or any other thing that exists outside of us. Disc golf plays along to that beat.

The Food Pillar reflects the condition of our mental structure, determining our willingness and ability to see ourselves in connection to the world at large, and to embody a healthy personal equilibrium as we walk through life’s offerings. ORM calls this concept Wholeness, but I believe it goes by many different names. This issue can make it difficult for us to realize that we are often speaking of the same thing as we argue. I consider this to be a natural human sticking point that affects each of us to some degree. It is where we habitually confuse the importance of specific words over the overall tone of what is being said, often moving us too far from the original sentiment to fully recognize it. When that happens, our defensiveness takes the lead and that sets the stage for distortions and illnesses to develop.

During the life span of Hippocrates, there were no medical schools, so in order to become a Doctor the only real requirements were (1) a true passion for the practice, (2) a commitment to the perpetual learning and sharing of medical truths and discoveries, and (3) an underlying intention to Do No Harm in the pursuit of healing. In my humble opinion, disc golfers become aligned with that same type of passion just by spending time on the courses and being exposed to the powerful communities that have formed around our sport. We are able to ‘feed’ our mind-body connection through our constant and regular exposure to ever-shifting changes in perspective. This organic occurrence makes each of us potential ambassadors for universal health and well-being. As we each dip into our shared passion to find the motivation to meet our lives with a sense of universal connection and individual purpose, we gather that energy within us–taking it off the course and into our individual lives.

In due time, we begin to figure out how each other works. We move past the fundamentals of determining who we like and dislike, instead entering the expansive realm of acceptance, in order to better understand the things that come before us. We learn to appreciate the nuances of being human, as we watch each player’s style come through with distinct, individualized expressions. This does not mean that we find agreement with each other at all, but it moves us to adopt a method of acceptance so that we don’t disrupt our own game. In some cases, we come upon a personality that is wholly discordant to our own, but it rarely causes a permanent disassociation from the sport that we all love. It simply affords us a broader vantage point, letting us take in more information than we are otherwise accustomed to ingesting, as we find ways to 'make room’ for the things we can’t immediately affect.

Our earthly environment is designed to encourage and support the deep breathing of every one of its inhabitants. Over time, humans have distorted our inclination to work within the natural flow of life, forcing many of us to mistakenly believe that we must fight for everything we desire. If something comes to us too easily, we must find a way to see it as a gift–otherwise it might sow the seeds of doubt. And those are hard to contain once they spread out! Humans are also the only beings in our world that let doubt cloud an otherwise sunny day. Everything else makes the best of use of everything available, without fear of failure. I believe that is what Hippocrates was onto as he envisioned the future of the medical field, just as I believe that’s what Steady Ed imagined for the people who come to know the healing powers that are entwined with the practice of disc golf.



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