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THE BOOK SHELF: Golfing in Bhutan leads to enlightenment for author

Ed Hanczaryk went to the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to teach golf, returned to Nova Scotia a changed man and wrote a book about his inspiring journey from learning the complex game to the path to enlightenment.

At one of the most remote courses in the world, on the eastern edge of the Himalayas in a place better known for its Buddhist monasteries and dramatic landscapes, Hanczaryk, a local golf professional, taught Bhutanese boys and girls to play golf for five months in 2007.

“I met a venerable Buddhist Lama, an incarnation of a bygone saint, a renowned teacher of ancient meditation techniques – and a man who was eager to learn how to play golf. We struck a deal. I would teach him to play the game. He would teach me to meditate, to tame my unruly mind,” Hanczaryk writes his new book The Guru in Your Golf Swing: A Golf Pro, A Monk and the Magical Kingdom of Bhutan (SSP Publications).

“This book combines the ancient art of meditation with the game of golf: it is a golf fable based on my assignment teaching the game of golf in Bhutan.”

He calls the book a fable because the Buddhist monk in the book isn’t real. Hanczaryk made the character up. The guru, meant to represent the mind that is non-judgmental, present and focused, is based on all the Buddhist teachers and golf students he has had over 40 years.

“It is closely based on a true story,” he said in an interview. “At the end of the book I come clean about what really happened.”

A practising Buddhist who has meditated for 45 years, Hanczaryk’s dream for years was to write a book combining his skills as an accomplished golf instructor and his daily meditation practice in a way that would help both those who play golf and those who don’t. After this trip to Bhutan, he decided he could do that in The Guru in Your Golf Swing.

In Bhutan, Hanczaryk taught both royalty and young people living in poverty. The best young player he taught was a 15-year-old boy who lived in a shack next to the golf course. Some his students were monks who lived in a monastery and didn’t speak English.

“I had to use body language,” he said. “It was one of the best lessons I ever gave. Sometimes words get in the way.”

Divided by months and into short segments, the book reads like a travelogue intermixed with consecutive golf and meditation lessons.

“The golf instruction chapters distill the process that I have seen over 40 years of teaching and tens of thousands of students, of how a swing naturally evolves. The meditation chapters present a practice that has been proven by thousands of scientific studies — to increase concentration, improve health and happiness, and to instill a deeper level of calmness in the practitioner,” he writes.

One of the book’s golf lessons “body and arms in sync” is matched with the meditation session “you are not your thoughts”.

Hanczaryk credits meditation for helping him become a better golfer and teacher. He was an aspiring young American golfer on scholarship when he seized during a competition.

“It was in my sophomore year at University of Maryland that I hit the brick wall. It was at a U.S. Open qualifying event at a course in Maryland, competing against a few tour professionals in the field,” he writes.

He froze. At one point he couldn’t even move his putter. He lost interest in playing and quit. But his love of the game didn’t die so in 1979 he took a job at a course in Maryland and turned professional. He served his PGA apprenticeship at Lake Valley Golf Club in Boulder, Colorado and Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Now living in Nova Scotia, he teaches at the Awareness Golf School in Dartmouth and The Links at Penn Hills in Shubenacadie.

At age 70 he attributes his daily meditation practice to preventing him from having knee-jerk reactions and allowing him to listen more closely. One of his favourite things to tell students is: “Be where your feet are.” His other piece of advice is to not fixate on negative thoughts when playing or force yourself to think anything in particular before hitting the ball.

“It’s not about having positive thoughts,” he said. “It’s about not grabbing onto a thought and attaching onto it.”

Hoping his book will inspire others, he leaves readers with this lesson from the guru.

“‘Rinpoche, how will I be able to continue learning back home without your help?’ I asked.

“He straightened his robes and looked at me directly. ‘Ed, my work with you has been pointing out. If I point at the moon, don’t focus on the finger, focus on the moon.’

“‘You have Buddha nature, your mind is the Buddha. The path you are on is to realize that. The Buddha is in your golf swing. You have all the tools you need to continue. Keep up your meditation practice and the path will continue to open up before you.’”

More Books on the Shelf

Nimbus Publishing launched Mayann Francis: An Honourable Life.

The candid memoir chronicles the life story of Nova Scotia’s 31st lieutenant-governor, from her Cape Breton childhood in Whitney Pier to becoming the Queen’s representative. When Francis was named the province’s first black lieutenant-governor in 2006, she questioned whether the community would accept her. They did.

In her book, she credits her faith and her family’s strong belief in education for equipping her with the strength to face her life’s challenges, which have included the loss of much of her vision. Francis poses tough questions, but also offers advice and encouragement to anyone faced with challenges.

Halifax native Amy Jones’ new book Every Little Piece of Me (McClelland and Stewart) is garnering praise. The novel tells a story about family, friendship, fame and the price of living in the public eye. It follows Ava Hart, a cast member of a reality TV show based on her family’s efforts to runs a bed and breakfast in small-town Nova Scotia, and Mags Kovach, a singer in a struggling Halifax rock band. Each have private tragedies that become the fodder of social media and tabloid headlines. Struggling in the public attention, Ava and Mags form an unexpected friendship.

Jones’ first novel, We’re All in This Together, was a national bestseller and was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Originally from Halifax, she now lives in Toronto.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. They are: English Non-fiction: Joanne George for Smiley: A Journey of Love; English Fiction (tie): Charis Cotter for The Painting and Daphne Greer for Camped Out; French Non-fiction: Karin Gottot and Maxim Cyr for Les Dragouilles en vacances!; French Fiction: Diane Carmel Léger for L’Acadie en baratte.

A big congratulations also goes to the 13 award-winning books, publishers, authors and illustrators of the 2019 Atlantic Book Awards. The awards were recently announced in Newfoundland.

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