The Little Voice Inside My Head
I bought a Robert Graham tee shirt with that saying on it. It’s pretty ambiguous. What does it mean?
For many years it would have meant nothing to me. It was not until much later in life that I learned about mindfulness and meditation and other aspects of self-discovery. I got deep into it at one point and though I am not in therapy now, nor do I have a meditation practice any longer, those things that I learned when I was in therapy and when I was meditating have been retained. It’s really about breathing. In the middle of what Zorba called “the full catastrophe” that is life, you have to take time to look around and more importantly stop listening to that little voice inside that is telling you really wrong stuff. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not thin enough. You have to learn to ignore that voice and find the other voice that affirms your being. That evil voice is the dragon on a leash behind your chair that comes out to tell you that you’re no good. Take the leash and walk him back behind the chair.
I find that the golf course is the best place to listen to the better voices. It used to be found running in Duke Forest or Rock Creek Park or playing tennis, but those modes of self-discovery are no longer available to me. I have gotten old and so has my back.
When one plays golf as in so many games, there are two parts of the game. There are also two ways that the game is taught. There’s the Outer game and the Inner game.
The first game in golf, the Outer one, is the “do this and do that” game. That’s the game that teaches you how to hold a club, how to swing it and how to gain some control over these actions in an attempt to propel a little white ball toward a small hole 400 yards away. It is the requisite first step. The Outer game comes first. You cannot play the Inner game without first gaining some mastery of the Outer game. This can take years. Many people never get beyond the Outer game. Many people think that the Outer game is the game. It is not.
Golf is really an Inner game as is tennis and to some extent running. It is the relationship that is established between you and that little voice inside your head. You learn to listen to him in a positive vein and then let the positivity take over the Outer game.
When golf is played at the highest of levels it is a boring game. The ball is driven to the middle of the fairway and the next shot is on the green near the hole where no more than two more strokes are needed to hole the ball. It is said, “it’s a simple game. It’s just hard to play.”
What has been so disappointing to me is how little golfers dwell on the Inner game for it is everything. It is the only reason to play, to gain some equilibrium between the little voice inside your head and your ability to do something physical. To me golf is a joy even when I am playing poorly because I am outside, in beautiful surroundings usually with people for whom I care a great deal, especially my best friend (the BW) who is beginning to master the Outer game and is getting ready to push toward a reckoning with the Inner one. It is so much fun to watch someone make the transition from golf as something you do to golf as something you are.
Coming to grips with the little voice inside your head is one of the great challenges of life. In that way, golf can be life. It can, but it’s up to you.