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The Zone

Have you heard of the zone? It's a state of mind sometimes called "flow state". Humans experience it when they get really absorbed in an activity, such as sports, music, art, computer programming, and gaming, etc. It is the mad scientist’s state of mind when he is so absorbed in his invention that he hasn't eaten, washed, or slept in three days; it is the child’s state of mind when she is so absorbed in playing that she doesn't realise that she has gotten hungry or tired; and it is the StarCraft champion’s state of mind when he is playing the computer game so intensely, executing ten actions per second, hammering his mouse and keyboard, ultimately defeating his opponent through superior focus and "micro", but has to retire at the age of twenty five because his reflexes become too slow.


Micro and Macro in Starcraft
Video of someone who is in the zone playing micro Starcraft

If you have experienced the zone, then you know it is blissfully absorbing. Your attention is completely taken away from other things. Your mind detaches from your body. You are fully in the moment, not conscious of the body, outside reality, or the passage of time. The zone produces an inner clarity where the activity you are doing becomes its own reward and you feel fantastic.

Many Eastern teachings, including the art and science of Krishna Consciousness, explain that we are not the body, but are, in fact, beings of pure spiritual consciousness. The zone closely resembles our original state of pure consciousness and is therefore a state of such great happiness. It is not, however, automatically a spiritual experience. It can be spiritual, but more often than not, it is simply the material mind getting absorbed in a material activity without any direct spiritual connection.

For all its wonders, there are some problems with the zone. For one, it is difficult to get into. It requires an activity that you are very skilled at and that is very challenging at the same time. Such activities are hard to come by, and the more you master them, the less likely they reliably lead you into the zone. 

getting into the zone diagram

(source: Wikipedia)

The zone is also very much a temporary state. You might loose track of time for a while, but sooner or later you emerge from the zone and enter back into mundane reality—the bills, the work, and the usual routine.

The yoga texts of ancient India elaborately describe Krishna Consciousness' path into the zone. The texts present a practice of meditation that leads to greater and greater absorption in relationship with the Supreme Consciousness, to Krishna Consciousness. This path starts with hearing sacred sound vibration, then repeating such sounds as you have heard them. This repetition can be done either quietly in "japa" meditation, or loudly in "kirtan" singing. The more you repeat the sacred mantras, the more they embed themselves into your consciousness. Soon, you start to remember them throughout the day, and your mood lifts. With determined practice, the mantras (sounds that represent the many names of the Supreme) become second nature, until you remember them in every situation. Prolonged practice of such Krishna Consciousness leads to a state known as "samadhi", pure spiritual trance, or fully awakened consciousness. In that state you completely understand your relationship to the Supreme and inhabit a body made of pure spiritual consciousness. You are no longer of this material world. You are completely happy, fully and permanently in the spiritual zone.

Below are some amazing videos of Alex Honnold, supremely expert free-solo climber. He climbs vertical walls without any tools, ropes, or support. I think part of the reason he does this is because he can reliably enter into the zone when doing such climbs and there is great happiness in that state. Alex has an amazing skill and I have the greatest respect for him. Still, as you watch the videos (notice your hands start to sweat as you watch) think to yourself how much safer, easier, and more accessible path into the zone you might find by seeking out a friendly group of spiritual practitioners, practitioners engaged in chanting japa and kirtan, practitioners on their way into "samadhi".

 

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Comments

  • Russell 22/09/2013 2:57am (3 years ago)

    A fascinating read Julian. I had to head over to Wikipedia a few times to find out about japa and kirtan though.

  • deadly 29/06/2013 9:54am (4 years ago)

    I like starcraft :)Haribol!

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