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Deepak Chopra

"Growing up in India, I was a cricket player, captain of my university team. When I discovered golf less than two years ago, the fairways reminded me of a cricket field and my whole childhood came flooding back. The game has allowed me to re-embrace my youth, and something more: It has taught me how much a game can be like life.

"Golf is more mental than other sports, and more spiritual. I often play alone, and it feels like meditation. When I join other players, that too is revealing, because this game really shows you a person's character. After five minutes in a foursome I can tell you who's reckless in life, who's a risk taker, who's conservative and who gets mad at his wife.

"I meet people on the course who are so driven and obsessed they don't enjoy themselves. To me, that makes no sense. The point of the game is play. But it's always challenging. Yesterday I hit one bad shot, and my game got worse from there. The day before that, however, I had a birdie and then another immediately after. It's like the law of karma: Your past influences your present.

"Working on my new book, Golf for Enlightenment: The Seven Lessons for the Game of Life, was a fascinating process. I read everything I could find on the mechanics of the swing, from Tiger Woods back to Ben Hogan. I can tell you what every instructor says about mechanics, but I also learned that unless I take my time—unless I'm totally centered—my own shot never comes off. The moment I'm even in a slight hurry, or I start thinking about the result of my swing, I've already hit a bad shot. And no matter how self-aware you are, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your self-esteem derives in part from your score. In spirituality, the highest form of human intelligence is to observe yourself without judging yourself. Observe yourself without evaluation. That process can bring about a transformation in your behavior. And in your game.

"The book interweaves golf lessons with the mystical tale of a struggling player who meets a mysterious young teaching pro named Leela. This mirrors the true story of a pro, Wendy Werley, who was suffering from migraine headaches related to performance anxiety when she came to see me at the Chopra Center at La Costa Resort and Spa. Our work together changed both of us and led me to write Golf for Enlightenment.

"Toward the end of the book there's a chapter called 'The Ball Knows Everything.' One great principle of spirituality is that the world is a mirror: Whatever you see out there is a reflection of what's happening inside you. When I say the ball knows everything, I mean that each shot you hit is a result of everything that's going on inside. Every shot is a function of your inner state, your spiritual self.

"When I'm here at La Costa I play every day, usually alone, either at the end of the day or early in the morning. Being on the course at dawn, with the day's first light on the green, is intoxicating. I don't have a regular game. Nor do I bet. There's an ancient Hindu proverb that goes, 'There is nothing to be gained in being superior to someone; but a lot to be gained in being superior to your previous self.'

"I am very disciplined in my daily exercise. Every morning I spend almost two hours in my gym at home and I watch the Golf Channel most of the time. I like watching Jesper Parnevik, who is something of a follower of mine. And Tiger, of course.

"My best moment in golf came on a hole that started horribly. I hit a poor drive on a par four, then hit a three-wood that went into a fairway bunker about 150 yards from the green. I took a seven-iron and swung effortlessly. The ball landed inches before the flagstick and dove into the hole. I was playing alone, but there was a maintenance worker sitting by a tree near the hole, and as I went up to the green he gave me a big smile and thumbs-up.

"Since then I have lectured all over the world and played some fascinating courses. At the Delhi Golf Club in India, you see peacocks majestically strutting across the fairways. There's also a warning: BEWARE! MONKEYS WILL STEAL YOUR BALL. There are ruins in the middle of the course that go back 2,000 years. Many players take three caddies: one to carry the bag and two to look for lost balls. Mysteriously, the balls you thought were lost always find themselves in perfect lies—thanks to the caddies!

"Golf is a mysterious game. It's about seeking self-knowledge, good karma and the peace that comes from being in tune with one's swing and one's inner self.

"Not to mention a birdie or two."

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