Monday, March 8, 2010


“Let the bird sing without deciphering the song”, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

There is such a thing about too much thinking. We can analyze everything to death. Then we create paralysis through analysis. You can think too much which is something Dante and his guide Virgil. Discovered on their outing to the Inferno. Faith begins, if it begins at all where knowledge leaves off.

Even scientists will admit that they do all the homework they can but eventually rely on an intuitve leap. They call it informed intuition, and though it grows naturally out of periods of dogged rational work-which provides the raw material it needs to go on, the bits of clothing laced with scent-reason, again, only goes so far. Intuition is the last baton carrier. It doesn’t win the race alone, but it’s the one that crosses the finish line.The more practiced it is the less likely it is to get winded at crucial moments.

Intuition has receptors that seem able to hook all manner of passing emotions, like a bus that rolls through downtown picking up passengers. The passengers are not the bus, however, they are merely hitching a ride. Sports psychologist (and former athlete) Susan Jackson, who co-wrote The Flow of Sports with Csikszentmihalyi, puts a more secular spin on the same conclusion.  Though Jackson believes flow can be controllable, she would agree with Cooper that it cannot be achieved on demand.  “However, we can set the stage for flow by firstly being aware of what the flow state is...and then focusing on the factors that facilitate flow for a particular athlete.”

            Jackson’s emphasis on the individual athlete’s flow touches upon the interplay between spirit and an athlete’s emotional life which, in turn, it deeply dependent upon an athlete’s environment, personal beliefs, and shared cultural values.  All contribute their part in creating a space in which the athlete is free to excel.              

 A whole industry of performance gurus claiming to know the one true path to The Zone has sprouted up in the last decade as athletes strive to reach peak performance.  But in my book and documentary we discover there is no one secret formula.  The Zone requires a complex intersection of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements that, when attained, create in the athlete a security and confidence to personally identify with excellence.  Pia Nilsson, former European team Solheim Cup captain, sums up our findings when he speaks of Tiger’s female equivalent, Annika Sorenstam: “Annika has given herself permission to be great.  It shocks people, being so bold.  But it’s crucial that you see yourself doing something exceptional, so that when the time comes, you don’t bail out.  Because you feel you belong there, you stay in the zone.”

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