Transformative athletic practices such as the Parallel Mode Process (PMP) can play a role in the evolution of consciousness. But there are some questions that must be answered before these transformational practices can be successfully implemented in the traditional athletic world. First off is the matter of transformation itself. What is being transformed to what? In the case of the PMP, what is being transformed can be seen through the quadrant approach developed by Ken Wilber.
- Your performance is being transformed through the shift from a Serial Mode of operation to a Parallel Mode of operation. (UR quadrant)
- Your state of consciousness s being transformed through a shift from Gross to Integral consciousness. (UL quadrant)
- Your functional interface is being transformed from a 6-dimensional, asymmetrical interface to a 6-dimensional symmetrical interface. (LR quadrant)
- Your competitive experience is being transformed from a heterotelic competitive experience to an autotelic competitive experience. (LL quadrant)
- And, perhaps most importantly, your sense of self is being transformed from your Egoic Self to your Authentic Self. (The Whole)
This transformation occurs when you connect to and interface with the spatiotemporal dimension of the flowing present. With your connection to the flowing present comes this transformation of physical performance, higher consciousness, and self-actualization. And they all happen simultaneously, and it is in this higher-order state of body-mind unity that you come to experience your full-potential, Authentic Self as a human being in your sport or in your current environment.
I use the PMP as example because it is the transformative practice with which I am most familiar. There are many other transformative practices in the world. This is just one, but the value of the PMP is that it gives you this full-potential experience in a sport with which you have some familiarity, so you will recognize the immediate improvement that comes with body-mind unification with the flowing present. Then, over time, the Authentic Self you stabilize in your peak performance state begins move off the athletic field and into the field of life.
When your realize that the whole process is about connecting to the flowing present and then maintaining a fully-integrated state of flowing presence, then how you go about doing that is completely up to you, but the PMP gives you a sure-fire way of connecting your body-mind to the flowing present of any active environment. That’s really how you get in a flow state; you do it by connecting to the flowing present of each consecutive moment, and the PMP teaches you how to make that presence connection in your sport. Then it’s just a matter of translating that state of flowing presence to your daily life.
Easier said than done. We have an egoic self that tends to get in the way of flowing presence, but through playing your sport in the zone, you will be playing your sport in an unselfconscious state, an egoless state. And with the loss of ego comes the awakening of your Authentic Self, and it is this higher-order, Authentic Self that slowly comes to the fore in your daily life.
Because the Authentic Self is the self of presence, which is actually no-self, it gets a little bit tricky explaining how this Authentic Self is more effective in your daily life, but it you look at the Authentic Self as being the self of presence, then it’s just a matter of staying in the flowing present and you will experience your Authentic Self in action.
That authenticity is immediately realized when you play your sport in the zone, the whole transformation in performance is based on an underlying connection to and co-creation of the flowing present dimension. The same holds true off the field of competition when you realize the effectiveness of connecting to the flowing present in whatever you are doing. It’s not about what you are doing, but rather it’s about how you are doing it. How closely are you connected to what’s going on? And the closest connection you can make to the current action of what you are doing is to be unified with its flowing presence.
Again, easy to say, hard to do. But you can practice this presence connection in your sport by using the techniques learned in the PMP. Every time you practice playing your sport in the zone, you are practicing presence in a relational environment, just like almost every other environment in your life. Transformational practices are practices that get you in the zone. And these practices allow you to bring your Authentic Self into the relational situations of your athletic life, then, over time, you learn to bring your Authentic Self into the relational situations of your daily life.
The main point is that playing in the zone not only transforms your game, but it also transforms you. That’s the real reason transformative practices are important to the evolution of consciousness: they transform you. And they transform you into something better, a higher order version of you called your Authentic Self. Why is your Authentic Self a higher-order version of you? Because your Authentic Self transcends your Egoic Self and frees you from the limitations and bondage of this false or Egoic Self.
