February 25th, 2019

Tai Chi and Golf

In about 2005 to improve my golf game I started to study Tai Chi from Master Yang Jun at Yang Family Tai Chi. I have been a student ever since. As well as the Long Form I study Push Hands. Below is a edited version (footnotes omitted but source cited) of an article I wrote for Yang Family Tai Chi on “The Ten Essentials” of Tai Chi and Golf.

As students of Tai Chi, we recognize the importance of dedication to form. Physical technique and mental focus are fundamental to proper form. We spend countless hours developing technique and focus in slow motion. Slow motion movement demands discipline, as faults become readily apparent. In Tai Chi, we strive to execute even the smallest technique exactly. As we practice the form continuously we work part by part connecting the parts, our mind becomes focused as skill and control improve. We strive to reach the point where we have physically and mentally internalized the form, and have quality repetition.


In golf, there are “certain actions that must take place during the act of hitting if the ball is to be struck with accuracy and power.” (Bobby Jones). The haphazard uninformed player may occasionally hit a decent shot but he cannot “hope to compete with the man whose sound swing carries him time after time into…[sound] position.” Id. The player with the sound swing – like the sound Tai Chi student- is the player who through countless hours masters movements that result in repeating proper form. It “is utterly impossible to play good golf without a swing that will repeat.” Id. The repeating swing is mastered through the repetition of fundamentals in form that are right because they produce quality shots under all kinds of pressure. Id.


As with Tai Chi, proper golf form requires specific moves done in a balanced, relaxed, and focused way. The essentials of Tai Chi are the same as the essentials of golf. Through practice and application of Tai Chi essentials, we reach a higher level of physical and mental form. An analysis of The Ten Essentials of Tai Chi reveals fundamentals that, if practiced, will lead to good Tai Chi form and good Golf form.

Light Energy at Top of Head. This first essential requires the head to be upright and straight. There must be no “strength” used so the neck and back remain relaxed and natural. This allows for the conscious intent to be natural and lively. Likewise, in golf the head must be erect with a feeling of naturalness. This feeling allows the golf player to be uninhibited. Tiger Woods stresses good posture. “One of the most important aspects of good posture is to hold your chin high at address.” With his back fairly straight and a bit of flex in his knees Tiger’s body is “prepared to move freely in any direction…” (Tiger Woods).

Sink Chest Raise Back. In Tai Chi, this means the chi (life energy) needs to stay in the back rather than flow into the chest which will cause top heaviness. Sinking the chest allows the chi to flow into the spine which creates strength in the spine. This also prevents the upper body from feeling heavy which results in poor form. In golf, for good form we also must eliminate any feeling of top-heaviness. Ben Hogan teaches that proper golf posture lies with the back being naturally erect. “Your upper trunk should feel like it’s an elevator dropping down a floor – the club head descends as your trunk descends.” This, as in Tai Chi, allows for movement and power to occur from the foundation of the feet.

Relax the Waist. In Tai Chi “the waist is the ruler of the body.” When the waist is relaxed the feet have power, and our foundation is stable. Movement of the waist leads to necessary change from full to empty. A relaxed waist allows for the transfer of power. According to Bobby Jones, the most important movement in golf is “to start the downswing by beginning the unwinding of the hips [waist].” As in Tai Chi, there can be no power or accuracy in golf unless a relaxed waist leads the downswing.

Distinguish Insubstantial from Substantial. In Tai Chi, the practitioner must be able to distinguish movement and weight transfer from left to right (called empty and full). When we can distinguish empty and full our turning movement becomes light, nimble and almost without effort. When we transfer weight we must stay within the foundation of our stance. Failure to distinguish weight transfer and stay within our foundation leads to an unsteady stance. In golf we must shift from our target side during the backswing to our non-target side before initiating the downswing when we shift back to our target side. When we shift our weight no part of the torso moves beyond the feet. This can only be done by distinguishing between insubstantial (moving away from the ball) to substantial (moving back and through the ball). As in Tai Chi, when we do this our swing is almost without effort.

Sink Shoulders Drop Elbows. Sinking the shoulders means relaxing the shoulders. They are allowed to hang down. Dropping the elbows means relaxing the elbows downward. This principle is also fundamental to the proper golf swing. This is what Ben Hogan is talking about when he says the upper trunk needs to have the feeling of dropping downward. Master Yang Jun continually teaches to “keep elbows down.” This essential fundamental is the same in the proper golf swing. The elbows must be down at the initiation of the swing. Hogan teaches the elbows must point to the hips which means to be down at address. The elbows must continue to remain down throughout the swing so the swing stays “connected.” This means the arms do not fly away from the body but are led by the body as they are in proper Tai Chi form.

