You Can’t Think And Hit

Yogi Berra, the philosopher of baseball (and a pretty good catcher and coach), said, “You can’t think and hit at the same time.”

I played a lot of tennis while in high school. Being inquisitive and a reader, I found a book that was sort of a Zen and the Art of Archery (I read that one, too) for tennis. It didn’t teach the differences of hitting a serve versus ground strokes or even the different grips for hard court versus grass courts versus clay courts. It was more of a mental/spiritual approach of stilling the mind, focus on the ball, letting the body hit the ball.

I’m a terrible golfer. But to be any good takes more practice than I had time for. Or cared to find time for. But, when I’m playing with a beginner and they are getting worked up over stance and swing and stuff, I will gently say, there are a thousand things they teach you about the golf swing. Forget them. Look up at where you want the ball to go. Look down and focus only on the ball. Hit the ball.

Assuming the coach had practiced the player hitting the baseball over and over, the best coaching I’ve heard during a kid’s game to a hitter—see the ball, hit the ball.

Spiritual practices (disciplines) can be like that. Thinking about them, following some set of rules about them, that all gets in the way of the practice.

When you sit down to pray…pray. Talk and listen. Don’t make it complicated thinking about all the varieties of prayer. Talk and listen. Or, listen and talk.

Study is reading, pausing, thinking. Looking up words you don’t know. Considering new points of view. The more you read, the easier to get into the flow of study.

Meditation need not be complicated either. That is because in whatever tradition you are trying it—saying on of the mantras (sounds) from Yoga (Om, or Ram, and so on), or a Zen koan (the sound of one hand clapping…), or repeating the Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner)—these are designed for you to focus the mind, listen to your breath, find stillness.

The more you try, the harder it is.

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