Category Archives: The Zone

Transforming Our Emotions

Originally posted June 2, 2015

In the complex accelerated culture in which we live (we call it Acceleritis™), self-mastery of our inner space, or even awareness of what is going on in there, is extremely complicated. Neuroses can arise like biocomputer viruses, and spread through society by intercommunication between people, through our thoughts and ideas and through moods upon which neuroses depend.

Be the masters of our emotions

Two recurring neurotic themes most of us can relate to involve money and frustration. Our culture is set up to cause most of us to worry excessively about money. Money is often the leading indicator of our feelings of self-worth, belonging, achievement, status, freedom, wellness, potency and security. I’m probably leaving some things out.

Frustration can mount, for example, in the workplace when co-workers and bosses don’t go along with the inspiring ideas we have about how to do our job better. Or when society does not encourage (or recognize) an inborn skill or talent and instead of channeling us into a career we love, we find ourselves doing work we can tolerate but that may do little to bring out those inborn talents.

Over time the mix of frustration and money fear can turn to a growing anger, often bottled up inside where when left to simmer and build it can become one of the causes of illnesses of the mind and body. We fall into a counterproductive cycle. We become blocked from getting into the Zone, where ideas, action solutions and clever ways to break through would lead us to create a path to more money, security and happiness.

With the emotions as a wrapper around our whole mental experience, thoughts flit along the surface of the mind. Emotions program thoughts and vice versa. Everything affects everything else in there.

We can ignite the start of a new cycle by seizing the control point where the avalanche starts — our emotional mood. Becoming aware of our emotional state and then working mindfully to take back control of the emotive space around our psyche is key. Detachment from outcome is the core of heroism. A sense of humor gives perspective. Willingness to face the worst with confidence in oneself (and for many, confidence in God/the Universe/a Higher Power) confers a courageous fatalism that has been rediscovered by all of the heroes in history.

In order to (re-)program our emotional wrapper, detachment is not enough. We are emotional beings, hardwired to have some emotional drama going on in the background at all times. Getting into the Zone aka Flow state requires awareness and management of that background emotional mood. If we are not proactively programming it in alignment with our intentions, it will continue to program itself.

Each of us needs then to work to transform negative emotion, the nemesis of the Zone, into positive emotion — which means remembering all we have to be grateful for, and all there is to look forward to and be excited about.

We may experience challenging (even heartbreaking) trials but we need to be able to shift our focus to see them as opportunities that reveal what we are really made of.

Best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog contribution, In Terms of ROI at MediaVillage.com. Here is the link to my latest post.

Originally posted 2015-06-02 11:12:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Savor the Moment

Volume 3, Issue 32

It’s true that all we have is this moment, the Now. The past and future are concepts, abstractions, ways the brain has of organizing experience so it seems to make sense. What is always real is the Now. To the extent that our attention is divided into the Now, the past and the future, we are sapping the energies needed to get into the Zone (Flow state) in the Now.

Love the one you’re with. If your day is filled with scheduled meetings and phone calls, you may find yourself doing some of them to get past them and on to something you’re more looking forward to. You’re doing it so you can check it off your to-do list. The quality of the interaction you’re in would be nowhere near the Zone. A better strategy is to engage in each interaction at the top of your game. From the cosmic perspective you’re always on stage and no performance should be a throw-away.

Useful lens: love the One you’re with. See that person or those persons as other free-agent extensions of the One, highly sentient like you, each with his or her own story. You are interacting with them now for reasons that may be non-obvious, beyond and including the obvious reasons you know about. There are undoubtedly layers of additional opportunity in the moment. Allow your interest to gather in the interaction and be a studious observer.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. — Rumi, from “The Guest House”

Nothing will work, however, if your day is packed and you have not ingrained yourself with organized processes for managing constant chaos and distraction. One such process starts with putting fake meetings in your calendar so others will not book anything with you at those times. Those are times reserved for meetings with yourself, which on each occasion you will use as you like best at the time. It might be to launch into a high-opportunity project that has been waiting. It might be to take a break and a mental vacation, where you may find creative ideas popping of their own volition. It might be to sort out the latest incoming chaos and to assign it a place in your future schedule for handling.

The strategy is to pre-plan your days to include these meetings with yourself at reasonable intervals, and pre-dream the other meetings, calls and other activities — which you can do in the shower or even in bed in the morning or the night before. Arrange things so you can focus 100% on one thing at a time. As interruptions arise or even fresh thoughts relevant to the meeting you’re in, note them on pieces of paper so you don’t lose them (this also relieves your mind of the need to blurt them lest you forget them). Throw these notes into the chaos file folder until you can sort them into the right client file. Empty the chaos folder each night so you have the feeling of being in control and not overrun.

Deep breathing in the moment helps. Remembering how much can be accomplished in a few minutes when you are patiently relating human to human. Listening to and feeling the feelings of the mirror neurons in your brain. Swinging for the Big Idea fences inherent in the present conversation.

There is always a game going on. If you’re not in one game you’ll be in another. One game is the success game. Money is the main point-keeper in this game. Another game is self-actualization, where you are having fun because you love your work. There can still be attachment in the self-actualization game because if at any moment you are not having fun you can get brought down, and this is not conducive to the Zone. The most-rewarding game is the one in which you are always focused on the presence of a/The Higher Power (HP), with whom you are a working team. The HP is the pitcher and you the batter; however, you are both on the same team. The object is not to beat anyone else but to perform at your highest level through whatever game course you are playing.

