Let me ask you a simple question:
Why are you not in the zone ALL THE TIME?
Perhaps you have never asked this question before.
Maybe because you have simply been conditioned to believe that it’s not possible.
But if it’s possible for one game, or one minute,
why not all the time?
By the end of this article, you will have a firm understanding in exactly what the zone is, and what prevents you from achieving it all the time.
If you Understand what is preventing you, it becomes simple; eliminate the barriers, and let it Flow. (Pun intended).
So, What IS the Zone?
We really only know what the zone is, by the symptoms of it. The main symptoms of the Zone are:
- Losing the sense of self, where one ‘melts into their craft’. The doer and the doing become one.
- Time Warps — it either speeds up (in creative pursuits like business, writing, painting etc.) or slows down (sports & dangerous situations etc.)
- Total Immersion in the present moment.
At this point, most people stop. This is where you Understand the symptoms of the zone, and to cultivate these symptoms, we are advised to practice mindfulness and focus and being present. But if this worked, surely we’d experience the Zone more than 1% of the time!
To Understand what the Zone is, especially for the purpose of achieving it, we MUST Understand every inch of it. So, let’s dig deeper. Let’s Understand the Symptoms.
Symptom 1; Losing the Sense of Self.
What does ‘losing our sense of self’ mean?
We know what it feels like, and what it looks like, but what does it mean?
To Understand this, we need to Understand what it is & where it comes from.
So where does the sense of self originate? What creates it?
Our conscious mind.
Our prefrontal cortex, the thing that separates us from the animals, and what makes us human.
It creates our identity, our sense of self, and it constantly reinforces who we are throughout our entire lives.
Our name, our age, our occupation, our sport, our hobbies, our interests. These are just a few of the things that we associate with our sense of self.
So more precisely put, losing our sense of self means our ego, our identity, disappears because we are so engrossed in what we are doing that we, for lack of a better word, forget that ‘we’ are doing it.
But this is only the first part, so let’s move on.
Symptom 2; Time Warps
In the more creative pursuits, such as writing, painting, drawing etc.
Time usually speeds up when one is in the zone.
Artists lose track of time when they are fully invested in what they are doing, and hours seem to pass by in minutes.
On the flip side, elite athletes often describe situations where time seems to slow down, and they have all the time in the world to assess their options and make a decision.
Time itself is a tricky concept. There is Objective Time, which is the forward movement of time along the space-time continuum, as represented by the clocks ticking and the days rolling over.
Then, there is Psychological Time, which is our Perception of time.
Psychological Time is what we are focusing on when it comes to the Zone. This is the symptom we are describing when, regardless of Objective Time, we perceive Time to be moving slower or faster.
So what is the source of this Psychological Time? Unsurprisingly, again, the Mind! The Prefrontal Cortex, in combination with several other areas of the brain such as the Basal Ganglia and the Supramarginal Gyrus.
The names are unimportant.
What is Important, is the fact that our perception of time originates in the mind.
The perception of time is really a thought — when you are bored and conscious of time, you consciously notice it more frequently, which makes time SEEM slower.
When you are so engrossed in activity that you ‘forget’ to be consciously aware of the time, this is when time seems to speed up.
So once again, we Understand that the Conscious Mind is the source and the barrier of achieving ‘the Zone’.
But we’re not done yet.
Symptom 3: Total Immersion in the Present Moment.
In a similar light to the passage of time, our ability to ‘be present’ is largely due to the same Understanding: thoughts of past or future are just that; THOUGHTS.
You think of the future NOW.
You think of the past NOW.
As much as we Understand Objective Time & Psychological Time, the only moment that Truly exists is right now.
That is because, the moment you are in right now, is the only ‘time’ where space & time meet.
Everything else is a thought.
Now, that’s not the only point here.
What does it mean to be ‘Totally Immersed’ in the moment?
It’s the combination of the previous two symptoms; losing the sense of self, and the sense of time.
Which as we know, originate in the Conscious Mind.
So it’s safe to say that Total Immersion in the Present Moment means that the Conscious Mind has disappeared completely!
This is ‘The Zone’ — not when the conscious mind is quiet, but when it has COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED!
Now, as 99% of people do, you have probably jumped to the thought; “well yeah, okay, that’s why they say to practice mindfulness and focus so you can ignore the thoughts and emotions and be fully present in the moment” and I get it.
But as we know, that doesn’t work.
And for this very reason: to ‘try’ to control the mind and focus it on the present moment, is a thought itself!
