Playing in the zone is considered the Holy Grail of sports. It is also one of sport's greatest mysteries. The human peak experience manifested on the field of competition. We also call it flow, and it transports us out of our ordinary performance state into the territory of the extraordinary. But what makes the zone so extraordinary? What is it about this mysterious flow state that takes us beyond our normal performance experience?Read More
Developmental coaching moves in two directions: vertically and horizontally. Vertical coaching development occurs as coaches move from one stage of coaching development to a higher and more complex stage of coaching development. Horizontal coaching development occurs as coaches move within their current stage of coaching development.Read More
I've been teaching tennis players how to get in the zone since 1978 when I did something on the court that got me in the zone every time I did it, and when I showed others how to do what I was doing, it got them in the zone too! All of them – whatever their skill level, young or old, men or women, across all cultures – everyone who played this simple, imaginary game, would immediately get in the zone.Read More
What I find fascinating about the transformational process is that transformation requires a letting go of the old in order for the new to emerge. For subject to become object one must "let go" of the subject, and that letting go process is inherent to integral consciousness and flowing presence. Flowing presence is the very definition of letting go, of non-attachment; a flowing present dimension does not cling to either past or future, but is touched by both, is surrounded by both, includes and transcends both.
That's a delicate balancing act to pull off, and yet with practice, a state of flowing presence becomes a state of choice, one that is stabilized over time and preferred over other states, mostly because it is more effective as a state of being. Relative time is ever-flowing, so it benefits us as human beings to enter into a one-to-one relationship with the flow of time. Transformational practices show us exactly how to do just that, and because these practices develop our ability to connect with the flowing present in a one-to-one interface, they are simultaneously practices that develop our ability to live a life of non-attachment. A life in which we do not cling to the past nor fear the future, but rather rest in the reality of all that is right here, right now.
But that's not all that happens when we develop our ability to live a life of flowing presence. That life of presence in the relative domain of space and time allows us to recognize the ever-present nature of the absolute domain; the Eternal Presence of Spirit by whatever name we call it. And with that realization comes a deep sense of belonging, of oneness with the One, an understanding of our deepest nature, our deepest identity, our True Self.
What always strikes me about transformational practices is that over time they can become spiritual practices that are very different from the traditional spiritual practices of organized religion. Traditional spiritual practices are appropriate for some, but sorely lacking for others, especially in an ever-growing secular society. But the immediacy of the zone experience is the immediacy of Spirit-in-Action, with or without a religious bent. Spend enough time "in the zone" and you begin to realize the simultaneity of relative and absolute. The flowing presence of the game takes place simultaneously with and within the Eternal Presence of Spirit. The game is Spirit. Spirit is the game. And being one with the flowing present opens us up to the recognition that we are simultaneously one with the Eternal Present. One with Spirit.
Simultaneity means "existing at the same time." Flowing presence exists at the same time as Eternal Presence. Eternal Presence exists at the same time as flowing presence. What that means in sport is that Spirit exists at the same time as the sport we are playing. Spirit and sport, Spirit and life, are simultaneous, and by entering into a state of oneness with the flowing present, it is easier to recognize that we are simultaneously in a state of oneness with Eternal Presence, a state of oneness with Spirit.
For many this will sound like spiritual babble. But to them I would suggest "don't knock it till you try it." How can you call playing in the zone spiritual babble until you get in the zone and experience it for yourself? It's intellectually tacky to condemn an experience until you have had the experience. If, after having the experience of playing in the zone, you still wish to call it spiritual babble – then fine. You've made your judgments on one experience of playing in the zone. Of course, the fact that you played so much better when you are in the zone will probably be reason enough for you to come back to the experience again and again, now that you’ve learned how to reproduce it. And by returning to a state of flowing presence again and again, you will eventually “let go” enough to come to the realization that something deeper lies beneath your experience of flowing presence; something underneath it all, something always already there, a stillness, a calm, and emptiness in which and with which all that is form arises. Underneath is all is the simultaneity of Spirit.
You can ignore Spirit all you want, but you cannot avoid its ever-present simultaneity, and it is this simultaneity of flowing and Eternal Presence that is the simultaneity of form and emptiness, the simultaneity of relative and Absolute, of manifest and unmanifest. The simultaneity of sport and Spirit.
Sport is Spirit: Spirit is sport.
Playing your sport in the zone is playing your sport in a higher conscious state, and playing in this higher conscious state can turn sport into a transformative practice. It means playing the game in a state of flow, and a flow state is first and foremost a higher state of consciousness, not just because of the difference in brain activity, but because of a difference in the whole interface between your body-mind and its environment. Everything in the environment takes an upward leap – and in the case of your consciousness, that upward leap is the leap of inclusion and expansion of awareness that is integral consciousness.
