Contemplatives Seek Mystical Meanings

"Years ago I knew a thoughtful, morally elevated man. He was married, retired, and affluent. He golfed every weekday. You might say golf turned him on spiritually. The golf course was his sanctuary. Maybe golf was his prayer. Each morning, leaving his house, he'd call out to his wife, 'See you later. I'm going to the office.' Then he'd stroll across the street to the golf course (his office). For hours each Monday through Friday, he'd amble over acres of greens, lugging golf clubs, bantering with pals, envisioning his next shots and the grand, mysterious movement of life. He was the first casual contemplative I'd ever known, yet a more disciplined intent I've rarely encountered.

"My friend was not religious —he was no chuchgoer, no fan of anything organized, and no joiner of groups. He was spiritual. In him I sensed a hunger for life lived full out, with truthfulness and overarching passion. Apparently in golf he found a contemplative discipline that led to more abundant life, quite possibly one with mystical meaning.

"Michael Murphy views the game of golf through a similarly transcendent filter. To Murphy, golf symbolizes life's spiritual motion, for he writes, surely we are progressing toward something: 'There is no escaping the long march of our lives: that is part of the reason people reenact it again and again on the golf course, my golfing teacher said. They are working out something built into their genes.'

"Why can't golfers and quilters and grocery clerks be considered saintly, if they measure up? That's how I picture Harvey Penick, the legendary golf teacher — as saintly, certainly as a life lover. Only saints and life lovers demystify spirituality, and encourage us to be true-blue to ourselves. Penick always taught his students to be authentic, no matter what else seemed to be going on:

" '[Before an important game] do as you usually do. If you ordinarily have a couple of drinks in the evening, do it. If you have been going to bed at 11 P.M., do not crawl between the sheets two hours earlier than normal . . .You must understand that it is your mind that will have the most to do with how you play in the big match.'


"So back to spiritual fingerprints: What brings you to life? How do you love to use your mind? When left to your own devices, how do you learn best? What activities, normal doings, or spiritual dreams give you a lift? Your deepest mind will tell you secrets and can reveal how you're inclined to pray in the Spirit, heal, love, and be most alive. That information comes with contemplative alertness. Ultimately it's your own attention that unsettles you or puts you at ease."