When you try to forget your sense of self, you are consciously thinking about doing so.
When try to forget about time and focus on your craft, you are consciously trying to do so.
When you try to focus on the present moment, you are consciously exerting effort to do so.
When you try to get into the zone, you are consciously trying to do so.
And this very trying, is the thing preventing it.
The mere act of ‘trying’ is a conscious endeavor.
At this stage, you’re probably screaming internally.
You’re probably thinking: “if you’re saying nothing I do works, what the F#$K do I do?”
So What Now?
We Understand now that the Conscious Mind is responsible for our sense of self, our perception of time, and our ability to be fully immersed in the present moment.
We Understand now that the Conscious Mind is the very BARRIER to ‘The Zone’ — the state of No-Mind.
We Understand now that ‘taming’ or ‘controlling’ the Mind in order to forget the sense of self or forget time or focus completely on the present moment is the very thing preventing you from doing so.
So what now?
Well my friend, there is nothing to do.
There is nothing you can DO to make your mind be quiet, and focus, and forget itself.
Because every effort and every act of trying, is using the very thing you’re trying to get rid of. Your Mind.
So if there’s nothing to do, the only thing left, is Understanding.
And this next single Understanding will give you everything you need to achieve the Zone whenever you want.
Do not intellectualize it, do not think about it. Read it, and read it again.
For you cannot ‘follow’ this Understanding and ‘Do’ anything that will make you get into the zone.
Here it is:
Your Body does not NEED YOU.
Your eyes don’t need you to see. They take in light automatically.
Your ears don’t need you to hear. They take in sound automatically.
Your skin doesn’t need you to feel.
Your muscles don’t need you to contract and move.
Just like your heartbeat beats without you,
and your lungs breathe without you,
and your digestive system digests without you.
Whether you think about it or not,
whether you are conscious of it or not,
and you perceive them.
You don’t have to think to live,
you don’t have to think to perceive the world around you,
you don’t have to think to move,
you don’t have to ‘DO’ ANYTHING!
The ‘YOU’ I am referring to is of course what we have been talking about this entire time: your conscious mind.
Your sense of self.
For your entire life, you have been taught, and you have believed, that ‘You’ think, and see, and hear, and feel, and move, and do things.
But that simply isn’t true.
If you don’t believe me, think about it this way;
Try to stop your eyes from seeing (without closing your eyelids, you cheeky bugger).
Try to stop your ears from hearing.
Try to stop your skin from feeling whatever you’re touching.
Try to stop your heart from beating! (Just kidding, please don’t).
‘YOU’ simply cannot do it!
It happens by itself.
‘YOU’, the conscious mind, does not need to be present to experience the moment. To experience your environment.
Likewise, ‘YOU’, the conscious mind, does not need to be present to execute your craft.
It’s called ‘muscle memory’ for a reason. Your body KNOWS what to do. ‘YOU’ need to stop getting in the way, thinking ‘YOU’ know better.
- The main symptoms of The Zone are; Losing the Sense of Self, Time Warps, and Being Fully Immersed in the Present Moment.
- The Creator of the Sense of Self, the Perception of Time, and the Awareness of the Present Moment, is the Conscious Mind.
- The very Presence of the Conscious Mind, is the very thing Preventing one from achieving the Zone.
- All attempts to ‘do’ something to eliminate the presence of the conscious mind, is to use the very thing you are trying to eliminate, to eliminate it.
- ‘YOU’ cannot stop your body from performing its functions.
- Your body does not need ‘YOU’ to do anything for it to execute its functions. Including the execution of your craft. Your Conscious Mind simply does not NEED to be present.
So we come back to ‘how do I achieve the Zone?’ and by now you see, there is nothing for you to do. There is nothing you CAN do.
If you Understand that to ‘try’ to do anything to get into the zone is to use the mind against the mind,
If you Understand that ‘YOU’ do not need to do anything for your body to experience the present moment and execute its functions, including the execution of your craft,
You can simply allow it to happen.
If we understand this, then The Zone, is not something that we ‘achieve’.
It’s actually something that ‘we’ get in the way of, all the time.
It’s not that we have to do anything to make the conscious mind disappear.
We just have to Understand that without the Conscious Mind, we would technically be in The Zone all the time.
It is our natural state.
Because we would ONLY be perceiving, sensing, and doing.
And it would ALL be AUTOMATIC.
EVERYTHING else, is CREATED, by the Conscious Mind.
The Zone is not something we achieve.
The Zone is what ‘WE’ get in the way of.