As we go through life, we all have our ups and downs. Our physical condition may vary with age or with illness or injury. Our mental and emotional states may be affected by trauma or celebration. If we seek to go through our lives naturally, however, we can fully participate in our lives in the best way possible.
Living and playing naturally is one lesson I’ve learned from my love of golf. While playing golf
, I’ve tried many techniques, trying to force my body to adapt to prescribed movements. I realized from these attempts that while practice is important, our best swing results from working with our bodies instead of against them.
We can especially see this as we get older. Golf can potentially be played from childhood until the end, and over time, we can improve with age and practice. The golf game
of a 22-year-old is unlikely to be the same, though, as the game of a 102-year-old.
I could clearly see this when I played with 102-year-old Jongjin Lee
. The first time I saw him drive the ball, I noticed his stable posture and smooth swing, and I thought, “Oh, he’s doing the most perfect swing he can right now!” Even though a younger man of the same level may have been able to hit the ball a hundred yards farther, I saw beauty in his stroke.
Find Your Own Rhythm
Golf swings are said to be like fingerprints, so there’s no need to imitate anyone. A top woman golfer who’s famous for her unique swing, Inbee Park, once said, “It’s important to swing naturally with your own rhythm.” She also said that although she’s learned a lot about the swing from famous coaches, being bound by an overly mechanical swing seemed to make her lose her natural rhythm. By studying her own body, she developed a swing that was more successfully with her lower flexibility and weaker wrists compared to other players. Being true to her own natural rhythm
helped her turn her weaknesses into strengths and become successful.
It’s the same for all of us. Regardless of the task, activity, or sport, we’re most beautiful and successful when we do our best with the conditions we have. I believe this is because, in the process of doing so, we become the fullest expressions of ourselves. Being natural, to me, means revealing and using our true nature, which is naturally part of nature itself.
We can do this when we strengthen the connection between mind and body. By consciously paying attention to our body and sensing what it feels and how it moves, we can bring the full capacity of our brain and all of our energy into what we’re doing. We can recognize stiffness or pain, and ease them or work them out instead of making them worse. We can also discover the most beneficial and efficient ways to move with our particular limb lengths, flexibility, agility, and muscle strength, and we can maintain a subtle feel for what we’re doing. We can find our own rhythm.
Add Up Each Moment of Time
Though our abilities may change, this approach does not need to change. It allows us to adjust our movements
, and even our focus and emotional reaction, to the needs and conditions of the moment. It is moment by moment that we can be the most natural.
Yet doing a complex task, or a difficult movement like a golf swing, requires time and effort to do naturally. The athletes who look the most casual and relaxed became that way after hours and hours of sweat-filled practice and repeated trial and error. We cannot copy the result of all those hours in one go; we need to move naturally from where we are.
When you do live in a way that’s perfect for you, you feel at one with yourself and all nature. You have balance and harmony, just like nature. Unadorned nature radiates beauty at every moment. An oak tree doesn’t try to become a pine tree. It just strives to grow as a beautiful oak tree. Just as the flowers, trees, and birds of the forest have different colors, sounds, and feelings, each of us has our own rhythm
and energy. We feel joy when we’re free to express our own colors, feelings, and inspirations.
No one else can teach you naturalness. You have to find, feel, and create it yourself, for it is a rhythm unique to you—one you can share with no one else.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about living and playing golf naturally in Ilchi Lee’s book, The 100-Year Golfer: 7 Arts for a Lifetime with the Game.