Disc golf is beautiful. The feel of the plastic. The flight of the disc. The ring of the chains. The stunning pallet of beauty that surrounds us on the course. Disc golf is beautiful.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen that I’m often stopped in my tracks, awed by the scenery that surrounds me. When people ask me why I play all year round and in almost all weather, a big part of my reason are the astounding things I see when I’m out on the course.
Ever played disc golf in hail? (it hurts, by the way) I wish I had a video camera. Watching the hail bounce off the top of the disc as it flew through the air was magical. If I could have put that sight on a looped .gif, I could sit and watch it for hours. Ever play disc golf in the winter and have your disc land, spinning on edge, and continue to spin until after you’ve walked up to it? It’s mesmerizing. Disc golf is beautiful.
Your mind is also beautiful. It’s strange and powerful and mysterious all at the same time. To me, the two most awe inspiring things in life are the beauty of nature and the beauty of the human mind. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so addicted to disc golf. It is the perfect intersection of those two things. It’s also the perfect opportunity to do something that everyone should do, but few of us actually practice.
Unless you live under a rock (and no offense if you do, I hear there are some really nice rocks out there!), you’ve heard the most successful people in the world all attribute at least part of their success to daily meditation. Pick a successful athlete, entrepreneur, Fortune 500 executive, spiritual leader, or well known philanthropist and there’s a very good chance they will tell you they spend a small part of their day, every day, meditating.
Here’s the problem. Meditation, as it is usually described, is hard. In fact, it is impossible for most people. Sit still, calm your mind, pay attention to your breath. If your mind wanders from your breath, gently pull your focus back to your breath. Yeah, for like 5 seconds! And that’s on a good day! Buddhist monks practice for hours daily to try to achieve this and maybe, just maybe, they are able to do it after a lifetime of study. For you and I, that’s just simply asking us to participate in an exercise doomed to failure.
No one is going to do that for very long. It’s why so few people stick with a meditation practice over time. As with many things in life, the things that are best for us are often the most challenging.
Well, I have good news for you. Meditation doesn’t have to be that way! Meditation is something you can be good at and benefit from almost immediately. You just have to define it differently. “Sit there and breathe”, while effective, is not the only form of meditation. There are many different kinds of meditation, each with their own application and benefit. For me, there are 3 specific types that apply directly to disc golf.
While you may eventually get to the point of immensely enjoying the “quiet your mind and sit in stillness” type of meditation (it is very rewarding when you get there), these three types, in my opinion, are much more accessible, especially for beginners. They are a much easier way to introduce meditation to your daily life. Best of all, they can be done while you play disc golf. You won’t have to carve out extra time in your otherwise busy life to do something you aren’t completely sold on in the first place.
The first, and easiest to integrate into your life, is walking meditation. You absolutely don’t have to be sitting still, legs contorted in pain, sitting in a special corner of your home that looks like an opium den, in order to meditate. You can actually do it in small doses as you walk to your disc between throws. Just walk mindfully. Pay attention to what is around you. Feel the air going into your lungs. Feel it leaving. Feel the earth under your feet. Feel the wind on your skin. Feel the sun warm your body. Just focus on being totally aware of this moment, here and now. Do it between throws as you walk through the beauty that is a disc golf course.
Don’t think about your last shot, don’t think about your next shot. Just be for a few moments. For people just starting to meditate, this is about as long as they can concentrate anyway. For me, I like to take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, look around, exhale, and just say, “I am”. Yeah, sounds kind of hippie dippy, I know (no offense to the hippies out there, we probably wouldn’t have our sport if it wasn’t for you!). But trust me, it works. Do it in a tournament. You’ll be amazed at the benefits!
The second type of meditation you can practice on the disc golf course is simply the practice of mindfulness. Just do everything listed above, but pick somewhere to sit or lay on the ground. Take 10 minutes before, after, or during your round to just sit and be aware of what’s around you. If your mind wanders, so be it. Just lightly nudge it back to looking at your surroundings when you notice that happen. Honestly, so few people these days take any time at all to just sit and be still that it really doesn’t matter if your mind wanders. Over time, it will stop. Over time, you will start to see the huge benefits of just pushing pause on life for 10 minutes every day.
