The zone?

One of those moments, when you sit in front of the laptop, staring at the screen. Only that the screen says “Add new post” and your mind is blank. Thoughts fly in and out, with nothing that can be held on to and pinned into a blog spot. And then somehow something sticks in. This is nowhere the state of blankness where there is no consciousness (or there is a stream of consciousness?) or is it that state that exists between the sudden absence of ideas and the chaos that follows?

Every book or literature on meditation talks about that state, where the mind is blank and there is no conscious thought in it. Every time I think about it in particular, I realize something creeps into it. But then there’s always hindsight. You look back at moments where things really were that way. Like the crazy bug that draws you deep into the code, where nothing exists in the mind except the pursuit of the bug and then, there is this fleeting moment of blankness which is filled up by the whole sequence adding up, with the bug that you are seeking, sitting out. Somehow, you just know it’s right!

Came across this interesting post by Prem Panicker on a discussion between Abhinav Bindra and Rahul Dravid where they talk about being in the zone where the mind is blank at the time of execution. The zone which every sportsman tries to achieve where mind and body are in a kind of alignment, where you do something just because it needs to be done and you don’t play a conscious role in the decision making. In cricket it’s the moment when a ball is hurtling at you and your hands, legs just move to execute a shot perfectly, even though you never consciously made the decision to play that. To say that the mind knows how to play that shot just like that, from instinct is foolhardiness. The shot comes from hours and hours of practice, or just plain experience from before, which condition the mind to decide what will work and what won’t for that circumstance.

Reading that post, to use Dravid’s phrase it is intimidating what sportsmen in fields which have the Olympics as the main goal go through. Four years of rigorous practice aiming for perfection, which all culminates in a few seconds of the real trial. You miss, and you go back to the drawing board to come back 4 years later to go through the same process again, and you realize that you are also growing older! Helps understand why athletes get so emotional on winning? And why they are heralded as such champions! The closest I came to this was with the CAT, where you answer 100s of mock papers only to face the real one which can make or break the deal for that year. The first one was a disaster, but it thankfully got annulled as the paper had leaked. The second one, the re-test, was perfection. The third one, a disaster, where the mind froze on one easy question, making a mess of something which was simple and a clincher, eventually screwing up the rest!

How do you deal with such scenarios? It is easy to say let the mind deal with it. Easy to say you need to relax. But then you are staring at a not-so-fast bowler and the ball stands up after pitching, giving you a fleeting milli-second more than you planned for, and the mind comes screaming in with endless possibilities on dealing with it. At the very end, you scoop up a dolly to the man at extra-cover.

Also takes me back to weekend mornings, where I wake up and realize there is nothing to do. The papers have been read, the coffee done, shower finished. What do you do to pass time? Is it one of the side-effects of an entertainment-driven life that with a few minutes of nothing to do, we are helpless? What is the other option, just sitting quietly, doing nothing, mentally or physically. Is that even possible?

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8 thoughts on “The zone?

  1. In this smartphone/Facebook world, I think it is extremely important to have some “nothing to do” time every day/week. I used to try to cram as many number of activities as possible into a day to feel productive. I now know how useless (and actually un-productive) that is!

    I now try to deliberately put in some “mindless” hours every weekend when I basically do absolutely nothing or go sit somewhere to watch people/life go by. (A chair on a home balcony facing the road in Bengaluru would be so perfect for this!) No digital/telephonic distractions allowed! It also helps that we decided to not have cable/TV and have been happy with that decision for 2 years now. It is way too easy to turn on the TV and let it fill in our indecisive hours of the day.

      1. Vaidya: Yes, the banian-dhoti clad uncle (or couple of sari clad neighbour aunties) standing at the gate all noon watching the road-life pass by 😀 Cable TV’s daily serials made them an extinct species.

        It is mildly amusing (and highly irritating) to discover that some things our earlier generation used to do were actually kind of okay.

        The more I read and discover about keeping a healthy mind and body, the more I am stepping back towards the lifestyle and diet of our ancestors. I am reminded of this Zen proverb: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” (The proverb is actually about something else, but kind of suits this sentiment.)

        BTW ever thought why you get ideas in the shower or sitting in the loo? It is the only place in today’s digital lifestyle where our mind is blanked out and at peace from distractions 😀

  2. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” liked this. Having a child changes life and perspective.. I mean a child and not any other equivalent. That is why I liked the Zen proverb. I and some of my friends who have children tell each other, that nobody will understand this unless you have cleaned vomit some x number of times and still want to devote time to creative pursuits. Yes life without cable TV is swell, nobody misses it. we haven’t had it for more than a year now. Child is growing up without much trauma! lol!

    1. I would say the first time a person’s perspective undergoes a radical change is when they commit to a lifelong relationship with their partner and starts living with them. A child is the next one.

      Glad to hear that you are living without cable TV. I would say living without cable is harder to pull off in India and kudos on that! 🙂

      1. Actually it’s not that hard. Just spend a few days watching popular channels (esp news channels) and you’ll swear off all forms of TV. Only sports remains – thanks to test cricket and Messrs Nadal, Federer and Djokovic (that was difficult, writing the last name, and not because of the spelling)

  3. Vaidya: News channels, reality shows and daily TV serials have descended into new depths of low. Advertisements are another reason not to watch cable TV. Some of the cleverest people on Earth work in advertising and they know how to make viewers aspire for and waste their hard-earned money on their unnecessary products. A final problem with cable TV is that one cannot watch what one wants when one wants it.

    Despite all these problems, there is some excellent content made for TV. The best way to watch TV content is to get it on disc or from Internet and watch at one’s own leisure/pace without advertisements.

    1. That is what we do too. Kid and us see whatever we want on the internet! And we get him CDs of so many ohter stuff. and we have a hard disc full movies which am yet to tick off.. only thing that I miss are probably Tamil and Mal movies. Should start getting CDs of those too! And I don’t miss the ads!

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