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Golf for Enlightenment: The Seven Lessons for the Game of Life by Deepak Chopra


Rating: DNR (Do Not Read)


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Lights Out

I admit to killing two birds with one stone by reading Deepak Chopra’s latest book, Golf for Enlightenment. I had not read a Deepak Chopra book before. Now I’ve gotten that out of my system. Second, I try to read a golf book now and again to see if I’m interested enough to take up the game. I got that out of my system, too.

Here’s an excerpt from Lesson 5 (of 7): “Winning is Passion with Detachment” pp. 134-141

(I skipped over the infuriating fable that begins each lesson):


Playing the Game

The fifth lesson is about power. There is a special kind of power that golf calls for, one that swings from unleashed might to delicate finesse in a matter of seconds. A big drive off the tee maximizes the largest muscle groups in the body. Once you step onto the putting surface, however, throttling down this output runs into obstacles: nerves, self-doubt, and uncertainty raise up bad memories of putts gone wrong, while at the physical level the body finds it hard to calm down when serenity is most needed.

In a way this is a glorious dilemma. The same power that runs the universe is coursing through you right now. In the softest shot using the lightest hands, you are commanding forces born in the Big Bang. The Indian spiritual masters must have known this, because they made life energy sacred and gave it the name Shakti. Life energy comes from the place inside yourself where peace passes understanding, as Jesus taught. It is the same place where all things can be accomplished, even moving mountains. This might sound very far removed from everyday life, but Shakti isn't. Its touch can be felt in a dozen ways, beginning with the soft, streaming energy we experience at peak moments or the certainty that comes at moments of clarity.

Golf is about energy control. On long drives, your energy has to be unleashed or you will have some long second shots, making it tough to reach the green in regulation. On 10-foot putts, energy has to be reined in or you will run by the hole 5 feet. Instead of staying with the mind as it says, "I have to give this everything I've got" or "I have to barely touch the ball," you can go deeper, to that place where peace is married to power.

In his early days Jack Nicklaus was famous for not responding to the crowd's enthusiasm. Videos show a grim determination in his face combined with alertness and great focus. Is this Shakti? Yes, and so is the soft look of communion that other players have when they are perfectly attuned to their game. Each person puts his own stamp on life energy as it flows through. Shakti, although a goddess, isn't the same as a person's feminine side. In both men and women there is a guiding force that shapes life into exactly the activity that is perfectly right for who they are. I once read that in every lifetime there is a high point, a single aspiration or triumph, that the entire lifetime is centered on. We promote as heroes those who cross the Atlantic in solo flight or set an Olympic record because they so obviously achieve what they aspire to. They are more than heroes, however: Such people have harnessed Shakti to achieve a major goal in life. We are all meant to follow Shakti to the core of our selves; we were created to achieve our aspirations rather than simply circle them. We've all touched, however briefly, a place that says, "I am doing exactly what I should be doing at this very moment." At such a moment you are directly connected to your Shakti.

Like the energy harnessed in the stars, Shakti cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transformed. Your body, in fact, is nothing less than a transformer, a mechanism for taking the energy born at the moment of creation and dispersing it this instant. Your mind can't possibly decide on the literally billions of transformations under way. With your next meal, trillions of new molecules will enter your bloodstream, bearing minuscule packets of chemical energy that must be either stored, combined, suppressed, unleashed, dissipated, or conserved—and the ability to turn this firestorm of raw power into a beautifully ordered structure belongs to Shakti. Without Shakti the sugar that feeds your brain would be the inert sugar in your coffee; without Shakti the oxygen molecules sustaining your heartbeat would be as passive as gas in a balloon.

Shakti combines passion and detachment.

Winning through detachment sounds like a strange concept, one that puts many people off. They automatically equate detachment with indifference or passivity. Yet you must detach from winning in order to win. Some players describe detachment in other terms such as being "centered" or "getting out of your own way." They all come down to disarming the ego. The ego can't help but look outside for validation. It needs victory and feels depleted without it. In all sports there is a world of difference between the roaring crowds and the lonely locker room. Does a spiritual person not care about this? Is it enough just to be at peace within, regardless of how the game turns out? If that were true, no one would play the game. We would all seek out silent retreats and meditate.

Winning can be spiritual, because not just the ego is satisfied. Every experience nourishes the soul. Winning can be sweet or it can be bitter; the difference lies solely in what happens inside. The soul wants sweet experiences, but it learns from bitter ones. As you weave your way between these two poles, you grow spiritually. Once you appreciate the emotional drama being played out, it's no wonder that golf pierces to the soul. At any moment defeat can be snatched from the jaws of victory, yet the most impossible shots can also go right. The whole game is like life condensed to its essence, lightning caught in a bottle.

