In the Zone

In a YouTube video entitled ‘Kobe bryant (sic) Explains ‘Being in the Zone’, Kobe’s voiceover begins: When you get in that zone, it’s just this supreme confidence; you know it’s going in. It’s not a matter of if… it’s just that it’s going in. Things just slow down. You know, everything just slows down, and you just have supreme confidence. And when that happens, you know, you don’t really try to focus on it at all because you can lose it in a second… you try not to let anything break that river. You’re oblivious to everything that is going on.

As spectators, we get excited when we observe someone in the zone; there’s a magical feel to it. We’ve all seen good games and good performances, but we do not confuse a display of skills that we expected to see with what we experience when we watch someone in the zone. Watching someone in the zone is utterly unique.

What does it mean to be “in the zone?” Some ways of describing it are: losing sense of time, having extreme focus, being in a state of harmony, feeling whole, being in the flow of the universe, experiencing utter clarity of thought, forgetting ourselves, etc. We understand that the elements required to shift into the zone—skill, training, and mental discipline—must come together to meet a specific challenge. We also understand that as soon as we step back and realize we’re in the zone, we aren’t in it anymore. We can say: “I was in the zone,” but not “I am in the zone.”

Most will agree that being in the zone is an altered state of mind; a state of consciousness very different from the everyday. Descriptions, however, are inadequate because being in the zone is an experience, not an abstract idea. Describing it or remembering it falls short of the actual experience; the abstract idea of being in the zone falls abysmally short of the actual experience. This is also what makes spiritual experiences so hard to describe.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner* has to say:

Spiritual perception and knowledge lead us back to our inner core of unmediated aliveness… If I understand something in the abstract—well, then I have ‘got’ it and can carry it with me through life. At most, I will remember what I have learned. In spiritual knowledge and perception, however, things are very different. After only a few steps toward this knowledge, you will realize that it does not lead to anything you can merely remember. In that respect, the insights of spiritual science are like the food we have eaten today; it will not nourish us if we merely remember it tomorrow and on the following days. We are not satisfied with just remembering what we ate four days ago. But we are satisfied when we remember some abstract concept we understood and learned four weeks ago. Spiritual knowledge and perception, on the other hand, becomes interwoven with our inner being; it takes root in our ‘being’, is assimilated and has to be re-enlivened again and again…

Abstract knowledge … is content with mere phenomena; it leads to once-and-for-all, final conclusions. Spiritual knowledge, on the other hand, brings us into a living relationship to our surroundings; it must be continuously renewed if it is not to wither and die. Spiritual knowledge functions on a higher level of our life as food does on a lower one.

What I have just said should convince people that spiritual knowledge is radically different from the kind generally believed to be the only one possible.

Excerpt from: Social Issues: Meditative Thinking & the Threefold Social Order, Lecture Five, Zurich 17/03/1920 by Rudolf Steiner

When someone tells us he or she was in the zone, we don’t say it’s impossible; we don’t say it doesn’t exist. When we ourselves experience being in the zone, we know it’s something special. Like the inner core of unmediated aliveness Steiner is talking about.

Acquiring spiritual knowledge is an arduous path and yet, similar to the years of effort required to be a professional athlete or musician, once in a while we may have occasional moments of transcendence. We each decide for ourselves if the effort is worth it. Meanwhile, if we wish to know more about the spiritual world, we can read Steiner’s books so we’ll understand what we will one day experience.

“A systematic review of the experience, occurrence, and controllability of flow states in elite sport” www.researchgate.net/publication/257591999_A_systematic_review_of_the_experience_occurrence_and_controllability_of_flow_states_in_elite_sport

“What Is ‘Being in the Zone’? — the Fascinating Psychology of Super Productivity”

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

Out of My Mind by Alan Arkin. (audiobook)