The sense of oneness you get when you are in a flow state is caused by your body-mind connecting to the whole of the athletic environment, not just serially connecting to the environment’s sequential parts, which is our normal mode of connecting, but when you are in a state of flow, that connection changes from serial to parallel, and with that radically fundamental change in the very core of your functional interface comes a radically fundamental change in your awareness of the environment and the part you play in its co-creation. It’s no longer stepping into a pre-existing reality; it is you as co-creator of the presently-arising reality.
That’s a whole new ballgame, literally, and when you realize that you are the co-creator of your own moment-to-moment reality, it motivates you to take a closer look at the state of consciousness in which you are doing the co-creating. Are you co-creating a partially potentiated reality as your body-mind interfaces with only a portion of what’s available in the environment? Or are you co-creating a fully potentiated reality in which your body-mind is interfacing with the whole of what the environment has to offer?
You probably won’t ask these types of questions until you spend a little time outside your normal performance state with its gross consciousness and serial mode of operation. Your ego could give a rip about questions like these. In fact, your ego will tell you these questions are ridiculous and not worth answering. But with a little time spent in a state of flow, a little time spent with your Authentic Self, you will start to understand that these are the questions of deepest regard for you as a human being. The questions that ask “who am I, really?” and “why am I really here?” Transformational practices make it impossible to avoid these questions.
One of the things that playing tennis in the zone has given me is a sense of oneness with everything. Not just oneness with the game of tennis, but oneness with the whole of the manifest realm as it arises in the flowing present. I know how crazy that sounds. It used a sound crazy to me too, until it started to happen again, and again, and again. Then it wasn’t so crazy after all. It was real, very real. More real than the partial game I had been struggling with my whole life. The partial game that gave me an ulcer at age fourteen. The partial game that never felt complete, never felt whole, and because it never felt whole, neither did I.
Only when I started intentionally playing tennis in the zone did the game feel complete. Only then did I feel complete. And through years of practicing this transformational process, I have come to feel a sense of oneness both on the court and off. And that oneness comes not only from a more natural connection to the flowing present, but from something even deeper, a deeper connection to the Timeless Presence of Spirit. That connection, too, is very real, and it’s the connection that completes me as a human being; the oneness with Presence that is the True Me.
Sport psychology suggests that flow follows focus, and that’s exactly how flow is created in the Parallel Mode Process – by fixing your focus on your contact zone and letting the ball move into an out of this fixed field of focus. So, yes, flow follows focus, but it would be better said that flow follows a fixed-depth of focus because flow does not follow a variable-depth of focus.Read More
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.
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.
I. What is the Parallel Mode Process (PMP)?
The PMP is a process for creating, stabilizing, and developing the peak human experience known as “flow,” or “the zone. Traditionally, flow is thought to be impossible to reproduce intentionally, occurring by chance, not by choice. The PMP radically changes that thinking through a step-by-step process in which the athlete learns to intentionally create the flow state, then to stabilize that flow state in athletic competitions, life situations, and business relationships.
And the PMP works immediately. There is no waiting period in which the athlete must go through a preparatory phase before flow can be experienced. The first step of the PMP involves the immediate creation of the flow experience, so the process begins with flow itself. The premise being: the only way to experience flow is through first-person experience, and the PMP shows you exactly how to create that first-person flow experience by choice, rather than waiting for it to happen by chance.
II. Who benefits from the PMP?
The PMP is a step-by-step process for intentionally creating flow, and because the flow experience is a human experience, it’s numerous benefits can be experienced by all humans, all ages, all genders, skill levels, cultural backgrounds, and stages of development. Flow benefits all of humanity, and the PMP is a process for the intentional creation of flow, therefore, the PMP is of benefit to all humanity, most notably to athletes and coaches in any and all sports, to established businesses and entrepreneurial startups, and to those individuals simply seeking flow in their lives.
III. How does the PMP work?
Simply stated, the PMP works by directly connecting the sensorimotor operating system to the spatiotemporal dimension of the flowing present. Thus the term “flow.” The steps of the PMP are designed to teach the student or coach how to intentionally make this sensorimotor connection to the flowing present dimension, and then how to stabilize that connection – called a “parallel interface” – through a series of developmental practices that require the use of a parallel interface, thus training the sensorimotor operating system to maintain its connection to and interface with the flowing present dimension.
The intentional creation of a parallel interface between the sensorimotor operating system and the spatiotemporal dimension of flowing presence acts to directly connect the human operating system to the underlying spatiotemporal dimension of the flow experience – which is the spatiotemporal dimension of flowing presence.
In short, the PMP teaches you how to intentionally create flow. By teaching you how to intentionally connect to its underlying spatiotemporal dimension – the dimension of flowing presence. Flow and flowing presence are one and the same, and the experience of flow, cannot and will not occur without the creation of this parallel interface between operating system and flowing presence.
The PMP teaches you how to immediately and intentionally create this parallel interface, and, in so doing, to immediately and intentionally create the flow experience in your sport, in your business, and in your daily life.