I play golf at a country club in Cleveland, Ohio and when I play, I almost always walk. At my country club, if you walk, you're using a caddie and ever since I began playing the game about fifteen years ago, Carlton has been my caddie. Carlton knows my game of golf and when someone knows your game, they know a lot about you. There are two things you need to know about Carlton. One, he's drunk a pint of Mad Dog 20/20 every day for the last forty-five years. Two, he ain't never had a cold.
We've walked a lot of miles together, Carlton and I, and we talk mostly about my golf game, which is and always has been in a state of disrepair. Mostly I feel bad about this because it is a disappointment for Carlton. He believes in me and in my game. His advice is usually: "Keep your head down. Let me watch your ball." He also keeps track of the consistencies in my game: how long I hit a full sand wedge (60 yards); my favorite shot (from behind the trees, under the branches, over the bunker -- this is all in one shot); the pause at the top of my swing (he doesn't like when it gets too long).
But lately, Carlton encourages me to keep up with my meditation. That's because this year, since I've had a daily meditation practice, he has noticed a change in my game. We laugh about the mind chatter in my head and agree that the meditation practice has softened the old loop of negative thoughts. If you play golf, you're probably familiar with how it goes: You can't make that shot. You never hit this club well. A two foot putt? You always miss those! The game is difficult enough when I'm surrounded by the serenity of the golf course and the encouragement of Carlton. It's impossible with negative energy swirling around in my head. That negativity flows pretty quickly into my swing.
The game demands respect, both for the game and for the player. Honor the game. Honor yourself. Honor the hope that one day I'll play a game that makes Carlton proud.