Pulling up to a disc golf course is a sensory experience that has the power to affect us in many different ways. The drive to the course may have been filled with news, music, conversation, or quiet contemplation, but by the time we step up to the first tee, we are generally geared for some play time. It’s worth a mention that the parking lot experience can be a thing unto itself, changing with each moment. Let your mind roll back to a beloved parking lot memory and bask in the unforgettable feels. Good stuff, right? Every one of our courses has its own look, feel and tone, but they all share the natural power to lead us, over and over, into the depths of ourselves as we strive to balance our mind-body connection. Our courses also set a perfect stage for tuning in and listening to ourselves - from the inside.
Disc golf parks regulate and elevate our moods, especially when we are aware of the innumerable stories they have to tell. They absorb the vibes of the designers, planners, volunteers and players, weaving both the magic and the tragic into the energetic fabric of the park. It’s a palpable feeling that is easy to tap into; especially when you are looking to connect with it. Disc golf is acknowledged, appreciated and celebrated in over 14,000 venues worldwide because of the intentional efforts that have gone into building each of them from the ground up. The often-repeated stories of those pioneering people have tied our communities together with the same natural heartbeat we each get to feel when we execute a good shot. We take a deep breath, exhale, look around, and appreciate the sights and sounds of the natural landscape before us. If we listen closely from the inside, we can actually feel our own healing happening in real time, giving us just a little more space to become curiously aware of how we are supporting ourselves (or not!).
Do you have a disc golf mantra, or anything specific that you say to yourself when you step onto a course? Something to psych yourself up or make you feel ‘ready’ for whatever comes next? How different is a casual round from a tournament round in your personal world? What words do you normally hear in your head as you step up to a putt? We all take a unique approach, but I’ve often admired the people who can develop and stick to a routine that works for them in both casual and pressure rounds. It’s definitely my own challenge and trigger - one of the places in my life where I have told myself there is something I can’t do - repeatedly! The truth is there is no physical reason why I struggle to make the easy putts in tournament rounds. This roots straight to my belief system.
At the same time I’ve been working and trying to solve it, my mind and body aren’t sufficiently aligned about it. At this point, forced to take a break from actual play, I’ve been given the gift of perspective. I’m fully convinced that my recent eye trauma has forced me (finally!) to pay attention to how many ways I have been reinforcing the idea that I can’t make short putts when there is a scorecard on the round. If you’ve played with me, you know I’ve clung pretty tightly to this unhelpful and often embarrassing belief for a long time. My own growth comes from being able to put my ‘wounds’ on display to a community that continues to love and accept me whether I win or lose. For me, that is a huge personal resource that reminds me to appreciate my life. It is with that community at the forefront of my mind that I was able to win a title at the 2018 Masters World Championships.
It was a small field of women. Being the first year that the age-protected divisions had split from the Pro event, a lot of people chose to bow out for various reasons. The event itself just wasn’t giving the same type of excitement that usually comes with the World Championships, and it was a little disheartening to me. Since it was in Kansas City, my hometown, I felt protective. I also let myself dream about what it would feel like to win for the first time. To my surprise, I felt connected to that outcome, and I started to get excited about it. My ego struggled with the negative conditions around the tournament and we did battle. Part of me believed it would be embarrassing to win in such a small field, and other unhelpful ideas like that, but those thoughts led to something more productive.
Instead of playing my ‘normal’ game, I decided to place specific intentions around what I wanted so that I could feel justified earning the title that all of a sudden I so desperately wanted to win. My goal was two-fold: to play well above my rating by making most of my short putts, and to beat all of the women in the entire field, not just my own division. I’m proud to report that my plan worked beautifully and I accomplished both goals, proving to myself what happens when I align my intentions with universal support! This intention did not carry over into other tournaments, however. My belief about my putting had not budged much overall, but I taught myself that I have the ability to set a negative belief aside long enough to focus on a goal that holds stronger, more purposeful intentions. The huge benefit from that realization alone has continued to serve my life in nature’s perfect timing.
When we get too serious about the game we love, the fun parts get overlooked, creating imbalances within us, as players (and as humans). This state of being doesn’t usually last long, because disc golfers tend to pull themselves (and each other) out of passing negativity with relative ease. People with clinical mood disorders can find great benefit in the organic surroundings and the welcoming environment. Bad feelings can shift to better, and good feelings are pretty easy to pick up as you walk through a disc golf course. The energy of what happens on the course lingers in the air, as we increase our chances of knowing something cool is going to happen right before it does. Just yesterday, I got off the phone with Mel Ring as she pulled up to a course to meet friends for a round. My last words were “go get an ace!”. I can’t take credit for making it happen, but through disc golf, I have found a deep, soulful connection to the heartbeat that runs through each of us. And sometimes, when I’m listening, I receive a glimpse of what’s about to happen before it actually does.