Use Consciousness not Strength. Here we come to the higher level of both the Tai Chi form and the golf swing. This “means we must rely exclusively on mind and not on strength.” Superior Tai Chi form and golf form demands that the entire body be loose and open to avoid “the slightest bit of crude force.” Only by being soft are we able to obtain hardness. “No one can do it for you. You have to do it for yourself. It’s a matter of being in touch with yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.” This is easier said than done. This fundamental is mastered by those at the highest level of Tai Chi and golf. It is the ability to move in the Tai Chi form and in the golf swing with fluidity – a natural uninhibited movement done without trying to aggressively hit the ball.

Unity of Upper and Lower Body. “The root is in the feet; it is issued through the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed in the hands.” In Tai Chi and in golf, rooted feet provide a firm foundation which is necessary for stability allowing movement to initiate from the feet and progress upward.

The Unity of Internal and External. Here we learn in Tai Chi “[t]he spirit is the leader and the body is at its command.” Thus, when the inner and outer are unified as one we have connection without interruption. This stands for the proposition that in proper Tai Chi form both the mind and the body are unified. The same is true for proper golf form. Years ago, a British golf professional, instructor, and writer dealt with this fundamental in his golf instruction book. As Percy Boomer explains as a young professional he recognized good golf form has both physical and mental components. Initially he struggled to assign percentages between the two until he came to a revelation – “we never act purely psychologically or purely physically … every act is carried out in psychophysical unison.” When this unison is properly functioning there is “conscious control” – a balance between mind and body – which is what is necessary for proper golf form and proper Tai Chi form.

Continuity Without Interruption. This fundamental continues to emphasize the mind. In Tai Chi, proper form requires the mind to be always present and control the urge to use strength in an external clumsy way. Proper form further requires that there be no interruption. We must be “complete and continuous, circular and unending.” In golf, this fundamental means proper golf swing form requires “Rhythm.” As stated by Percy Boomer, rhythm is “flowing motion.” It is the continuous movement coordinated by mind and muscle to do the right form at the right time. As in Tai Chi, Boomer teaches that slow continuous movement beats force every time. Boomer explains to be rhythmic we must use our mind to control the urge to hit too soon at the ball (called hitting from the top) As in Tai Chi, this early urge to use excess force results in clumsy non-rhythmic form. Continuity without interruption is thus required to achieve the rhythm necessary for proper form in the golf swing.

Seek Stillness in Movement. This fundamental recognizes that in Tai Chi there is movement but it is a movement in a slow, evenly paced form. Here Tai Chi is contrasted from the outward martial art forms such as Karate. Golf like Tai Chi is a slow moving sport. It is unlike rapid sports that rely on bursts of energy. Superior golf form demands a controlled even pace throughout the “round of golf.” As Tiger Woods says, “my creative mind is my greatest weapon.” Slow paced focused movement in Tai Chi leads to good form. In golf good form requires staying our natural rhythm and routine, and focusing solely on what needs to be accomplished. We do this by seeking stillness in movement.


I continue to practice and develop in the Tai Chi form and the Golf form. I work on form without worrying about results. The greatest pleasure in both is from the pursuit of the best possible form. This continued pursuit – the means – is a life long quest. The result – the end – will take care of itself. As for golf the pursuit of the best form is enhanced through the application of The Ten Essentials.

    December 3rd, 2018

    The Varieties of Religious Experience- le point vierge

    Thomas Merton says he cannot define le point vierge so he describes his sudden “realization” while on the corner of 4th and Walnut in Louisville with people in a shopping area:

    Then it was as if I saw the secret beauty in their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. … Again that expression, le pointe verge, (I cannot describe it) comes in here. At the center our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God. … This little point…is the pure glory of God in us. …It is like a diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in every body.

    Merton discusses “the secret beauty” as being in the hearts of the people in the crowd. Thinking of this makes me realize:

    1. My heart and brain developed progressively as a fetus in my mother’s womb, and they are my connection with  God or “The Universal Mind.” 

    2. My heart has its own nervous system with electromagnetic energy greater than my brain, and my heart’s electromagnetic energy is a source of communication as it can be detected as an energy wave.

    3. Through my heart’s rhythm I can connect to the point in my heart of soulfulness, higher consciousness and spiritual rythmatic energy which entered my heart while I was a fetus in my mother’s womb.

    Meister Eckhart teaches- St. John says: “See how great the love the Father has shown us that we are called  the children of God.” Eckerd tells us we cannot be God’s child without having the same being as God’s child.

    My connection with God- “The Universal Mind”- is found in my heart. By connecting my heart’s rhythm with the universal rhythm  I can get to the point in my heart Merton refers to as  le point verge.

      December 16th, 2017

      THE WAY OF CHUANG TZU-THOMAS MERTON

      WHEN THE SHOE FITS

      Ch’ui the draftsman  Could draw more perfect circles freehand   Than with a compass.

