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Master “The Zone” in Silence #1

How To Get In “The Zone”?

Article by: Steven Bourne from Oneminutetennis.

‘Watch the ball’ is a phrase used by tennis coaches during most tennis lessons and repeated by players all over the world.
How can you play tennis and not watch the ball? How often does the ball go to your forehand and you move to hit a backhand? Surely this would happen often if we weren’t really watching the ball.
So what does your coach really mean when they say, ‘watch the ball’?
Obviously, the eyes are focused on the ball and yet somehow this isn’t sufficient.
The biggest obstacle to seeing the ball clearly, is the mind. To understand this statement, we need to look into the workings of the mind.

The Zone & Mind

The mind functions in the past when it remembers previous events, it functions in the future in the form of hopes, dreams, and ambitions.
Both of these are not real, the past has gone and the future is simply a wish.
Consequently, as the ball leaves the opponent’s racquet and travels towards us we need to be in the present until we make contact with the ball.
If the mind is in the past or the future, it can’t be in the present.
Often, what happens is that the mind is silent when the opponent hits the ball and therefore able to see the ball clearly. As the ball makes its way towards us tension can arise. The source of this tension is invariably connected to the outcome or result of our impending shot. This is usually a conscious thought about how to hit the ball or where to hit the ball.

Peak performance occurs when one is in the present moment.
However, staying in the present moment does not seem to be easy for most of us.
Historically mystics from various traditions tell us it is extremely easy because it is our natural state of being.
This is a state of mind that we cannot actively pursue, it is something that happens to us when we realize that this present moment is all there is. We can lose all our goals, desires, and ambitions and just be.


This creates a silent mind. Silence occurs when we lose the past, lose the future and are simply present, in that moment without hopes or ambitions.  
Consequently, in tennis, the mind will always struggle with silence until it realizes that winning and losing are not inherently different in the greater scheme of things. That winning does not make us more and consequently losing does not make us any less. In both situations, the essence of who we are remains untouched. Only then can we enjoy the present moment and when there is contentment here and now there will be no need to indulge in self-projected fantasies.

This experience of silence has long been associated with peak performance in sports. In all studies of professional athletes who have experienced ‘the zone’, that state of being where peak performance happens, mention is constantly made of an effortlessness, which arises through increased awareness. Many athletes have spoken of how the ball slows down and appears to move in slow motion. This happens at times when we are really ‘watching’ the ball, with a completely silent mind. When that happens we are in the zone. It is not that the ball slows down, but that the activity of the mind, which draws our attention away from the ball, appears to speed up the ball. In fact, the ball neither speeds up nor slows down. We create both illusions depending on the state of being we happen to be in.
Every unforced error in tennis is, in my experience, a mental error. When the mind is active we cannot be in the present, when we are not in the present it is extremely difficult to make clean contact with the ball. Those players who think before points and after points, must, during points become silent, if they are to be able to hit the ball cleanly. Ironically, this will be without realization because one cannot, by definition, be aware of silence, one can only be aware of noise. It is in silence that we play our best tennis because it is only in silence that we can see the ball and how can we play our best if we cannot see the ball?
Consequently, real success in tennis and life never depends on the outcome; rather it is always about ourselves in the process.

We cannot always win on the court, but we can always sing our song and dance our dance, and surely to be able to do that is the true meaning of success. 

What do you do to stay focused on the court? Write us to improve your game.

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