Gestalt Golf

Esalen's Mike Murphy and Dick Price combined in one concept.
See the ball, see the ground.


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Comment from John Callahan
Golf can be regarded as another awareness practice, much like walking meditation, except much more rich and complicated. And like all awareness practices, the real benefits are the skills and lessons carried into everyday life. Learning awareness in a practice influences how we are.

Pam's response to John's comment
We, as a species, need these awareness skills now and will need them even more in the future. The faster things change the more we need to know what is happening here and now.

Manual of Gestalt Practice in the tradition of Dick Price, by John F. Callahan,

Here is a sample from the manual's Gestalt Glossary:
MINDFULNESS: This is a state of enhanced awareness of one's sensations, perceptions, thoughts, motivations and actions . It is an essential element of the Buddhist Eightfold Path that leads to liberation. Mindfulness is the basic objective of insight meditation. The practice of mindfulness consists of bringing one's awareness into the present moment, away from preoccupation with the past or future. One method (among many) to accomplish this objective is to pay attention to breathing, which inevitably happens in the present. By staying with the present, the practitioner realizes that their mind is continually thinking about and judging experience. This produces the insight that some thoughts are not necessarily useful. Ultimately, this process leads to freedom or release from these thoughts. The concept of mindfulness is a fundamental point of intersection between Gestalt practice and the less mystical schools of Buddhism, such as Theravada. The difference is that Gestalt practice, besides enhancing awareness, employs techniques that a practitioner uses to directly intervene into the intermediate zone where thinking happens, to resolve conflicts and integrate aspects of mind.
In golf, if you really
look at where the 
ground really is, 
as opposed to where 
you expect it to be, 
you will see what a 
moving target life is.

Gestalt golf

© Pam Portugal Walatka
Revised October 16, 2015

Gestalt golf is the practice of seeing the ball and the grass, all at once in the moment of the swing. Instead of just keeping your eyes on the ball, you allow your eyes to see the foreground and the background. On your tee shot, after you see the flash of the club going through your frame of vision, you see the tee jump. Then you see just the grass.

See the Ground

Nothing in golf is harder than focusing on the ball, nor more important. If you look up in the middle of your swing, your eyes are not telling your arms where the ball is. Being a nanometer off target sends your ball into the woods.

In psychology, Gestalt is about seeing the background as well as the foreground. In Gestalt golf, you keep your eye on the ground as well as on the ball.

Awareness in Gestalt golf includes the miniature differences in the ground surrounding the ball. When you are actually seeing the ground, you see the elevation of the ball compared to your feet. One quarter inch change in the elevation could determine whether or not the sweet spot on your club makes contact with the exact back of the ball. You take a practice swing to determine where the ball is compared to your feet. But then you move your feet. When you move a few inches closer to your ball, your relationship to the ball might change slightly, enough to throw off your swing. If you are practicing Gestalt golf you look again at your relationship to the ground around your ball.

The physical relationship between your head and the ground is fundamentally important in golf. You have to know where the ground is compared to your eyes compared to your swing. For me, it helps to press my back foot down during my waggle, fixing the distance from my back foot to my eyes. That distance is defined by the unchanging length of my bones and the angles of those bones to each other. If I keep the angles constant as I swing, I maintain the distance from my eyes to the ground under my back foot. My torso is rotating, but my height is unchanged.

By pressing down my backfoot before I swing, I establish my eye-to-ball-and-ground distance. That distance remains constant through my swing. I stare at the ball and the ground under the ball so that my arms know where I want the clubhead to be at the moment of contact.

Easier Said Than Done

How I wish I could always remember to do that. All golfers know they are supposed to keep looking at the ball. Adding in an awareness of the ground does not make it any easier. Being in the moment, experiencing the moment, is extraordinarily difficult and requires years of practice on the golf course and off. The art of staying in the moment can be learned through mindfulness meditation or Gestalt awareness practice.

The keyword in this story is PRACTICE. You learn to focus by practicing awareness meditation every day.

Gestalt Golf

Derivation of 'Gestalt golf':
  1. Gestalt psychology with focus on the interplay of foreground and background
  2. Gestalt group-psychotherapy as developed by Fritz Perls
  3. Gestalt awareness practice as developed by Dick and Christine Price with focus on practicing awareness in the moment
  4. Transcendent golf as described by Michael Murphy in Golf and the Kingdom.
'Gestalt golf' coined by Pam Portugal Walatka 2010.

It is all about your relationship with the ground.

Happy golfing!

See also

See also our other sites

me yoga
Pam's Yoga
Esalen in the 1960s
beach house
Adjacent beach
houses for rent
in Nicaragua
Wild Horses
Peter Portugal
Automobile Design
and Fabrication
Lazy Compost

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