      His fingers brought forth   Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind   Was meanwhile free and without concern   With what he was doing.

      No application was needed   His mind was perfectly simple   And knew no obstacle.

      So, when the shoe fits   The foot is forgotten,   When the belt fits   The belly is forgotten,   When the heart is right   “For” and “against” are forgotten.

      No drives, no compulsions,   No needs, no attractions;   Then your affairs   Are under control.   You are a free man.

      Easy is right. Begin right   And you are easy.   Continue easy and you are right.   The right way to go easy   Is to forget the right way   And forget that the going is easy.

      Thomas Merton The Way Of Chuang Tzu (Abbey of Gethsemane 1965).

        April 14th, 2017

        Learning from Thomas Merton-The Humble Trial Lawyer

        As a humble trial  lawyer I have a better chance of trying my case at the highest level. According to Thomas Merton “[t]rue humility excludes self-consciousness… .” Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation at 112 (New Directions 1949).

        When I am humble I am beyond thinking of myself. I am only concerned with my client, with the pursuit of justice and with accomplishing this at trial. In this state I have no illusions to defend. My movements are free.

        As a humble lawyer I “can do great things with an uncommon perfection because I am no longer concerned about incidentals, like my interests and my reputation, and therefore I no longer need to waste my efforts in defending them.” Id. at 113. As a humble lawyer I am not afraid of failure. In fact I am not afraid of anything, even myself, since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of … [believing in myself and my client’s case] … and there is no such thing as an obstacle.”Id.

         

         

         

          March 26th, 2017

          Learning from Thomas Merton

          Thomas Merton in THE WAY OF CHUNG TZU discusses the classic Ju philosophy of Confucius. A philosophy “built on basic social relationships and obligations that are essential to a humane life and … develop the human potentialities of each person in his relationship to others.” Merton, THE WAY OF CHUNG TZU at 17-18 (New Directions 1965).

          By fulfilling the commands of nature which are commands of love we develop an “inner [subconscious] potential for love, understanding, reverence and wisdom.” Id. at 18. Here we live at the highest level. (According to Merton, Confucius claims it took until he was 70 to reach this level).

          When we apply Ju philosophy to the practice of law we practice law at the highest level.  Merton outlines three steps to accomplish this:

          Compassion. We must have a “compassionate and devoted love, charged with deep empathy and sincerity, that enables [us] to identify with the troubles and joys of others as if they were [our] own.” Id. As lawyers this means we must have a compassionate and devoted love charged with sincerity and empathy for our client and our jury. We must feel our client’s plight and have a feeling of love and acceptance for the jury panel. This requires internalizing compassion into our subconscious mind before the trial begins.

          Sense of Justice. We must have a sense of justice, responsibility, duty and obligation to others and society. As lawyers this means we stand for fairness for our client. When we can get fairness through negotiation we negotiate. When we cannot get fairness through negotiation we try the case. Before trial we must internalize the reality that fairness for our client can only be accomplished through trial. This must be seeded into our subconscious mind so it is our natural state or presence.

          Disinterest. We must be completely disinterested in ourself. “The mark of the ‘Noble Minded Man’ is that he does not do things simply because they are pleasing or profitable to himself, but because they flow from an unconditional moral imperative.” Id. This moral imperative is justice which, as I interpret Merton, is good in itself. “Hence, anyone who is guided  by the profit motive … is not capable of [being genuine].” Id.

          If I am at “the Merton level” in a jury trial good things will happen. I am before the jury with deeply seeded love in my heart. I love my client, and I go into voir dire with love and acceptance for the panel. My mindset/feeling is recognized by the panel as acceptance. Since I am in trial only because justice demands it, my words and body language demonstrate my pursuit of fairness. Being disinterested the panel recognizes my pursuit of justice as pure rather than tainted by a profit or a for me motive. The panel will respond favorably as jury members also desire fairness and they have the ability to ensure it with their verdict.

            December 25th, 2012

            The Varieties of Religious Experience-Zen

            The first step is “a loosening of the body, without which” nothing can be properly done. This “physical loosening must … be continued in a mental and spiritual loosening, so as to make the mind not only agile, but free; agile because of its freedom, and free because of its original agility; and this original agility is essentially different from everything that is usually understood by mental agility.

            Between the two states of a relaxed body and spiritual freedom “there is a difference of level…[reached] by withdrawing from all attachments [a] becoming utterly egoless: so that the soul, sunk within itself, stands in the plenitude of its nameless origin.”

