The seed of inspiration was planted when I met a man on a chair lift for intermediate runs at Copper Mountain Resort in March. At 68 years old he had just started skiing. As a sixty year old, and a life coach for the past 15 years, I was reminded of my commitment to keep trying new things. I signed up for my five pack of "Get Ready For Golf" lessons.
I had moved into a townhouse on a golf course nine months ago. I had no idea if the birthing process would be successful. I had had false starts in the past. Fifteen years ago I had taken a similar series of golf lessons on a family vacation and ten years ago I had ventured out on a course a few times with my husband. Those earlier experiences had been motivated by other peoples interest. (Think Braxton Hicks contractions in labor.) Now it was time to try it on for me alone.
My first lesson was scheduled to begin at 5:45 pm, early labor, Stage 1.
“Awkward” kicks in before I even leave my house. “Why am I doing this again?” I try to remind myself. I don't know what to wear. I don't have equipment. I don't know how long it will take to walk over to the clubhouse. We're supposed to get there 15 minutes early. Weaving my way through the neighborhood, I arrive 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
Entering the clubhouse, I look around and see a retail shop. Browsing for a few minutes I eventually find my way to the desk where employees are chatting and I ask about my class. "You'll meet in the entry at starting time and get a tour and introductions before heading out on the putting green," I'm told by one of the pros. "Your instructor is still out teaching."
Uncomfortable, I try to keep myself “busy”. I continue shopping, find a bathroom, and then read a local activities guide in the lobby. Meandering back to the retail shop, I look more closely at the shoes, the bags, the clubs, thinking cha-Ching, cha-Ching. “Is this really an investment I want to make? Didn't I read in a Malcolm Gladwell book that it takes 10,000 hours to become good at something. How much energy am I going to put into this?” I think to myself, “If I keep trying new things will I get good at any of them? What am I doing here?” The inner voices babble away.
Finally we gather in the lobby, and introductions are made. Our instructor keeps referring to himself as an old guy. Yea, he's older than me, but not by that much.
All the others are women, probably in their thirties. Two had arrived together, three others had signed up together and then there's me. I'd been chatting with the pair and they adopt me.
When we arrive at the putting green I appreciate that we have a seasoned instructor. His descriptions are meticulous. I love his knowledge, his approach. Yet I can see where my mind is still needing to wrap around what I'm stepping into.
“We’ll focus today on the green and putting.” He has set the course and we have arrived.
My silent inner dialogue begins responding to his verbiage almost immediately. “Putter, yes, putt, putt. I know putt-putt golf, something I loved playing as a child and have gone on to play on Mother's Day for decades. “
“ Once on the green, you should be getting the ball in the hole in no more than two shots, “ the instructor instructs.
"What!?"- yells my inner voice- "In miniature golf you have up to six shots." I’m glad no one can hear what I’m thinking. On to another area where we are introduced to a totally new beast, “chipping”. Awkward. Necessary to the game and something completely new. Lesson 1 ends.
In lesson 2 we head to the driving range. Here is a picture postcard view of the mountains, one that I didn’t see from my townhouse located at the first green, an unexpected gift. My challenge with the 2nd lesson is also unexpected.
From my days as a ski instructor, I knew the ability to transfer skills from one sport to another, could be helpful. I was starting to see these experiences could also require attention to "not" allowing transference. In skiing, the movement begins in the feet. In this sport, once in your golf stance, the movement begins at the shoulders.
There were other non-transferable skills that were showing up. In driving, the swing is different than hitting with a baseball bat. I’m not using the club correctly. More to learn, more to unlearn. This is active labor.
Lesson 3 and we enter transition, the end of active labor. I learned about the swing that will eventually get us onto the course. The long descriptors of the different angles of the body to the shaft of the club, to the ball, to the planes that were aligned with the stroke all made perfect sense when explained. I wish I had recorded it. How many lessons will I have to pay for before I retain all this knowledge?
As I practice what I am told, I realize that while hypothetically I understood what was being said, my retention logged maybe 30%. Not only that, my body wasn't doing what my mind insisted it was.
I tended to not follow through, stopping after the club head made contact with the ball.
Release and follow though. Don’t look up. Practice the swing- even without the ball. “Get used to the motion by lobbing the ball with your hand first.” This instructor can see through all our upcoming bad habits. He is so seasoned. I’m not following through with my swing, so relax and practice the movement.
Having a beginner’s mind means trying to look at things fresh. This “new” swing, where I don’t follow through, isn’t unlike my writing practice right now. I get to a certain point and then I don’t follow through.
Relax and practice the movement.
Lesson 4 and it’s Mothers Day. The weather looks ominous and I know many others won’t be attending. I had spent the morning with my son going out to brunch and the art museum where we saw the Samurai exhibit. “Who am I today?”, I ask myself. “Couch potato” or “Samurai”, “Couch potato” or “Samurai”? Samurai wins. I weather the weather and go to the course. After all, we hadn’t played putt-putt this Mothers Day.
I question my decision during the entire walk to the clubhouse. My instructor is inside, no one else has showed up. Out on the driving range, I question my decision again when I see lightening in the distance. The wind is gusting when I switch my attention entirely to my instructor. I’m now in the pushing stage.
I am getting a private lesson It’s remarkable. After working on my body placement during the swing and hitting a bucket of balls, I get in the golf cart and we head out to the first hole. We end the lesson at the first hole as the rain begins, right next to my home. The body has been delivered.
Lesson 5 is delivery of the placenta, the final phase. I’m ridding myself of the materials that are no longer needed so I can focus next on growing the baby, I’m ending the birthing process.
The lessons, both literally and figuratively, pile up one upon the other as I reflect on the beginner experience. The inspiration to continue has to come from me, not the others who had wanted me to play in the past.
Mentally, golf is a game that begins with the mind. Preparing the body in position, taking aim, preparing stance and posture, then moving. Like skiing, it seems as though you have to adjust your body to what the shot requires. In skiing, there are no two days alike, the conditions of the snow the slope and your body will always be one of a kind combination. There is a zen where you get your mind out of the way, yet you’re very focused in the moment that is exhilarating-freeing and completely connected all at the same time.
I knew in skiing it takes 5000 repetitions to create new muscle memory. These golfing movements were new to me. Part of why I worked so hard to improve in my skiing was because I was basically lazy. The harder you work, the easier it gets. This new adventure was sure to be a journey, an investment of time and energy.
When I improve, I am further inspired. The choices are mine: how much do I want to invest of my resources in this, my time, my energy and my money? It can evolve. I don’t need to overwhelm myself with those to start. Being present is key, that is where the joy lies, and where the development occurs. A beginner is born.
When was the last time you were a beginner? When you close your eyes and get quiet, what image pops up that might set you on a new course? Are you game? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I'd love to hear what inspires you, and you might inspire someone else.