Friday, February 26, 2010

Joannie Owned her Zone

Joannie Owned her Zone
            On Thursday night Joannie stepped out  onto the ice and entered the Zone. Having just experienced a major shock through the loss of her mom Joannie went on to do what many could not have done under the same circumstances.Joannie entered and stayed in the Zone. 

           There have been many terms used to describe The Zone, that place or state that exists beyond ordinary human perception, in both religious and secular languages.  The late religious historian Ioan Couliano spoke of the “fourth dimension,” a term also used by quantum physicists and metaphysicists; New Age pop icon Carlos Castaneda calls it non-ordinary reality; psychologists refer to Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) or Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE); and popular culture simply calls it a “parallel reality.”  Each in their own way is describing the same thing, and in this first segment we look to these other disciplines for clues as to the nature of The Zone.

          In my book I intersperse my exploration of The Zone with anecdotes from athletes.  Soccer genius Pele, in his autobiography, My Life and the Beautiful Game, recalls the day he experienced “a strange calmness” unlike anything he had ever experienced before.  “It was a type of euphoria.”  Basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell, in Memoirs of an Opinionated Man, speaks of that “mystical feeling” when a game “became more than a physical or mental game, and it would be was almost as if we were playing in slow motion.”  Then there are the tales of long-distance runners who recall the disturbing ability to see inside their own bodies, or the equally strange sensation of “tipping,” rising into the air as they run. 

Interestingly, athletes’ encounters with the extraordinary have parallels in ecstatic experience.  Tipping is similar to what the Catholic Church calls “ecstatic walking”; the sensation of seeing your insides is one of the eight powers referred to in the yoga sutras; and altered perceptions of time are associated with many forms of meditation and shamanic journeying, as is a heightened sense of well-being.  On a more popular level, many of us are familiar with the image of a yogi walking across burning coals, impervious to the pain, or tales of human paranormal phenomenon such as ESP or premonitions.

But in a culture where ecstatic experience has been marginalized, athletes have been robbed of a context within which to identify, understand, and place these extraordinary moments. I truly hope that after watching the athletes at the 2010 Olympics especially Joannie that will have started to change NOW.

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