On the tennis court or any other field of competition, this shift into the zone is mostly recognized for its positive effects on your performance. It’s not called your peak performance state for nothing. You actually do perform at your highest level when you are in the zone. But you don’t play better because you are in the zone; you play better because when you are in the zone you are in your most efficient and accurate operating mode, your Parallel Mode, which acts to co-create a more efficient and accurate interface between your sensorimotor operating system and your athletic environment. The more efficient and accurate your operational interface, the higher your level of performance, so there are very definite reasons that you play better when you are in the zone, but there is so much more to the zone than just the transformation of your performance. There is also the transformation of consciousness that correlates with and is simultaneous to the shift from a Serial Mode of operation to a Parallel Mode of operation – and that correlative interior transformation is a shift from a state of gross consciousness to a state of integral consciousness. This state of integral consciousness that accompanies playing in the zone is a more inclusive and more expansive state of consciousness than your normal state of gross consciousness; the gross consciousness that correlates with and is simultaneous to your Serial Mode of operation.
Integral consciousness is “big-picture” consciousness. When you are in the zone, you are aware of all the action in your visual field. Where gross consciousness sees the parts of the picture sequentially, integral consciousness sees the whole picture simultaneously, including all the parts. Yet this transformation that occurs when you shift into the zone is even more than a transformation in your performance, and more than a transformation in your conscious states. Playing in the zone also brings with it the awakening of your Authentic Self – the higher-order self of flowing presence. This transformation of self is a transformation out of the egoic self of gross consciousness and your Serial Mode of operation and into the Authentic Self of integral consciousness and your Parallel Mode of operation.
Spend enough time in the zone and the Authentic Self is stabilized and developed in the relational competition of your sport. You come to know your Authentic Self; you come to trust its intuitive nature and unselfconscious freedom. Add that sense of freedom to the fully-potentiated interface between your body-mind and the athletic environment and you’ve got the freedom and fullness of your peak performance state.
That’s a powerful combination that calls you back for more, and it is this clarion call to a fully-potentiated and fully-integrated state of being that drives the evolution of sport as well as driving the evolution of consciousness. The question is: why would we want to undertake this transformative process if it doesn’t come with a big payoff on the other side? Why would we want to shift from our normal performance state to our peak performance state if our peak performance state wasn’t more effective? Why undertake the co-creation of the zone if the zone didn’t work better than the norm? And why dump your beloved ego for this unknown Authentic Self if your Authentic Self doesn’t play the game better than your egoic self?
But that’s just it. Your Authentic Self does play the game better than your egoic self. Quite simply, your Authentic Self competes better than your egoic self because it transcends the ego leaving you to play the game in an egoless, unselfconscious state. And when you are cut loose from the limitations and constant judgments of ego, you are free to roam the territory of a fully-potentiated reality.
Of course, letting go of ego is not as easy as it sounds. Your ego will not go gently into that good night, nor will it politely dismiss itself and allow the Authentic Self to stabilize and develop without any egoic interference. Sorry, it won’t happen that way for most humans. Transformation is not meant to be easy. It’s not about easy. It’s about trading in your most treasured possession – your ego – for an unknown commodity – this so-called Authentic Self. Why, after all those years of ego-development would you want to dump what you’ve painfully built and what you rigidly defend for something you know very little about? Unless, of course, what you know so little about could be built into something far greater that what you so rigidly defend. It sounds like nothing more than a promise of greatness for which there is zero proof that the promise will come true. Typical self-help hogwash, right?
Wrong. The proof lies in the reality of your peak performance state; the actualization of flow in your sport. Every time you play your sport in the zone, you are realizing the evolutionary promise that beckons us to creatively advance into novelty and further complexity. The evolutionary promise that calls us to reach for something in ourselves that lies beyond the limitations of ego; something in ourselves that is extraordinary and lays sleeping in the recesses of our awareness. We know it is in there; we’ve felt it on those rare occasions when it all seems to come together and we play the game of fullness and freedom we call the zone.