One of my favorite things about this practice is that nature seems to have a 5 minute “time out” system. As you play your way through your local course, what you don’t see is that all of the animals, birds, and insects all stop and hide as you play through. The amazing thing you’ll see at about the 5 minute mark of sitting and just being aware of what’s around you, is that everything unpauses. The animals go back to playing and foraging. The birds start to sing again. The world literally comes to life around you. It’s amazing. It also really helps you to bring your attention back to the world around you.
The third type of meditation you can do out on the course is my favorite. It’s the one I practice most often because it not only helps my game, but really impacts the rest of my life as well. It’s called discursive meditation. I have a very high stress job. That means my mind is fried most of the time. There’s usually no way for me to eliminate all the chatter going on in my head. This is really bad for my disc golf game. It’s one of the reasons I struggle in tournaments. Too many things going through my head all at one time.
While I have not yet been able to clear my mind of all thoughts, I have been pretty successful at teaching my brain to focus on one thought at a time. This is one of the most important aspects of the mental game in disc golf. The ability to just be in the moment. The ability to only think about the shot at hand. Discursive meditation is the training tool for my brain that allows me to get better at this skill that I find otherwise impossible.
When I’m playing non tournament rounds, I’ve gotten very good at letting the world melt away until there is nothing but the disc and the course. It’s why I play so many solo rounds. That’s my time to get off the treadmill of life. When I added discursive meditation to my rounds, I saw huge benefits almost immediately. I had answers to long asked questions just appear to me out of nowhere. I had clarity I’d never had before. I was starting to be able to intentionally clear my mind of distractions. That skill is now starting to carry over into tournament play!
Find a peaceful spot to sit down for 10 minutes that’s away from other players and distractions. Mid round, in the woods, is my personal favorite. But anywhere secluded works. By water, on a rock in a stream, under your favorite tree, up in your favorite tree, or any number of other places work. This shouldn’t be hard to find for most of you. You are already on a course filled with spots like this.
Make yourself comfortable. Doesn’t matter how you sit or lay, just be comfortable. Now, pick a single thought, phrase, or idea. Pick anything. It can be a question about life, or work, or relationships, or your dog, or how they make cheese filled bratwurst. Doesn’t matter, just pick something. I usually think about disc golf (shocking, right?).
The only guideline is that the thought is specific and not broad or general. For example, I don’t think of “disc golf”, but I do think about how a putter flies, or how I grip an up shot, or what a headwind does to a drive, or why I like a certain plastic better than another, or why I only seem to lose the discs I really care about. Doesn’t matter what your thought is, it just needs to be specific in scope.
Now, sit or lay there for 10 minutes and follow that thought out as far as you can. Let your mind walk down the path that thought provides. It doesn’t matter where you end up. Just let your mind take you where it wants. Just keep it related to your initial thought. Look at that thought from all angles and perspectives. Really explore it deeply. You will be surprised where it takes you. You will be surprised by the answers to seemingly unrelated questions that will pop up. You will be amazed at how easy this is after just a few tries.
How will this lower your scores and change your life? For the score part, you will always play better when you are calm, centered, grounded, focused, and in the moment. Your best scores will always come when you are in a state of flow. One of the best ways to jump start your flow state is through meditation.
If you are a tournament player, this is exactly how you spend the delay on those nerve racking backup holes. When you show up at the box and realize there are still 3 more groups to play that hole before you get to tee off is the prefect time for this practice. That wait time kills so many hot rounds it’s not even funny. Be the person who uses that wait to their advantage by spending it in meditation.
How will this change your life? Just ask any of the successful people I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Meditation is a practice that has been universally recommended and practiced by all groups of humans going back as far as recorded history can take us. Every religion, every ethnic group, every tribe, every school of philosophy, every warrior clan, every group of athletes and competitors. Literally every self aware group of people in the history of our species has practiced this. It wasn’t until recently (in the grand scheme of our time on this earth) that we’ve been inundated with so much noise and distraction that we have stopped doing this.
Your mind is beautiful. It craves a rest. It craves a moment of peace and a respite from the noise of the world it lives in. The disc golf course is the perfect place to give your mind that rest it so desires. What’s an extra 10 minutes on the course? I can think of few places I’d rather spend another 10 minutes anyway. Disc golf is beautiful.
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