Self-Learning: sometimes happy, sometimes sad

After a farm accident left me unable to play any contact sports or the love of my life, baseball, I started golfing for Burlington High School (BHS) golf team. I was a freshman and played only freshman team matches. I wasn’t very good but began to fall in love with the game.

Throughout high school I played as much as I could during the summer, even though in my sophomore year I transferred to St Francis Seminary to study for the Catholic priesthood. The school that had no golf team. As a freshman on the BHS golf team, I could play at Browns Lake for free. Fortunately, during my high school and college life I continued to play for free at Browns Lake because the owners charged no greens to priests and students in the seminary. So, I continued to enjoy playing, until I left the seminary to marry Mary.

As a married man and teacher, I moved away from golfing, traversing the golf course only during summer vacations up North. I began to think that golfing was for wealthy people. I was establishing a deeply rooted thought pattern, which is the Yoga Tradition is called a “samskara.” As my environmental awareness and holistic orientation toward life became more up-front in my life, I began to see golfing as a practice that was not necessarily consistent with my morality. It was a game to be played only for financially wealthy people, according to its origin. “GOLF” was an acronym for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.”

Well, when I retired from teaching at Marian University, Mary’s brother, sister and sister-in-law gave me a brand new, technologically advanced set of golf clubs. I was using my original high school clubs which were now 55 years old. It was a complete surprise! I couldn’t believe it! Down deep, I didn’t even want them. I remember hearing my ego say, “I shouldn’t have these clubs because it will mean that I should play more.” Of course, that is exactly what by brother-in-law wanted, because we golfed on vacation each year up North and he was hoping that we could form a team to get involved in tournaments. I guess he saw the potential in me as a golfer.

So, during that first venture out onto the golf course in Door County, during a retirement celebration weekend, the “unexpected” happened. I pulled my hamstring muscle on the 12th hole tee shot. My mental “samskara” was so strong that it affected my body. I could not continue the rest of the round, but sat in the golf cart in agonizing pain.

Upon reflection, I remembered Swami Rama’s explanation of suffering. In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (11:48) he said, “If one analyzes his circumstances, he will find that they are actually self-created. The predicaments one experiences are a result of his disorderly mind, which does not know how to adjust itself to the various relationships that he has created for himself. Verily, all miseries are self-created.”

My mind pulled my hamstring muscle because I thought that I should have nothing to do with the golf world except during vacations. I was in the predicament of family and myself wanting me to develop a golfing lifestyle, even securing a handicap when my mind had set up a morality of “don’t be involved with something that is so discriminatory and environmentally damaging.” So, my mind sabotaged the wonder selfless opportunity to enjoy retirement with my brother-in-law and his family’s precious gift.

Wow! What a learning. I didn’t know what to do! I was suffering a lot until Swamiji’s words came back to me. “The predicaments one experiences are a result of his disorderly mind.” I now knew that all I needed to do was put my mind in order.

But how does one do that?

The Yoga Tradition and Swamiji say that it is done through “sadhana,” which means, “through a daily practice of abhyasa.

So, I started my “abhyasa” and life changed dramatically, in reference to golf.

I will explain next blog.


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