If there’s one defining thing about a round disc golf, it’s that we can never anticipate how those 18 holes are going to go – no matter how much we wish we could. Every single round is going to be different from the next, in myriad ways. Imagine a long hole on your home course. What’s the range of scores you’ve carded just on that hole? Mine ranges from 2 to 7. There’s the glorious moment that I threw one in for a field ace, and then the opposite memory of rolling down a hill, hitting a tree on the way back up, and missing more than one putt. No matter how I counted it, my score was a seven, and I was forced to attend to the business of shaking it off. We all know that feeling, right?
A seven can be hard to recover from, but it’s nowhere near impossible. Who remembers when Justin Jernigan carded an eight on a hole and still came back to win a big tournament, beating Barry Schultz and the rest of the field? Truth be told, I gave it a quick google and didn’t come up with the details I wanted. Personally, I know that shit happened and I’ve remained inspired by it to this day! It’s funny how this brings me to the point I wanted to make with this blog: our values and ideals can and will work hand in hand with our conflict, especially when we encourage it.
The writer part of me wants to recount the exact story of the tournament, but the part of me who has a whole lot to do today knows that tracking that info down isn’t a good use of my time. Immediately, I feel a tinge of conflict rise up within me. I breathe and refocus, keeping my eye on my valued goals, and I stay in the flow of writing. Occasionally, my thoughts are pulled back as I search for those particular facts in my memory, but I can’t be sure I retained many details from the first time I heard it. I give myself a break for being a person who is prone to remember nuanced tones and feelings over precise data recollection and I breathe.
The same process occurs when we hit a rough patch on the course. Something happens: we miss a putt, hit a tree, shank a drive, get distracted in our backswing, get stuck in a backup when we are on a roll, and/or become affected by someone/something in our environment. There are limitless things that can happen to pull our focus, creating immediate conflict in our mind/body relationship. We don’t handle it the same way every time, but we develop mental habits to cope with these moments on the course. Depending on our mood, we react inwardly or outwardly, but that energy has to go somewhere.
For the most part, we know it’s all part of the game, and we are able to roll with it. We breathe and refocus, reminding ourselves what is important and where we want our attention. Mentally, we are proud of ourselves when we are able to let it go and pull it together, our intentions restored. Physically, we are deeply grateful that we aren’t absorbing the energetic shock that always rings through the temple (our body) when we don’t get some good breathing around the situation, whatever it may be. That stress builds within our physical being over time, creating tension and pain that we often attribute to something else. We will see this play out in our rounds when we let conflict continue to rattle around, unable to find the pathway that leads the issue outside of us, physically.
One time, I was playing doubles with my friend Bobby Villareal and we were 9 under for the front 9. I’d never seen him so happy, and this guy smiles all the time! On hole 10, we both hit the first available tree and wound up with a bogey. Despite my incredibly charming efforts, I was unable to pull us out of the funk that came from that one bad hole. Bobby’s elevated mood came back down to earth and stayed there. There was simply too much ‘weight’ on him to throw his natural, easy way, and I felt responsible. In its place, he felt tension and pressure, and he kept asking me why we weren’t getting any more birdies after nine in a row?
At that point, I didn’t know that intentional breath plays an active role in clearing conflict from our physical bodies. The answer I gave him was probably encouraging and supportive, but I guarantee I was only addressing his mind. If I could go back and encourage him to breathe, I know that would have shifted his/our ability to get over it and move back into our groove. He’s a positive guy and, mentally, he was ready for the next hole. Energetically, it hadn’t budged so it was making him move with tightness, increasing his internal struggle, and I’m sure we fed that back and forth for the rest of the round. We finished at nine under par, shaking our heads as we walked off the course. We laughed as we recognized the pressure that we let creep in after the first nine holes.
Bobby has never been one to let things stick with him, and I have been learning to let things go with increasing regularity, but that was a tough moment for us. I go back to that round often as I learn to gain understanding of my value system, and what is important to me. There are a few rounds where I have let tension grab me and dragged it along for a less than stellar result, but every time that happens, I am reminded of that round with Bobby. The extreme highs and lows that can be expressed mentally and physically in a matter of hours keeps us all coming back to disc golf, whether we realize it or not. It teaches us to naturally develop the incredible skill set that comes with breathing as the first defense against our ever-arising conflict. It encourages us to stick to what is important to us, and not let things that don’t really matter become stuck within us.
Our mind-body relationship sits right next to the one between our ego and our soul. I will argue all day that disc golfers live closer to ego-soul awareness than the general population of the world, and I sincerely believe that is the direction we are all headed as human beings. We get to see the ‘grace of god’ every single day if we choose to look for it, and we each get glimpses even when we aren’t looking! The very setting draws us in, reminding us that we are an active part of that grace. The way we play can add or detract from that baseline, but it doesn’t change it–WE do.
When we move our thoughts to anything but what is happening in the moment, we run the risk of clinging to an ideal, rather than leaning into the truth of what is before us with acceptance and awareness. We each have the power to change anything around us by knowing what we value and breathing through our setbacks, clearing the space for our values and ideals to take center stage in our lives and on our courses, the way nature perpetually invites us to experience…