Flowing presence is the underlying spatiotemporal dimension of the human peak performance state. That much we can say for sure. One of the primary characteristics of flow is a sense of being in the here and now, being in the moment. Coaches tell their athletes to stay in the moment, which is excellent advice, but they don’t really tell them exactly how to stay in the moment. If they did, then their athletes would continuously perform in their peak performance state. But since athletes normally do not perform in the peak performance state, they must not be staying in the moment. They must not be staying in the flowing present, which means they must be staying someplace other than the here and now – like, for instance, the then and there. And by that I mean that if their body-mind is not directly connected to and interfacing with the flowing present, then it must be connected to and interfacing with a different spatiotemporal dimension. And since there are only two left – the past and the future – then the body-mind must be connected to one or the other.
Since the flowing past is occupied by the material objects in your visual field, then the most obvious temporal location for your body-mind to interface with is the immediate flowing past of form. And all you have to do to connect to and interface with the flowing past is to focus on the objects moving around in your visual field. Relative to your sensorimotor operating system in its flowing present location, all objects moving around in your visual field exist is the immediate flowing past.
In other words, while you body is always located in the flowing present, your mind is generally connected to the flowing past of form. That’s a state of body-mind separation in time and space. Body in the present – mind in the past. Definitely not the state of body-mind unification we experience when both body and mind are simultaneously in the flowing present.
Body/Present – Mind/Past = Body-Mind separation in space and time.
Body/Present – Mind/Present – Body-Mind unification in space and time.
When we speak of body-mind unification, we’re talking about the body-mind as a whole system being connected to and interfacing with the whole of the flowing present. Both body and mind co-located in the flowing present of the athletic environment’s moment-to-moment action.
Athletes cannot and will not perform to their full-potential when their minds are in a different spatiotemporal location than their bodies. That spatiotemporal separation is not wrong, in fact, it’s our normal spatiotemporal state: our minds slightly behind our bodies in space and time. And this slightest of spatiotemporal separation is the body-mind separation that underlies the normal performance state
Body/Present – Mind/Past = Normal Performance State
The fix for that spatiotemporal separation of body and mind is to unify body and mind in the space and time, and the only way to do that is to unify body and mind in the spatiotemporal dimension of the flowing present. To co-locate your body and your mind in the flowing present, and with that co-location of body and mind in the flowing present comes the immediate co-creation of the human peak performance state.
Body/Present – Mind/Present = Peak Performance State
Get in the present and you get in the zone. Simple. So how do you do it? How do you get “in the present?” More exactly, how do you co-locate your body and you mind in the flowing present dimension of your moment-to-moment athletic environment?
That question begs the deeper question: what is the flowing present? If I’m going to get “into” something, I want to first know what it is I’m getting into. And the flowing present is not just one present moment followed by another then another ad-infinitum. The flowing present is actually a construct of the immediate flowing past and the immediate flowing future combining to perpetually co-create the whole of the flowing present. On a tennis court, or any other contact sequence sport, that spatiotemporal arrangement looks like this: (see diagram)
As you can see, all three spatiotemporal dimensions are present in every contact sequence, with every contact sequence being a Relativity Field or R-field for short. These R-fields show that relative to your sensorimotor operating system (body) in the flowing present, there is the movement of the ball in the immediate flowing past, and your contact zone, the empty space of your immediate flowing future. All three exist simultaneously to create the whole of the flowing present, but because of space-time relativity, the flowing past and flowing future of each and every contact sequence can be seen as they relate to your body, which always exists in the flowing present.
Focusing on the objects of movement in your visual field connects your mind to the immediate flowing past of the R-field action while you body remains in the flowing present. This is the spatiotemporal architecture of body-mind separation, and to fix that state of body-mind separation, you need a spatiotemporal architecture of body-mind unification wherein your body and your mind are co-located in the flowing present from one R-field to another, again and again and again.
To do that you must stop focusing on the ball/past and start focusing on the empty space of your contact zone/future, understanding that as you fix your focus on your contact zone you will still be seeing the ball, it will just be out of focus – but not out of sight. This pattern of focusing on the flowing future of your contact zone while still seeing the flowing past of the ball’s movement sets up parallel streams of visual information that gives your brain equal and simultaneous information about the immediate flowing past and the immediate flowing future, and those parallel streams of past and future information combine to co-create the whole of the immediate flowing present of each and every R-field.
In other words, your body and your mind are equally and simultaneously in the flowing present, and that’s how you get in the present. You get in the flowing present by connecting equally and simultaneously to its temporal opposites – the past and the future. And you can immediately get in the zone by co-creating its underlying spatiotemporal dimension – the flowing present. And with the co-creation of flowing presence, body and mind are unified in space and time, and that state of body-mind unification is mandatory to a fully-potentiated, one-to-one interface between athlete and action.
When you talk about the peak performance state, the zone, flow, whatever name you want to call it, that performance state requires body-mind unification, and that state of body-mind unity takes place with and within the spatiotemporal construct of one complete R-field followed by another then another. Each of these R-fields is a contact sequence whose parts come together at contact to co-create a complete whole. And you, as a part of this flowing whole, are also the co-creator of its completion as a whole. The bottom line objective of any contact sequence sport is the creation of positive contact, and your odds of creating an event of positive contact when your body and your mind are unified with the flowing presence of each and every contact sequence R-field are much greater than if your body and your mind are in separate spatiotemporal locations within the contact sequence R-field.
So when you hear the term body-mind unity, or playing in the zone, or being in the here and now, or staying in the moment; when you hear the term flow being used in conjunction with peak performance, understand that all of these terms are used to language the experience of body-mind unification with and within the spatiotemporal dimension of the flowing present.
Flowing presence is the flow state; is the zone. And you get “in the zone,” to get into a “flow state,” you simply combine the flowing present’s temporal opposites: the flowing past and flowing future. Together, the equal and simultaneous integration of the flowing past and flowing future co-creates the transcendent dimension of the flowing present.
That’s flow; that’s the zone, and that’s how you do it both on the field of competition and off.