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Posts Tagged ‘sport’

Running in the Zone

One thing that I know in my sport, and that most athletes know, is that we play best when in the zone.  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s this mental place where time seems to sit still, everything feels like it’s moving slowly (like in my sport, I see every cue a hitter gives me as to where she will hit the ball), I feel “on”, the game feels instinctual, and there is flow.  It is creative and though the game changes as I go, I just mold my game plan to it (I’m not attached to my plan), finding opportunities and ways to score no matter what I am given.  The one thing that always strikes me is that when I’m in the zone, I don’t seem to remember every single play that happened and I don’t think about every play that will happen… I am mindless, in some respects, but at the same time, totally mindful. Simply put, I’m present.

In a work situation, I notice the same thing. There are days where everything just works.  People are positive, documents get finished, time flies, yet all is accomplished, solutions are found.  And in relationships, it doesn’t feel hard.  You know where you stand, you may not know where you are going, but you trust the future.  We are in the zone and making things happen. 

 There are hundreds of books, writers, and sport psychologists making shitloads of money showing people how to get into the zone.  They give you tricks, processes, ideas, and yet it’s all to get to this coveted place “the zone”.  So what if it is actually simple?  What if the trick is actually to not TRY to get into the zone, but to LET yourself go into the zone.  But how?  What can we do to turn our minds off, so to speak?

Last year, I had one of the profound opportunities of my life.  I was face to face with  my favourite writer, Eckhart Tolle.  I actually had the chance to ask him anything I wanted, and here’s what I asked:

“How, when I believe that something matters and I want an end result, do I not think about it and just play?”

The reason I asked that question was because I found that when I was playing I would struggle with thinking too much about the outcome or the past when the game mattered.  I knew it wasn’t a state that allowed me to perform to the best of my abilities.  Simply put, my mind was getting in the way.

So what was his answer?  Well, he just stared at me.  Seriously.  He stood 1 foot from me, face to face and just looked at me. 

So here’s a little peek into what my mind was thinking during this time: 
“What’s he thinking? What is he going to say? Was my question good? Did he understand what I was asking? Am I supposed to be doing something?  Do I look away? Is this awkward?  Yes.  This is awkward.  No, this is nice.  Hmmm…”.  And then, I thought of nothing. 

Almost at that moment he finally spoke “Leah, do you know what I was just thinking of?”    No.     “Nothing”. 

Why?  How?

He said that when he was younger he spent loads of time thinking, analyzing, considering, and as he got older, he realized that he had more truth in BEING than he had in THINKING.  He was not his thoughts.  Truth was not in thoughts (and I just gave you a glimpse into some of my crazy thought patterns so this is a good thing for me!!) .  And it reminded me of a great stat that I learned about some of the top athletes in the world.  Compared to the 10,000 thoughts that normal human beings have a day, those elite athletes only had 2,000.  And they are experts in performance.  So then… less thinking = better performances?  Seems that is the answer to my question. 

So this is what I did (care of Eckhart) – for 1 hour a day, I practiced presence.  Every movement, touch, smell, taste etc. I focused on.  If I was washing dishes, I felt the hot water on my hands, smelled the soap, felt the coldness of the plate, and I took my time.  My eye was on the prize, and the prize was the moment.  If my mind wandered, I gently brought it back.  And I’ll tell you how surprisingly relaxing and refreshing this was (and I thought it would be boring!).  The notion was that if I practiced “turning on” my presence doing mundane tasks, then it would be more accessible when I needed it on the court.

If you agree that the only path to the future comes from the present, then shouldn’t we  focus on every present moment?  Like the dishes, for example.  I focus on washing them, putting them away, because later that night I will cook a meal, serve it on the clean dishes, the meal will be digested, and used for energy which will then allow me to perform on the court.  So washing that dish IS important in the chain.  Eckhart said this “either everything is important, or nothing is important”.  It’s a mantra that sticks with me. For me, EVERYTHING is important.

So, let me know if anyone has any other suggestions and ideas with how to be present and practice presence .  And is everything or nothing important?  I’d love to share and discuss!

www.vivvos.com (presently the best under?wear in the world)

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Today was a long day.  It’s Wednesday and the 3rd day of my new job, which, along with training, has somewhat kicked my ass 😉  I need to figure out how to… a.  get up at 5:30am so I can train in the morning or b.  be able to unwind enough after training at night to fall asleep at a reasonable time… any suggestions?!

I think that in the past in times where I have felt stretched to my max, I’ve sometimes found reasons to give something up – to stop doing some of the things I know I need to do to feel great.  Reasons why I should be feeling stressed and why it is justified.  I think we often do that when we take on big projects or multiple projects- we want people to understand why we are a little moodier, a little more tired, a little more flaky, a little uncommitted to the “extra” things like eating well, working out, returning calls, and making time for the people we love.  And then we get into this spiral of feeling crappier, and doing more of the things that are making us feel crappier, and feeling more and more justified in feeling crappier each day as we are working so hard!

So I was swimming today for a workout -it was supposed to be 45 mins and 60 minutes later I realized I had been completely lost in thought the whole time – I could barely even remember the past 10 lengths!  In my life, this has been the signal that I am distracted and that my priorities are geting mixed up.  It usually is followed with giving up something that is important for me to be successful.  I was “thinking” about what I did today, what I needed to do tomorrow, who I needed to talk to etc. etc. etc. and it masked the mindlessness that my workout was.  I needed to be thinking about my strokes, my times, my rest and my program for that one hour, which would have refreshed and revived me, getting me ready to tackle whatever problem would come my way in the future.  Instead I spent the hour consumed in the “what ifs” of the future. 

I know that to be successful, both in beach volleyball and in my job, I will need to be able to create balance, to focus in on exactly what I need to focus on in that moment.  Forget what happened, and what is coming.  Do what I need to do right now.

I saw this really cool quote that I am going to stay true to…

“Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand.”
Bruce Barton

When things are busy, or difficult, or trying, we have to remember that there is an opportunity to be great.  It’s an opportunity to be great in everything we want to be great in, no matter what the circumstances, and these long days of work and training and designing with www.vivvos.com are a perfect way for me to develp the opportunity at hand 🙂

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