The road to any disc golf course is heavily paved with good intentions. Even if we feel like our game isn’t where we want it to be, we are likely to imagine a few good shots for ourselves before we start a round. That is largely because all of the intentions that went into the sport itself are rooted in having fun. The energy that draws each of us to disc golf resonates from a strong sense of fellowship that seems to be at the heart of every disc golf community I’ve encountered over the years. Yes, they each have their own unique stories and history, but the intentions and the growing pains remain the same – with our feet firmly planted in having a good time as we fight the good fight about what comes next. Sometimes we lose sight of that underlying jovial aspect, but there is always an opportunity for it to come back around —- because that is exactly what it was initially meant to be, by collective intention.
As I think back on the many different tactics I’ve employed over the years to attempt to stay present for each of my shots, one thing stands out: none of my efforts have ever been related to practicing. That simple fact is the key to understanding why my game remains consistently inconsistent. All of the expressed desire in the world can’t replace the magic that happens when we line up our mind-body connection and nurture the inner space that lets us grow into our intentions so we can manifest them. My play-as-practice method has been a shortcut, and the sacrificed effort is naturally reflected in my scores and ratings. That doesn’t mean I can’t succeed (clearly I’ve pulled it out when it deeply mattered to me), but it definitely makes the road a little more challenging to navigate. There is an easy peace that comes with being aware of what we are really doing while we are focused on what we think we are doing, because it lets us relax when most of our intentions go unmet. It’s exactly like the Santa Claus Principle–quite simply, there isn’t time to get it all done.
If I wasn’t aware of the correlation between my reality and my intentions, I’d probably walk around mad that after 20+ years of playing I don’t have more wins under my belt. Instead, I am keenly aware of where I have not aligned with my own intentions and desires. My long-standing joke has always been that if I practiced disc golf then I’d have to go on tour, which would take me from my other passions and responsibilities. Essentially, I have claimed that practicing disc golf would make me a bad mom. Do I believe that would have happened? Absolutely not! I know I wouldn’t have ever let disc golf become more important than raising my kids, which is why my focus stays fairly centered around playing a sport I love just for the fun of it. Winning feels great, and there are a few times I’ve made it a priority, but if it becomes our ONLY intention, we might/could find a lot of disappointment along that road to success.
Intention itself is driven by emotion, and we create many intentions every day. Some we meet, and many we don’t. It’s how we handle the ones we ‘fail’ to accomplish that outlines how we perceive our inner story. Since our feelings are in the driver seat, we all need a solid method for working with them. And, no — avoidance doesn’t count as a method! As someone who was once very practiced at hiding emotion, it took a lot of missed intentions for me to finally open up and unblock all the tension I had stored in my body from years of evading how I felt about them. In my logical mind, they didn’t change the situation, so I didn’t see the value in expressing them. Moving forward was the name of the game and I was killing it. That was back when I used to get tension headaches and frequent colds. Somewhere inside, I knew that what I was doing wasn’t good for me, but I didn’t think of it as harmful. We all just get sick, right?! Only when I began to intentionally pull things out and look at them did I start to see the intrinsic value in the experiences themselves, not my ability to get past them. Side note: it’s been many years since I have been sick ((knocking on my wood desk as I write this).
My first significant disc golf injury was a deep sprain on my index finger that came from repeatedly releasing my mid-range with a forceful snap. I loved that shot, and I still miss it today, even though my finger never quite recovered and won’t allow it anymore. It ‘healed’ after 6 months of laying off and learning an entirely different throwing method for mid-ranged shots. As I’m writing, I’m forcing some deep breaths because this was a setback that leveled my growing confidence and my feelings about it are still present when I dredge up the subject. The only true way out is to breathe through it, otherwise it’s a side step that collects more energetic debris within my (our) body. The energy that we create with our intentions has a lot of force behind it, but because it’s rooted in emotion, it may not have the power to sustain the effort. At Our Raw Material, Intention gets two weeks - Intention Week and Aligning with Intention Week. They seem similar, and they are closely related, but they serve different purposes. One gathers all the possibilities and the other helps us line them up for achievement. Combined and practiced, they become superpowered.
The disc golfers who have become household names have one thing in common: they have tapped into their innate ability to align with the intention of winning. Only in being willing to face the sea of emotions that come with the awesome task of aligning our mind-body connection can we attain and sustain that level of success. And they really practice it; honing their intentions and creating value around their ideals so that they live and breathe to support their goals. They might get down on themselves here or there, but they know that to remain there would inhibit their forward progress. They learn the natural ebb and flow that conducts our thoughts and emotions and they develop a skill set that brings them back to focus; part of the heart of the rhythm of disc golf. Whether they realize it or not, the most successful methods come down to regulating the breath in some way; surfing the natural emotional tides that disc golf so generously provides for mind-body awareness.
Breathing is a tool that will consistently support our golf game, when we remember to think of it. We do it involuntarily. All day every day. It’s easy to disregard/overlook its benefits, but once you feel the personal power that comes with intentional breathing, you can’t deny the way it makes you feel. Even if we know in our minds that we should breathe more deeply, more often (especially our exhales!) it rarely leaves our brain space and finds its way into an ongoing daily practice. Personally, I’ve been working at intentional breathing for over 15 years and I still spend the majority of my time breathing involuntarily. I’m more apt to notice when an emotion rolls through and my breathing gets shallow, but I’m still hard-wired to rely on the baseline that keeps us alive. My emotions can take me far and fast from whatever I am doing, but my breath will pull me back quickly if I choose to use it. Every day I get better at reminding myself that I have that choice.
It’s not that I’d rather be tripped up by the thing that caused the problem, it’s just that unexpected things push us out of comfort and into some form of dis-ease. Unless we have a practiced aim, we don’t have a choice in how we move from there because emotion, and intention by proxy, will take control of our reasoning. It’s designed to protect us, but it is born from the fears that keep us from being authentically ourselves–starting with how we feel. Does that mean we should relay every single feeling we have to the people around us? Please don’t.
Our feelings are our internal weather, and that personal forecast is vital to understanding what we do with the plethora of intentions that we can’t possibly meet. This is true for life and for disc golf. The weather patterns are what is important, not the random tornado or thunderstorm. There is tremendous beauty in the way our minds deliver warning signs by pulsing our feelings through us. This is a language that we must discover for ourselves, and then learn to interpret for the people around us. We must acknowledge our own negative triggers before we can effectively express them to others, or expect them to even recognze them at all. It is expectation, not intention, that brings us disapointment. It’s using our mind alone to solve our problems, not the power that comes from intentionally engaging our bodies in the matter. Using our breath, we are able to expand our ability to accept and allow every single thing that comes before us and passes through us - really and truly.
Tomorrow, I am leaving for Oregon to play the Tim Selinske US Masters Tournament. I will very likely be playing the courses blind (and that’s not a joke about my detached retina). This means that Intentionally, I absolutely want to win, but I am greatly aware that it’s a longshot. I haven’t been on (or even near) the path of aligning with that intention leading up to this tournament, so it would have to be a stroke of mind-body genius that makes it happen. Regardless of the outcome of the contest, I get to spend a week in Oregon doing something I love to do with a lot of people that I love to see. My heart is clearly leading this journey, and I’m here for it - mind, body and breath - as I take H2Om on the road within myself. The Win may not be at the top of my list of intentions, but it’s still among the many that I am holding on the road to this tournament and I’m definitely not ruling it out!