"So when we talk about playing in the zone or when we speak of the peak performance state in sports, what we are really talking about is a fundamental potential in human evolution."
Integral coaching sees performance states as whole states arising as the interplay of their parts while simultaneously acting back on those parts to stabilize and perpetuate their differential identities. That's adapted from Kant, but what it means to the evolution of coaching is that in order to examine these performance states in a way that will make them more accessible to coaches and athletes, they must be examined as whole states of being. Examining the parts does not reveal the whole; the whole transcends the parts, but is still constituted by the interrelationship of its parts, so the parts are important to examine, not individually as much as simultaneously. In other words, each part plays a role in the whole, but the parts, the interior and exterior parts, form a tetra-relationship whose combination is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
What I stumbled across in 1978 was a way to combine these interior and exterior parts to tetra-create the whole that is the human peak performance state. Actually, it was, and is, a way to tetra-create a state of flowing presence, which, when seen from the perspective of wholeness, is a state in which the human operating system is in a one to one relationship with the flowing present, a simultaneous relationship with the here and now.
Once you understand that the zone, the peak performance state, flow, whatever name you call it, is a state of oneness with the flowing present, you realize that this peak performance state can be brought to bear in any sport on the planet, in fact, in any aspect of your life. Life is relational in nature, and if you can co-create a one-to-one interface between your operating system and the flowing present of your relational environment, then you are co-creating a oneness with and within that relationship. You are co-creating or, more exactly, tetra-creating a peak experience.
What makes transformative practices "transformative" is that they are designed to take you out of your normal state of being, your normal conscious state, and introduce you to a higher-order state of being, a higher-order conscious state. This higher-order state of being is what you experience when you're in the zone, and there is much more to it than just performing at a higher level. Your peak performance state is about much more than peak performance! It's about the tetra-creation of a whole new reality, and that new reality includes your old reality while simultaneously transcending it. So you're still playing the same sport, you're just participating in its transcendent version. In fact, you are a vital part of this transcendent reality. Without you, it doesn't happen. With you, it only happens if the conditions are those of oneness between your body-mind operating system and the athletic environment’s moment to moment flowing present dimension.
This might seem as easy as "getting in the present." And it is. But getting in the present is far from easy, especially when you understand that your normal state of being is slightly in the past. We might think we are in the present, and, in fact, our bodies are in the present. But our minds are constantly flip-flopping back and forth between past and future in and either/or dynamic. Being in the present means not only presence of body but also presence of mind, and presence of mind means no flip-flopping from past to future, no either/or. Instead of either/or, presence involves both/and. Both past and future combining to co-create the flowing present. Transformative practices take you out of the divided and sequential reality of either/or and introduces you to the unified and simultaneous reality of both/and.
Playing our sports in the zone is a transformational practice that transcends the divided and sequential experience of our normal performance state by connecting us to the unified and simultaneous experience that is our peak performance state. And here's the best part: we connect to the unified and simultaneous experience that is our peak performance state the only way we can – by creating it, or more precisely, by being an integral part of its tetra-creation as a whole. And it is this whole experience that is transformative in that it requires a transformation of the whole you. It's not a partial experience of oneness; that can't happen. It's a whole experience of oneness; the whole you in a one-to-one interface with and within the whole environment. That's the oneness of flow reality.
So when we talk about playing in the zone or when we speak of the peak performance state in sports, what we are really talking about is a fundamental potential in human evolution. The human potential movement is not solely about humans; it's also about the whole of the environment in which and with which humans are co-evolving. Human evolution is part of the whole that is eco-evolution. We are all one with the planet, and the best way we can accelerate the positive evolution of the planet is to accelerate the positive evolution of human consciousness.
Sounds great! How do we do it? That's always been the problem. One person working on transformation is a drop in a very large bucket, but if athletes throughout the world were to take up their sports as transformational practices, then we are looking at millions of drops in a transformational bucket that will result in the evolution of a healthy planet, perhaps even a unified planet.
As altruistic as that might sound, there is much to be said for playing your sport in the zone. The zone experience is magnetic. Have it once and you will want it again. Learn how to make it happen and you cannot avoid a better understanding of yourself. Greater self-awareness comes with the territory of transformation; it cannot be avoided. You can, however, avoid transformation altogether by continuing to play your sport in the norm. Yes, you will eventually get better, but the transformation of self that comes while playing in the present will never happen while playing in the past.
Frankly, most people could give a rip about transformative practices. Their lives are too busy to find time for anything outside the boundaries in which they live. I get it; we’re busy people. But busy people seem to find time for recreation of some sort, whether it's tennis or golf, soccer or running, whatever. There is an athlete lurking inside many of us, and if you play a sport, you can play that sport in the zone. You just have to understand your part in the tetra-creation of flowing presence, and flowing presence comes with oneness. And oneness involves the simultaneous inclusion of past and future to co-create transcendent presence.
At the heart of transformation lies the flowing present. At the heart of the zone lies that same flowing presence. Athletes find the zone irresistible. It calls them to return, and coaches of the future will be able to show them exactly how to return to that irresistible experience again and again.
And here's the best part: that future is now.
Scott A. Ford is the author of Integral Consciousness and Sport, Welcome to the Zone, and Sports, Energy and Consciousness. He is a Founding Member of the Sports, Energy and Consciousness Group. You can find Scott at Scott A. Ford and Tennis in the Zone