Soul Lessons from the Golf Course

July 2, 2011

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.


 I love this poem although I have never been sure I understood it. I know the theme resonates with me at what seemed like a deep soul level but it was only last night that I had an epiphany. It started as many of my breakthroughs do with a period of inertia. For no reason that I could comprehend, the soul’s landscape seems flat and uninteresting. I had got home from a fun game of golf where the sun came out, I had not played too badly and more important than the score, it had been a pleasant social way to spend Canada Day with two friends. Yet here I was lolling in front of the TV, eating peanut butter from the jar watching a rerun of Dr. Who which (ironically as it turns out) was one of my favourite childhood TV programs. For no reason I could determine, I was feeling the blahs. My intention of walking to Granville Island or cycling down to Canada Place to watch fireworks just evaporated like a snowflake in a summer breeze.

Finally at 10.30 pm I dragged myself downstairs determined to clean up the kitchen and then spend at least half an hour in my evening meditation even though it was the last thing I felt like doing. I put on some sacred music by Deva Premal and Miten and soon the haunting refrain of Silent Garden encouraged me to sit and rest. I still felt unfocussed so I closed my eyes and asked myself the cause of my melancholy. What emerged was a sense that I needed to explore the feelings of unfairness that had come up in my golf game that afternoon. I immediately felt resistance; I had dealt with that; I did not need to go over it again. Then I paused, seeing my uncertainty and decided to draw a card from my Osho Zen deck for inspiration. I drew the card Guidance and I sat back in growing awe as I read the words “ the truth of your own feeling is trying to show you where to go right now and when this card appears it means you can trust the inner guidance you are being given” . What an amazing synchronicity. The card continued, “it speaks in whispers and sometimes we hesitate not knowing if we understand rightly.”

Wow! I reflected on the events to which I suspected my insight referred. The day had started strangely with one partner feeling ill and cancelling, and one getting the time wrong by two hours and not joining us until the second nine holes. However this conspiracy of events set in motion the perfect scenario for me to experience what I had come to experience. My friend and I have taken up a sporting wager that he used to play with a mutual friend who has passed on. It involves playing match play for each hole and the stakes are three beers – one for the front nine, one for the back nine and one for the eighteen. In order to iron out inequities, the season starts out with a handicap that is a number of strokes to represent the differences in the skill level. I had not been too happy to be given only six strokes however I was assured it would soon even out as for every beer you lose, you gain a stroke the next game. This was our third game of the year, during the first two I had lost two beers and now had eight strokes. I still felt this was inadequate but could not really complain as he had been playing sufficiently badly to keep it relatively close.

Well on this day everything began to shift and mid way down the back nine, when he was out-driving me by a hundred yards and then beating me easily even on holes where I had a stroke advantage, I noticed my feelings of unfairness well up. There was at least 13 strokes difference in our average games so I had little or no chance when he played well. It was made worse by the fact that I was playing about as well as I can play and I was still going to lose three beers. However I sucked it up; I had accepted the agreement; it was only three beers and eventually if we kept playing I would get my thirteen strokes. And as he was playing really well I worked hard to suppress my aggravation and compliment him on his game. So we reached the eighteenth hole and I hit two great shots to be on the edge of the green pin high while he was behind a grove of fir trees with no view of the green, perhaps I could at least gain some self respect by winning the last hole. Alas the universe had other plans, (how else would I have had this journey). He hit a shot worthy of Rory Mcllroy and put it on the green, made his two putts while I missed mine. I congratulated him and shook hands then heard him tell our playing partner (who had only played nine holes) that he was game for another nine holes if he wanted. Then he turned to me and said, “Do you want to play.” I declined and headed back to the car to change. I would miss the camaraderie of the post game beer and nachos but rationalized that it saved me having to think about how much I could safely drink and drive.

Honouring my guidance, I began to reflect on my feelings during the game. I had started to feel aggrieved about losing but pushed those feelings away. I wanted to behave like a mature adult and act like a good sport. My reward had been to be abandoned at the end of the game as my friend played with someone else. Suddenly I could see the unresolved inner child issues. It brought back a flood of feelings from my early life – how many times had I felt unrewarded  and abandoned despite being the best I could be. However rather than allow my feelings to flow and be treated with compassion and respect, I had suppressed them. They had nowhere to go so submerged in my unconscious. They had lingered on energetically, long after I thought I had put them to bed then showed up as a despondent child that evening. I had not followed the model that helps to resolve this inner tension: acknowledge the feelings, honour them – of course my inner child will feel this way, then shift into the adult and communicate that the child can let go and trust the adult now.

I picked up my soul journal to write my wonder at this amazing journey and how the universe had conspired to create the perfect storm by having one person cancel and another turn up two hours late when my eyes crossed my entry of the previous evening. I had written out the Yeats poem – suddenly the meaning was transparent. “I am content to follow to its source, every event in action or in thought; measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!” This was the work of the soul and when we complete it there is the sense of joy, awe and wonder that is so aptly summarized in the final words. “When such as I cast out remorse, so great a sweetness flows into the breast, we must laugh and we must sing, we are blest by everything, Everything we look upon is blest.”