Andrew Parr is a golf coach who has played on every major professional golf tour in the world, from the PGA Tour to the European Tour to the Latin American Tour and beyond. In this blog post, Andrew shares how meditation has transformed his game, his relationships and his life.
I wish someone had told me when I was a kid that it was okay to feel upset, sad, anxious and fearful. When my father died when I was 12, the feelings of sadness, anger and abandonment that I experienced were so strong that I could hardly function.
I still remember my hockey coaches sitting me down and asking why I wasn’t playing well. “Are you kidding me?” I recall thinking. Why was it considered a bad thing to feel those emotions and let them affect me? Over time, I’ve seen the unhealthy side effects of a culture that encourages us to push our feelings aside. We have a tough day at work and we need to drink to get over it, or we get in a fight with our partner, or lose ourselves in overeating. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we got better at feeling?
There have been so many things that have surprised me about meditation, but perhaps the biggest is that it has allowed me to be with my emotions, while not letting emotions run my life.
Golf Tips: How Meditation Changed My Life
I first encountered meditation when I was nine and my uncle encouraged me to feel the sensation of breath in my body. I began more formal, sitting meditation in 2005, but it wasn’t something I did every day. Still, as a competitive athlete and professional golfer, I spent many hours and days in a mindful state. I started meditating with Muse in January 2015, and it allowed me to see when my mind was becoming distracted, sooner. And now I’ve learned not to fight distracting emotion, but to feel it.
Until I had this breakthrough, I was always trying stay busy and ignore my feelings. Busy with work, relationships… Even practising yoga and playing golf in the past wasn’t truly meditative, because I was escaping my reality, trying not to feel, or using a positive outlook to cover up uncomfortable emotions.
Now I have a tool to know myself, and it’s called meditation. I typically meditate for 15 minutes as soon as I wake up and then take short meditation breaks throughout the day. I have meditated in pretty much every scenario, from a busy airport to the street to the woods. I’ll stop to meditate anytime I feel myself getting uncomfortable, and typically it’s in a very hectic area!
Having a better understanding of myself has changed my perspective and helped me become more empathetic. I respond instead of reacting, and am no longer uncomfortable with emotion. Having recently gone through a breakup, I’ve sat in sadness. And what I’ve discovered is that I can feel “bad” emotions such as anger or sadness deeply, be okay in that experience and actually be at peace. I don’t need anything to satisfy me. To me, that’s happiness.
Golf Tips: Advice on how to start with mindfulness
I’ve also been reading a book called The Presence Process: A Healing Journey Into Present Moment Awareness by Michael Brown, a training manual to be with yourself. After travelling to over 35 countries for golf and always being on the move, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
In terms of advice to others, though, I don’t think you need to read books about meditation. Even if you’re just learning to meditate, all you really need to do is to sit down, feel the sensation of your breath and be aware of sensations and the thoughts rolling through your head. You don’t need to get rid of your thoughts or empty your mind, you just need to see that they’re there. Muse is really helpful, as well—whether you’re a beginner or an experienced meditator—because it lets you see and hear how effectively you’re meditating in each session. Plus, it teaches you to focus and trains you to be consistent about meditating more often.
Meditation helps us get better at feeling. So we know where we’re at and we’re okay with that. Then feelings don’t run our lives, and we have a surplus of energy that we can respond with. Imagine being in a place where you can handle anything and you thrive on learning from discomfort. Then you can truly connect with your partner, your kids, your coworkers and your friends. I’ve had glimpse of this—through a moment-to-moment meditation practice—and I’m loving the curiosity and peace that it’s brought out in me.
Have the courage to dig deep.