The fifth affliction listed in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra is FEAR OF CHANGE and/or CLINGING TO LIFE (abhinivesha. II:3, II:9). Also translated from Sanskrit as ‘fear of death’, our ignorance and egoism cling to our golf game as we know it. Sprinkle on some memories of our past attachments and aversions to our previous golf adventures, and our performance on the course can feel like death.
For example, we know our old grip is incorrect but we stay with it because it feels ‘comfortable’. And even though the grip is causing a 20 yard slice and a more fundamentally neutral grip will straighten out our ball flight, we cling to our unskillful habit because we are afraid to change. The old way, even though it is not recommended, simply feels safer.
Why is change so hard? Both physical and mental elements contribute to our clinging to our current golf games. From a modern biological standpoint, our golf swings are merely ‘puppets’ for our nervous system. Muscles only contract when the nervous system tells them to activate. The more we use a neuropathway, the thicker the layer of the myelin protein wraps around the nerve cells and the more efficiently they fire. This grooves the motion we have practiced. Therefore, the two-decade old incorrect grip has been fully ‘myelinated’ and now we are fighting against our biology.
We are also genetically predisposed to be ‘negatively’ biased and afraid of change. We’re the only species that can self-generate fear without a cause. The crazy cave person who tried a new way up the coconut tree usually fell to their dare-devilish death (no, they weren’t looking for their golf ball). Mr. and Mrs. Dangerous didn’t pass on their ‘innovative’ genetic material like the safer cave people who avoided risky change.
If we are not ready to embrace change, we should not even attempt to play golf. When we challenge ourselves to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, we discover that the impossible is possible. We can make better golf shots with our new grip. We can resolve our self-defeating thoughts and patterns and not let our innate fear of change corrupt our golf games. Alchemy can happen in golf.
This is the fifth of a five part series on the Afflictions according to Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra.
Dodie Mazzuca is the founder of Golf PROformance and teaches golf and Mindfulness for Golf programs in Santa Cruz, CA.