It is a call to greatness that exists within us all. The call to evolve, to go beyond the ordinary and become truly extraordinary through the very same transformation of being that we experience when we are playing our sport in the zone. That’s the extraordinary you that lies dormant inside, alive but sleeping, and in order to wake up to your extraordinary self, your Authentic Self, you need only release your ego’s vice-like grip on your performance. And to do that, you need a transformation of consciousness such as the shift from gross to integral consciousness that you get when you play your sport in the zone.
But here’s the best part. Playing your sport in the zone can become a transformational practice that is not only evolutionary in nature, but also fun! Bottom line; playing in the zone is fun! Much more fun than playing in the norm. Once you’ve learned to play your sport in the zone, playing in the norm is boring; it’s aggravating, its volatile, its limited and motivated by the ego’s need for instant gratification.
Conversely, playing in the zone is never boring; it’s always challenging. Coming out of the zone is what’s aggravating, but maintaining the zone is exhilarating, fresh, always new, always different from the norm, always fuller, always freer. There’s really no downside to playing in the zone. The downside comes when you know how to get in the zone but you don’t do what you need to do to actually get in the zone. That when it gets frustrating, sometimes to the point where you just give up on the whole transformational process.
But here’s the thing about giving up on transformation: that’s exactly what your ego wants you to do. Your ego hates transformation because it means your ego gets dumped for your Authentic Self. So your ego will tell you this whole transformational gig is a bunch of crap. A big fat lie perpetrated by a bunch of woo-woo, self-helpers trying to pull a fast one on you by telling you you’re extraordinary, when everyone knows you’re not. You’re just like everyone else, your ordinary, and anyone who tells you different is yanking your chain.
Except for one thing. Deep down inside, you know there is more to you than first meets the eye. You know there is a different you inside that nobody knows about but you. And you know that sometimes this different version of you comes out to play your game at a radically higher level than your norm. And on those rare occasions when this other version of you comes out to play the game, everything changes. You change, the game changes, the whole experience is different, bigger, better, fuller, freer.
What the heck is that? Who the heck am I when I play this crazy game I play at this extraordinary level of excellence? I know one thing for sure when I play my game in the zone. I know that no one is yanking my chain. No one is telling me I’m extraordinary and promising me a bunch of crap that will never happen. It’s happening right here, right now. The experience I’m having when I’m in the zone is anything but crap, and it is, indeed, extraordinary. My game is extraordinary and so am I. After all, I’m the one playing this game at this extraordinary level, so I, too, must be extraordinary!
Hey! Maybe this isn’t a bunch of woo-woo, self-helpers making false promises that will never come true. This experience of playing in the zone is very real. It’s truly happening to me, and I feel the difference in my game and in me.
Question: who are you when you are playing your game in the zone? Who is this different version of you who plays the game with such effortless vigor? And why does the game itself feel different – more satisfying, more complete?
Could this version of you be the real you? Could this Authentic Self who plays the game in a state of flow be the Authentic You? If so, then who is the other version of you who plays the same game at a lower level of efficiency and accuracy? Is that lower- order version of you the real you? Is the egoic self of your normal performance state the real you?
These are a few of the questions you will come face-to-face with in any transformational practice worth its salt. And the biggest question of all is this: who are you, really?
Spend enough time in the zone and you will come to know your Authentic Self as the real you. And you will come to know the authentic reality of the game you are playing. That’s the promise of the zone, and it is not a false promise. Nothing woo-woo or self-helpy about it. Get in the zone in your sport and transformation happens. You don’t even have to look for it. It’s there, happening as your play your game in the zone. And you don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to ask any big, deep questions about who you really are. The answers come within the territory you’re investigating. When you are in the zone you experience your Authentic Self in action in the same game you’ve always experiences as your egoic self, only now, when you are in the zone, not only are you experiencing a different you, you’re also experiencing a different game.
Which version of “self” you eventually choose play the game is entirely up to you. Which version you choose to live your life is also up to you. But if you spend enough time playing your game in the zone as your Authentic Self, you will come to realize the truth about who you are as an athlete and as a human being.
Then the choice is easy.