What is ‘The Zone?’ In its simplest, the zone is analogous to ‘Flow.’ Then, what exactly is this thing called ‘flow?’ From the Awaken Your Inner Golfer book, “Flow is present moment awareness – attending to each moment as it streams, unobstructed, into the next without feeling a need to try or accomplish. When one is in this state, the extraordinary has an opportunity to ‘show up’.”
When you are in Flow, you are in the Zone. When you let go of trying and open to allowing, you open to the potential of your subconscious beyond the interference of your conscious thinking mind. The subconscious is where your physical motor skills reside and where you access your kinesthetic intelligence and instinct.
How do you enter the zone while playing golf? First, I suggest just recognizing and acknowledging a time (even just a couple of golf shots) where you entered the zone. The subconscious body/mind remembers everything. Experience it once, you can experience it again. Experience it again, and it can become a habit. Awareness is the key. Simple awareness can stimulate a cascade of flow in your body/mind.
Have you ever had the experience of coming back to the game of golf after a brief layoff and restarted by hitting a few golf balls at the driving range with a nice easy, effortless golf swing with no expectations – and hit nearly every golf shot solidly, sometimes perfectly?! Have you had the experience of then, thinking about it and analyzing it – asking yourself, what am I doing right? What kind of golf swing mechanics am I performing to produce such effortless excellence? Why can’t I do this all the time? What do I normally do wrong? Why……? This is the paradox of flow vs. control – the paradox of the subconscious body performing up to its potential vs. the conscious mind doing its job of questioning, analyzing and instructing. It comes down to the paradox of flow vs. control, or flow vs. interference. The ultimate paradox is that you must let go of (the illusion of) control and let go of the thinking mind’s interference in order to achieve effortless control.
So, how might you quiet your mind’s interference in performing a golf swing and playing golf? I suggest that instead of trying to make the “perfect repetitive golf swing,” that you give yourself permission to “hit some clunkers,” and give yourself permission to adapt and learn from so-called “mistakes.” It’s much easier to do this on the driving range or practice area, and if you can do it often enough in the practice area you can allow the experience to cascade in your body/mind and your neuro/muscular system so you can take the state of flow with you onto the golf course – and play with abandon, joy, in flow……and in the zone!
I am an advocate of infusing your golf practice with play, fun, exploration and self-discovery without concern for results. By letting go of trying, effort, expectations and results you can cultivate a quiet mind. Your mind will have no reason to interfere; there will be nothing for it to attempt to control. I am also an advocate of using golf exercises rather than golf drills. From Awaken Your Inner Golfer, “The golf exercises help antidote the habit of allowing the mind to direct the body’s motions.”
When you quiet your thinking mind you can access your bodily sensations, your feel, your kinesthetic intelligence and your kinesthetic instincts. You invite in the experience of flow or the zone. You can’t successfully try to enter the zone, but you can provide the circumstances that promote its emergence. Your present moment awareness (not analytical thought) while practicing supports an environment ripe for flow. In their book, Fully Present, commenting on “conscious practices,” Susan Smalley and Diana Winston state, “When someone is in the zone, or flow, there is a sense of losing oneself in the experience, forgetting about the ‘I’ doing the exercise, and becoming fully immersed in the experience……It is an alternate state of consciousness where the action arises while the ‘I’ rests.” Your tool to invite in flow is present moment awareness. The playful golf exercises in Awaken Your Inner Golfer will facilitate that awareness.
Young children live in the zone. Life is play and play is life. They intuitively play with the unconscious intent of having fun, learning and developing. If you can imitate the way of a child in your golf practice and develop a conscious intent to play and have fun, you provide an opportunity for your instinctive potential to manifest. By letting go of effort, and opening to play, fun, exploration and self-discovery, you can cultivate the circumstance for the emergence of flow ……and the zone! So, now I ask, do you have the curiosity and patience to cultivate the circumstances to allow it to happen?!?