Trying to take the next step with your golf game? Maybe you should spend 10 days of total silence engaged in the 2,500-year-old Buddhist practice of Vipassana meditation. That’s exactly what PGA Tour pro Anirban Lahiri did this summer.
Lahiri, the first Indian to finish top-five in a major championship, was feeling burnt out after his tie for second at the Memorial in June (can you blame him?). Not only does Lahiri deal with the grind of the PGA Tour season, but he also tees it up on the European Tour…and carries the golfing hopes of a nation of 1.3 billion on his shoulders.
Nearly forgotten, but revived by S.N. Goenka in the 1970s, Vipassana, often colloquially referred to as “insight meditation,” is largely the silent practice of watching thoughts go by without attachment or commentary. In other words, it takes “finding your center” to another level. In the course of this type of meditation, practitioners are privy to insights about the nature of reality.
Vipassana centers are scattered throughout the U.S. It was one of these centers that Anirban Lahiri decided to visit after the Memorial, setting down his golf clubs for 10 days of silent meditation in Shelburne, Massachusetts, 90 miles west of Boston.
Lahiri first sought out Vipassana at 17. At his parents urging, he completed a course of study, hoping to rid himself of a penchant for on-course tantrums and deepen his concentration.
Aishwarya Kumar filed an excellent report for ESPN.com about Lahiri’s retreat. The No. 75 golfer in the world said:
“I went in there thinking it was just going to be good for my golf, it will help me with my concentration, and I came out feeling this is great for life. Golf’s just a part of our lives. We do have a life off the course, and it helped me be a better person, made it easy for me to make decisions.”
Here’s what “it” looks like (on paper anyway). A typical day at a Vipassana center:
4 a.m. – Wake up
4:30-6:30 – Individual meditation
6:30-8:00 – Breakfast break (attendees can also sleep, go for walks or meditate during meal breaks)
8:00-9:00 – Group meditation
9:15-11:00 – Individual meditation
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Lunch break
1:00-2:30: Individual meditation
2:30-3:30 – Group meditation
3:45-4:00 – Instructions for meditation
4:00-5:00 – Individual meditation
5:00-6:00 – Dinner break
6:00-7:00 – Group meditation
7:00-8:00 – Evening discourse (recordings by Vipassana centers founder S.N.Goenka)
8:00-8:30 – Instructions for the next day
8:30-9:00 – Individual meditation
9:00 – End of the day; individual conversation between instructor and student, and then sleep
Lahiri returned to action at the Travelers Championship three weeks later where he tied for 17th. As of the Dell Technologies Championship, he’s yet to be knocked out of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
It’s one thing to wax poetic about the spiritual nature of golf. Its internal battles. The way the game pits you against yourself like no other and demands self-control, even self-mastery to win on the PGA Tour. It’s another thing to spend 10 silent days working intensely on this aspect of the game…and life. Well played, Mr. Lahiri.