Hi, I'm Doug Motel, and this is Art Spirit Sunday. This is where I talk a little bit about being a creative person and how it overlaps with being a spiritual person. It's loosey-goosey. I talk about different things that relate to the spiritual life of creative people. You don't have to think of yourself as an artist necessarily, but the slant tends to be about creating stuff.
I wanted to talk today about this notion of "being in the zone." If you've ever been in the middle of making art or in the middle of doing something all-consuming, you may have used this expression "I was in the zone. I was just lost in it."
Whether it's writing a song or, as Stephen Sondheim put it in Sunday in the Park with George, "finishing the hat", it is that all-consuming moment where you really feel like you're just channeling. Something bigger is guiding you.
I had moments like that when I was creating...time becomes very weird; it seems to go by really quickly. It is a very beautiful feeling.
What I want to talk about today is how we can take that notion of "being in the zone," which really is just a euphemism for being present, just being "in the now," and see if we can play with it throughout the whole day: being in the zone when you're making a salad, being in the zone when you are listening to a friend pour their heart out to you, etc.
A long time ago. I was semi dragged to go see Frank Sinatra perform at a pretty large arena in California. I went into the arena, and Frank Sinatra had created such a space of intimacy as a performer. He was paying so much attention to every lyric in every song it was as though they were all just true stories he was telling us. He was completely in the zone. I could feel the arena feel getting smaller and smaller until he had made it into a tiny cabaret for us.
I left that concert thinking, "wow, anybody who's great at anything, no matter what it is, what they're great at is just being present."
Tiger Woods, who, for as complicated as his personal life is, is pretty much acknowledged as a phenomenal once-in-a-generation athlete. There is a really interesting interview that I read with his coach, Butch Harmon. When they asked him “how does he do this? How can he make a mistake and then just move on?” His coach said that "he plays shot by shot. That's it. When he's in the middle of a shot, he doesn't think about the upcoming shot. And if he makes a mistake, he doesn't think about that either. He just lets it go."
These are illustrations of people being in the center of their greatness by being in the center of the zone.
The idea of "the zone" being applied to anything is such an opportunity. It's such an invitation. It's almost like, well, why WOULDN'T we do that? Why wouldn't we try to allow ourselves to be in the zone throughout our whole day?
Why would we not do that?
Why would we not keep coming back to the present and give each moment our full attention as if it really mattered, as if each moment was the most important moment of our life? Instead of some moment that's down the road, that's going to be really great, or running away from some moment that happened in the past that wasn't so great.
Of course, this stuff is a lot easier said than done. Maybe we build up an ability to notice that we are stuck in our thinking, and then let that thought go and come back.
I do think that meditation teaches you to keep coming back here...now. And then there comes the point where the mind can sort of anticipate that that's what it is going to be asked to do: just keep coming back and being present for whatever is in front of you. After enough practice, the mind starts to go there automatically when it “sees” you start to sit.
If you've ever felt "wow, I'm really in the zone." I invite you to consider how you might want to jog up that scent, that feeling in all kinds of things that you're doing during the day. So you get the sense that you are creative about the whole day.