Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Zone

Athletes often speak of being in "the zone" -- a state where the energy and will expended by them appear to come effortlessly and lead to record-breaking performances. From The Celestine Prophecy: An Experiential Guide:
"The athlete goes beyond herself; she transcends the natural. She touches a piece of heaven and becomes the recipient of power from an unknown source...the performance almost becomes a holy place -- where a spiritual awakening seems to take place. The individual becomes swept up in the action around her -- she almost floats through the performance, drawing on forces she has never previously been aware of"
"Skiers tell of the magic moment when you are right on the mark, when everything falls into place and the only sensation you feel is the ecstasy of what you are doing. Skier, skiing, skied are one."
Capra speaks of something similar, too (the reference here is to archery):
" draw the bow 'spiritually', with a kind of effortless strength, and to release the string 'without intention', letting the shot 'fall from the archer like a ripe fruit'. When he reached the height of perfection, bow, arrow, goal and archer all melted into one another and he did not shoot, 'it' did it for him."
Though I have become skeptical of touchy-feely New Age crap in general, I think there is something authentic going on here. I have sometimes experienced this feeling when driving. There comes a time when the whole world is defined by the contours of the car's windshield (or by the edges of the helmet when I am riding my bike); the only sounds you hear are the purring of the engine and the occasional swooshes of vehicles from the opposite direction. You perform the various actions like braking, shifting gears and changing lanes with a complete sense of detachment. Though these actions don't seem to have the conscious approval of your brain, they are the 'correct' actions. You don't want this feeling to end, ever, because if this isn't living in the present, nothing is...