            To accomplish actionless activity instinctively “the soul needs an inner hold, and it wins it by concentrating on breathing. … The breathing in, like the breathing out, is practiced again and again… with utmost care. One does not have to wait long for results. The more one concentrates on breathing, the more the external stimuli fade into the background.” Soon we become detached from all stimuli. We only know and feel our breath. Our breathing slows to the point it escapes our attention.

            “This state, in which nothing definite is thought, planned, striven for, desired or expected, which aims in no particular direction and yet knows itself capable alike of the possible and the impossible, so unswerving is its power-this state, which is at the bottom purposeless and egoless …[is] truly spiritual.”

            Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (1953).

              December 20th, 2012

              The Varieties of Religious Experience-Abandonment

              There is nothing more generous than a person who sees the relation of the world with God “in all troubles and the most likely of dangers.” It may be a matter of facing death, marching into the unknown, or working like a slave. In all such things the person finds the fullness of his relationship with God engulfing him instantly.

              “An army of soldiers with such a spirit would be invincible. For faith lifts and expands the heart above and beyond all that the senses fear.” It is a delight to be one with God as there is a confidence in one’s actions which makes everything acceptable. There is also “a certain detachment of soul which enables us to handle any situation and every kind of person.”

              With faith in God “we are never unhappy and never weak.” This is because we always see God “acting behind happenings which bewilder our senses. Srticken with terror, our senses suddenly cry to the soul: ‘Unhappy wretch, now you are lost and there’s no hope of rescue!’ The robust voice of  faith instantly replies: ‘Hold fast, go forward and fear nothing.’

              Jean-Pierre De Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence (d.1751)(First Image Books edition 1975)(Chapter III (4) at 64)(edited by P.A.T.)

                December 12th, 2012

                The Varieties of Religious Experience-Mysticism

                I live, yet not I, but God liveth in me. Only when I become as nothing can God enter in and no difference between God and me remains.

                “This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and God is the great mystic achievement.” In mystic states the person becomes one with God.

                This is the “everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition,” unaltered by race or creed. “In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land. Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old.” William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)(Mysticism).

                An example of a mystical experience is cited by James:

                In my consciousness of God which comes to me sometimes a presence not a personality but something in myself makes me feel a part of something bigger. In these times I feel myself one with the grass, the trees, birds, insects, everything in Nature. I exalt “in the mere fact of existence, of being part of it all-the drizzling rain, the shadows of the clouds, the tree trunks, and so on.”  As the years go by such moments continue to come, but I want them continually. This is because I know “so well the satisfaction of losing self in a perception of supreme power and love,” that I am happy when this perception is constant. (James citing Starbuck’s Collection).

                  December 6th, 2012

                  The Varieties of Religious Experience (Saintliness)

                  “The collective name for the ripe fruits of religion in a character is Saintliness. The saintly character is the character for which spiritual emotions are the habitual centre of personal energy; and there is a certain composite photograph of universal saintliness, the same in all religions, of which the features can be easily traced:”

                  1) The saintly person has a feeling of a life beyond selfish interest. This is combined with a conviction of the existence of an “Ideal Power.”

                  2) The saintly person has a sense of a friendly continuity with the “Ideal Power” and her own life.

                  3) The saintly person becomes elated and free as the outlines of confining selfhood are absent.

                  4) In the saintly person there is a “shifting of the emotional centre towards loving and harmonious affections,” towards “yes” rather than “no” without regard to what others think.

                  According to William James these saintly inner conditions have the practical consequence of:

                  a) Asceticism- The lack of concern for material goods and comfort. A giving up of fighting for worldly  pleasure.

                  b) Strength of Soul– A lack of fear and anxiety, replaced by a “blissful equanimity.”  This is because of a  trusting of the natural order of things.

                  c) Purity– As the “sensitiveness to spiritual discords is enhanced, [there is a] cleansing of existence from brutal and sensual elements… .”

                  d) Charity– There is “a tenderness for fellow creatures. … The saint loves his enemies, and treats loathsome beggars as brothers.”

                  William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, (1902)(Saintliness)

                    December 25th, 2011

                    James and Eckhart (We are the Son)

                    I was converted in my bedroom. I was in perfect health. I was in no way troubled by my soul. A friend sent me a copy of Professor Drummond’s Natural Law in the Spiritual World. I soon read this passage and saw the light: He that hath the son hath eternal life, he that hath not the son hath not life. This is because my reading of Meister Eckhart came to focus:

                    St. John says “See how great is the love that the Father has shown us, that we are called and are the children of God.” He says not only “we are called” but “we are.” “So I say that just as we cannot be wise without wisdom, so we cannot be a son without having the same being as God’s son.”

                    It is written: Beloved, we are the sons of God, and we shall be like him (John 3:2). So I say God could not make me the son of God if I had not the nature of God’s son.

                     

                    William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience; Meister Eckhart (14th Century Mystic); (edit by PAT).