In the zone…

30 Mar

Had a couple really satisfying sessions today with a couple of my mental edge clients.

Fortunately, it’s rare that I’ll take my headset off and think “Wow, THAT did not go as I’d hoped it would.”

I feel fortunate to have daily opportunities to dig around in the muck of my clients’ lives with them. You know, the stuff that accumulates over time– some of it crusty from severe droughts and some so thick and muddy and that we’ve lost a few pairs of shoes struggling to wade our way through it.

Sometimes, like today, there are moments during our calls when I am so focused and tuned into the frequency of the emotion and the words my client is conveying to me that I lose myself.  I don’t hear my replies when I’m speaking. I don’t see the words as they move from my brain to my lips. I couldn’t tell you afterward what prompted me at any point in the conversation to have a certain thought. I am in the zone.

“Zoned out?” you ask?

Well, kind of! Ever been in that place where time and space stand still? You drive somewhere but you don’t recall getting there? I’ve given seminars and workshops and felt this way. Am I zoned out?

I’m so zoned in that I’m operating with a level of disconnectedness and yet, at the same time, a crazy, intense directedness!

I tried to explain this to a friend of mine once after what I had felt was a particularly successful talk with a group of highly motivated and inspirationally hungry individuals, and she just stared at me blankly.

“It’s like I saw each face in the room, but I didn’t see them,” I explained excitedly.

I’d had other moments like this, and each time I do, I try to assess what got me there because I absolutely have to recreate it. I’m at my best. I’m creating without censoring. One thought feeds off another, and it’s effortless.

It’s like a musician you are watching and you can tell that she’s lost in the  music. She’s feeling every note, each vibration of her instrument, the delicate crescendos and the mountainous upbeats. She knows of nothing else but the music. Not the audience, not the time, not each written note on the score in front of her.

It’s like a stand up comedian who just goes on and on, run after run, one joke flowing into another….no hesitation, no awkward pauses.

Athletes speak of being in the zone– gymnasts describe the beam being wider, basketball players see the basket as being larger, and baseball players have talked of seeing the stitches on the ball.

Ever been there?

Being in the zone is magical.

Being in the zone is what I want more of.

Being in the zone is what I strive to create.

But being in the zone doesn’t just happen. It occurs with repeated actions and practice and visualization and a depth of experience. My ego disappears, my senses disappear, my focus on assessment and analysis and problem-solving disappear. But how?

The same way that you learned how to ride a bike or drive a car– through repeated, intentional, meticulous, sometimes painstaking and maddeningly frustrating efforts– you develop a skill that is fed by familiarity. And when you’re in the zone you’re not thinking about everything on the outside!You’re not judging, you’re not critiquing, you’re not worrying. You are just enjoying.

Researchers have shown through observation of individuals in this state, often termed “flow”, that their involvement is so intense, they are caught up in the pleasure of it. They are in “deep play.” See my previous post on observing children. They are prime examples of being “in the  moment” so fully that all externals no longer exist.

Here is what one client described as she filled me in on what her last workout was like. She is a chronically anxious, worried person. But she experienced the zone, and it was liberating.
Getting every single ounce out of the workout- Digging in.  Not thinking about anything else. Pushing myself as hard as I could and loving every moment of it. Feel proud.

Happy- Not worrying.  I was under the most physical amount of stress ever but felt complete calm emotionally. It was amazing. I just felt “relaxed.”
Fun- Doing something that I truly enjoy.  I knew I was having fun because I was smiling through the pain, didn’t want to be anywhere else and just wanted to keep that positive energy going all the time.
Inspired- I wanted to push harder, do more, run faster, be better. A truly awesome feeling!”
This is presentness– being right here, right now. It’s all we have, really. So why not immerse yourself in it.

4 Responses to “In the zone…”

  1. Caroline Oppenheim March 30, 2012 at 11:30 AM #

    Ah the quest for the Zone. I use a capitol letter when referring to that state of Nirvana,where mind, body and soul are all working (does the soul work?) together because I revere it and it needs to be accorded respect as it is almost a holy place. I often say that when I am weight training I am meditating, another way of expressing the pure bliss, the pure joy, the pure sense of abandon it brings me. Very few people understand how you can be in the Zone when your body is actually hurting and you are sweating and grunting and all external indicators signals ( my grunting!) signal you are anything but blissul. When I am pushing as much weight as I can without incurring physical injury, when I am lifting, when I actually can smell the iron on the old weights in my hand, my mind is blank. I am thinking of nothing but the feeling, I am a sensory animal. I have managed to tune out all my cares, concerns, stresses with the simple act of lifting a dumbell. I become a “dumbell” in the sense that my mind is mush. Time flies and I actually get sad when my trainer says, “see you next time.” I WANT MORE. I don’t want to leave the Zone. I love being in the Zone so much that I feel I have to get others to experience it and I have dragged friends, my husband to the weight room in so they too can be as happy as me. But, my Zone is not their Zone. Which leads me to my query? Is there more than one Zone? Perhaps I mean can we recreate this feeling in all aspects of our lives? am currently having a hard time with cardio. I would love to be in the Zone doing cardio ( I would be able to eat whatever I wanted if this happened!) it is almost like I am in the anti-Zone when I do cardio.

    • kpropst March 30, 2012 at 11:41 AM #

      Hi Caroline!
      You can’t PUSH the zone. Like with your weight training sessions you must suspend yourself from judgment.
      There are an infinite number of zones! Short zones, long zones, expansive zones, quick zones! 🙂 And everyone’s zone is experienced differently.
      Your zone will never be the same zone that you try to get your friends to be sucked into!
      My suggestion would be to visualize yourself doing cardio and loving it, Caroline. Getting lost in the experience.
      Picture where you are, paint the scene- colors, textures. Listen- what do you hear? Taste- what is the flavor of the experience?
      Touch- feel your glutes on the seat of the bike or your feet on the treadmill. What do you experience in your body– lunges, heart, head, stomach, arms, legs…
      What do you smell?
      Put yourself in the place and create the experience for yourself when you’re not IN IT. Visualize.
      I do this before my seminars. I am rolling through material, creating associations, feeling animated, happy, alive, and having fun.
      My guess is that before you even start cardio you are thinking, “This is going to suck!”
      This IS the “anti-zone”!

      • Caroline Oppenheim March 30, 2012 at 11:50 AM #

        oh you got my number girl! Yes, I make it a drama because I feel guilty I am not doing enough. I also hate the feeling of being out of breath that running gives me- so I am going to focus on breathing correctly and yes, visualizing and sensing it all BEFORE I even walk in to the gym- a new pair of sneakers may sweeten the pot too. Tonight after training, I am going to run for just 15 minutes and it is going to be fine, and soon it will be great, and soon it will be a pleasure and soon I will be a cardio queen in the Zone and then who knows I may be living 100 per cent in the Zone!

      • kpropst March 30, 2012 at 11:54 AM #

        Haha. Yes, you’ve got it! Suspend the judgement about time and duration and intensity. Suspend judgement about breathing. When you notice you’re thinking “I hate this,” refocus on just the breath itself.
        Think about this: rather than it being fine or great…”it just IS.” 🙂

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