Matching up ego and soul is one of the major goals of spirituality.

The greatest joy in life comes when inner and outer experiences match each other. Then winning feels like a sublime event. It doesn't fall flat or leave you exhausted. It tastes just the way you dreamed it would. The matchup happens through a process called surrender. As everyone knows, surrender means giving up. In spiritual terms we change this simply to giving. You give of yourself without any selfish desire to take back. I once read that anyone who truly desires to take nothing from others will have the whole universe at his disposal. With this attitude in mind, surrender comes naturally. It isn't necessary to fight against the ego's urge to control, manipulate, and cling.

Consider putting, which has always been the control freaks downfall. Putting puts to the test your ego's claim that it knows how to win. Winning isn't something that can be known. The outcome of any event belongs completely to the unknown. Only when you give up and surrender to the putt does it start pouring into the hole as if drawn by a magnet or a string. Under those magical conditions, even distance doesn't seem to matter. A 30-footer will go in as surely as a 2-footer.

I'm sure you've seen TV shots of impossibly long putts that don't just go in but seem to be drawn in as if by an invisible string. Sometimes this string is all but visible to the player. He will start to stride after the ball, certain that its course is completely true. We all feel the thrill of magic watching these rare moments, and the networks love to show them over and over.

What dawned on me after I went through my own futile attempts to control putts, making the odd 15-footer but never twice in a row, missing too many 2-footers to the point of utter disbelief, was this: If I couldn't control the magic, I could give in to it. So now, after taking my stance and gripping the putter the way I was taught, I take one look at the cup and inside myself I say to the hole, "I'm giving my ballto you."

Only then do I hit it and just let go. I trust that there is always a string tied between the ball and the cup. The string isn't a mystery, it is a form of exact coordination that can be organized only by a higher intelligence. Putting is one of those deep riddles best solved by knowing you can't solve it.

When you truly know that, the door of simplicity opens. You perform the necessary setup without worry, repetition, and fuss. (Putts repay overattention by going more wrong than ever, so being simple in your setup doesn't lose anything, no matter where the ball goes.) Then you give yourself to Shakti. And she will step in. They say Shakti is a she because for every god who abides in silence there must be a goddess to dance with him, which is to say that there must be love. It might sound embarrassing to others that I putt with love, but I do. I want the goddess to help me, and being wise, she responds only to love. Surrender flowers here, where there is nothing to fear, nothing to control, nothing to judge. Perhaps you can only give in to the magic 5 percent of the time today, but tomorrow it could be 10 percent.

Shakti doesn't come and go. She is always dancing. She is dancing around the hole coaxing the next putt to go in. What if it doesn't? Your allegiance shouldn't waver. Don't be tempted to employ the endless tweaking that lures so many discouraged golfers. Instead tell yourself, "I asked a goddess to organize this putt the best way possible, and for this moment in my game, the best way possible came true."

Applied to Life

How can you woo Shakti and make her stay with you? For this there is no technique. In various schools of Yoga, years can be spent in disciplined breathing known as Pranayama, whose purpose is to make a fiery energy rush up the spine, an energy known as Shakti. Once it reaches the brain, the fiery energy sets it on fire. Other teachings awaken Shakti through long meditation, leaving almost no time for anything else.

And those on the path of the devotee set up altars and worship Shakti, coaxing her presence with offerings of flowers and incense.

I mention this to underscore that Shakti is more elusive than any other aspect of spiritual life. Therefore I believe the simplest way to woo her is through faith. Have faith that you are seen and known and guided by a presence you might never catch with your five senses. This presence has cared for you since before time. It knows what you need to do next; therefore if you substitute faith for other ways of making decisions—ways based on calculation, worry, control, neediness, and ego—the way of Shakti will be there in all its power. I am not being deliberately vague. Surrender is not an action that follows a plan or diagram. Every day you have to let out your faith another inch, saying, "The answer is already here. I am willing to watch it unfold." Having this attitude pays off dividends over time, because the power you are calling on is so immense that it can only be invited in by degrees.

As one master wryly said, "I could open up your Shakti in thirty days, but it would take thirty men to hold you down." Be patient. Know that this all-knowing power is real and that it has the intent of pouring through you, making you the expression of the highest aims of spirit. With this attitude, faith forges a link to the miraculous as nothing else can.

If you’ve never read a Chopra book, don’t start now. Golf for Enlightenment will  knock your lights out. Unless, of course, you enjoyed the excerpt, and are hungry for more. In which case, I may knock your lights out if you come near me with this drivel.

Steve Hopkins, May 27, 2003


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the June 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: for Enlightenment.htm


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