People who have played tennis in the zone have had the experience of being in the present while they play. When I ask people what temporal dimension is the best for playing tennis – the past, the present, or the future – the answer is always “it’s best to be in the present.”
When I ask what they mean by being in the present, what I usually hear is something along the line of: stay in the point you are playing, don’t look back at past points and don’t look ahead to the next point. Stay in the point you are in – stay in the present point.
That’s good advice, but it will not put you “in the present.” Being in the present is all about creating the temporal dimension of the present while you play. That means creating the present out of the available temporal dimensions of the tennis environment.
What does that mean? It means that every contact sequence that occurs on the tennis court has a past, a present and a future relative to you. And for you to understand what it means to be in the present you need to understand your relationship to these temporal dimensions.
It’s called “temporal indexing” and what it means is that relative to you in the present, the ball represents the past dimension of the contact sequence and the contact zone represents the future dimension of the contact sequence.
1. Movement (ball) = Past2. Countermovement (you) = Present3. Contact Zone (contact) = Future
But the most important aspect of being in the present is that the present is the underlying temporal dimension of your peak performance state. The present is the underlying dimension of playing tennis in the zone. Peak performance is not achieved by being in the past or by being too far in the future, rather, your peak performance state is state of total presence, total absorption in the present. And you absorb yourself totally in the present by creating it through the use of a parallel interface with the temporal dimensions of the tennis environment.
The act of synthesizing the past and future temporal dimensions of the contact sequence into the unified dimension of the present is achieved, very simply, through the fixed focus state that lies at the heart of the parallel mode process.
By focusing on the future depth of contact while simultaneously seeing the past movement of the ball, you create the unified reality of the present. The visual act of fixing the focus of your eyes on your contact zone and locating the contact point causes you to input equal distributions of information to your brain about the past and future simultaneously.Question: Where are you in time when you are equally in the past and equally in the future simultaneously?
The answer to that question holds the secret to playing tennis in the zone.
For those people who believe that you create the present by destroying the past and the future altogether, you can see that by combining equal portions of the past/ball, and the future/contact zone, you create a separate temporal reality. This reality includes both past and future in such a way that they can be seen to cancel each other out as individual or separate temporal dimensions – thus, in essence, destroying the past and the future to leave only the present.
So to say that in the present there is no past and there is no future is to say that these temporal dimensions are no longer discrete dimensions, but they have been synthesized into a new and separate dimension – the present, which is actually made up of all dimensions. So to be “in the present” is to be one with all dimensions simultaneously.
There is nothing quite like it in the game of tennis. Playing tennis in the zone is playing tennis in the present, and it is the experience of being one with the past and future simultaneously thus creating the temporal dimension of the present.
Once you have created the underlying temporal dimension of your peak performance state, the rest of it happens on its own. That’s the real secret to playing tennis in the zone. It’s not about tennis at all – it’s about you creating the dimension of the present while you are on the tennis court. Tennis just provides the environment; your method of connecting to that environment creates the temporal dimension in which you experience the game.
Focusing on the ball connects you to the past dimension of the game, and while that is not wrong (there is no right or wrong), connecting to the ball will never create the dimension of the present. Sorry, the rules of relativity are persistently unbreakable. And the ball, relative to you, is always in the past.
Your normal operating mode, your serial operating mode, connects you focally to the ball. In other words, playing tennis in your normal performance state is playing tennis in the past, which means that you are focusing against the flow of time.
In your parallel mode, which you can choose to use as your operating mode, you are changing not only the way you interface with the tennis environment; you are also connecting focally to the future while still seeing the past at the same time.
In other words, you are connecting to the past and the future simultaneously. But because you are focused on the future, you are no longer focused against the flow of time. Instead you are focused with the flow of time, and that is a big difference; a huge difference.
Tennis in the norm – focused on the past; focused against the flow of time.Tennis in the zone – focused on the future; focused with the flow of time.
You have a choice in the direction you take. One way goes against the flow of time, the other goes with the flow of time. Which choice sounds better to you?