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Posted By Opening the Heart

   I don't really consider myself a golfer, but I do play once or twice a year. Because I'm not an accomplished player, I'm not at risk for taking it too seriously and that allows me to enjoy the beauty of the course and being outdoors and to just have some fun with friends. I've learned from more accomplished partners about an interesting phenomenon called a "mulligan'. A mulligan, as I understand it, is basically a "do-over". If I take a tee shot and top it into the pond, I can ask for a "mulligan", and I tee it up again and, instead of hitting it into the pond, this time I can whack it into the woods. This, of course, logically, leads to the understanding that there are a limited number of times you can take a do-over. If you take the game half seriously, which occasionally I do, the bad shot can lead to self judgment, embarassment, discouragement (not to mention, clearly, what it feels like to screw up two shots in a row).

   One of my all-time favorite movies is "Groundhog Day". It's basically a love story but with a very clever twist. Bill Murray, as a reporter, goes to Punxsatawney to see if the groundhog shows his shadow on February 2nd. He gets to play the same day over and over and over again. He wakes up at 6am to his wake-up alarm: Sonny and Cher singing "I Got You Babe". Over the course of each replayed day he keeps making stupid mistakes, awkward social gaffes, unkind words, one arrogance too many. But over time, as he continues his do-overs, he makes fewer errors, the rough edges get smoothed, the periods of thoughtlessness become more mindful. As he becomes more loving, he becomes more loveable and real, and Andie Macdowell falls totally in love with him. He could have packed his suitcase, left Punxsatawney and continued to bump into his self-created karma, but he chose the harder path, the true path for a man, i.e., trying to "get it right", of becoming a loving warrior.

   Just about every one of the patients I see in my practice who has struggled with some kind of addiction, has followed the same "groundhog path" of do-overs. Not one of these people decides, after a 30 year addiction, to just start over and they do it, they get it right. They all "fail" many times before they have solid footing on a recovery path. But the GPS coordinates in my office call for a different language. In my office patients don't talk about gaffes or periods of thoughtlessness. They call them relapses. They lapse and then re-lapse. And, with each relapse comes, I think, the same kind of discouragement, shame, self consciousness (but bigger and deeper) that a semi-serious golfer experiences when they hit a bad tee shot. I bow to everyone who has the courage to risk trying again to get things right. I do find myself giving a deeper bow to the men who have this kind of courage because I just believe that it's harder in our culture for men to find the support and to give themselves the permission to do this kind of inner soul retrieval work.

   I've heard it said that on a spiritual journey, being off the path is part of the path. I've also heard it put another way in regard to developing a mindfulness meditation practice: it doesn't matter how many times we go away. What matters is how many times we come back. So, may we all come back, again and again, from discouragement, loss and heartbreak until we hit a clean, straight, 200 yard drive right down the center of the fairway.

   With Love and Respect, JonJon

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