When something “good” happens observe how you take it — ideally with gratitude and satisfaction but without hubris. When something “bad” happens observe how you take it — ideally appreciating the size of the challenge and the cool way you are not fazed by it, handling it with grace under fire, again not crossing the line into hubris.

Imagine this is actually the underlying real game whether we believe it or not. This is the game being played through us. We are just hypnotized into thinking we are separate beings instead of extensions of the One Being. It is this mis-identification that takes us out of Flow (the Zone). When we drop such conceptual baggage Flow happens. This is the core of Zen psychotechnology.

Computing power is the common link between consciousness and computers. We know that consciousness exists — in fact empirically it is the only thing we know for certain.

To grasp what the universe really is, it is necessary to merely accept the possibility of an unimaginably large consciousness, with enough computing power to be responsible for everything that is going on in universe.

Best to all,

Bill

P.S. I’ll be signing my book MIND MAGIC at the Dolphin Bookshop’s local authors book fair in Port Washington, NY on Saturday, September 28 from 11 AM to 3 PM. Please stop by if you are in the area.

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com. 

Shifting the Focus of Emotional Intensity

Volume 3, Issue 29

We are emotional beings. We are hardwired to have some emotional drama going on in the background at all times. Getting into the Zone aka Flow state requires awareness and management of that background emotional mood. If we are not proactively programming it, it will program itself.

After a long series of successes, the background state is often one of confidence, a can-do, can-win attitude. However, this can also set one up to crash in the case of a setback. “What is happening?” we will wonder. “This can’t be happening to me. I never fail.”

To prepare oneself for a challenging game ahead, one uses mental rehearsal including all the things that the other players might do, and the contingency plans of one’s own best actions in each scenario. At the end of such rehearsals, one pre-envisions as vividly as possible, with all emotions engaged, winning the game. At the very end of the preparation one gives up all care about winning or losing. Attachment to outcome blocks the Zone. You have to be playing the game for the sheer enjoyment of it, for its own sake, to shift into the Zone.

With the emotions as a wrapper around our whole psychic experience, the thoughts flit along the surface of the mind. Emotions program thoughts and vice versa. Everything affects everything else in there.

In the complex accelerated culture in which we live, self-mastery of our inner space, or even awareness of what is going on in there, is extremely complicated. Neuroses arise of certain types, like biocomputer viruses, and the viral infection spreads through society by intercommunication of memes and moods upon which neuroses depend.

Two recurring neurotic themes involve money and frustration. The culture is set up to cause most human inhabitants of Earth not living in a tribal setting to need to think like slaves or indentured servants, always worrying about money. Some conspiracy theory was involved but mostly it was natural forces. At first money was just a marker to help memory remember trades and symbolize real “property” such as animals and grain. Then it became what it is today, the leading indicator of our feelings of self-worth, belonging, achievement, status, freedom, security, wellness and potency. I’m probably leaving some things out.

Frustration is a natural effect when society does not encourage (or recognize) one’s inborn skills in certain directions that would channel one into a career he/she loves. Instead one takes a job one can tolerate but that may do little to bring out those inborn skills. Frustration mounts when co-workers and bosses don’t go along with the inspiring ideas one has about how to do one’s job better. The mix of money fear and frustration turns to rage, often bottled up inside where it is one of the causes of illnesses of the mind and body. One is blocked from getting into the Zone, which if achieved would provide ideas for action solutions that in turn would bring more money, security, and clever ways to break through the frustrating resistance to one’s best ideas.

The start of a new cycle can be effected by seizing the control point where the avalanche starts — the surrounding emotional mood. Control of the emotive space around the psyche is the key. Detachment from outcome is the core of heroism. A sense of humor gives perspective. Willingness to face the worst with confidence in oneself (and for some, confidence in God/the Universe) confers a courageous fatalism that has been rediscovered by all of the heroes in history.

In order to program the emotional wrapper, detachment is not enough. Our psychospheres thrive on emotion. Replace negative emotion, the doom of the Zone, with positive emotion — which means remembering what you have to be grateful for and what you have to look forward to and to be excited about. There may be challenging (even heartbreaking) trials but you need to be able to see them as opportunities to show what you’re really made of.

Best to all, 

Bill

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com. 

The Role of Attention in the Zone

Volume 2, Issue 15

Our nonprofit organization,The Human Effectiveness Institute, may be unique among nonprofit foundations in providing people with heuristics specifically designed to increase individual experience of the Observer and Flow (Zone) states of consciousness. Books that contain ancient scriptural texts from India, and other psychotechnologies derived from these teachings or rediscovered experientially, also offer such advice, since the samadhi, satori and zazen states are neurological levels within Flow.

In recent posts we have looked at Flow from many different points of view, including the relation to Flow of values, motivations, attachments, matching of skills and challenges, doing something for its own sake not for outcomes, and striving for Flow in the work one does best. In this post we will consider how attention  is central to both Observer and Flow states.

ADD and ADHD are two modern symptomologies of Acceleritis, which undoubtedly also existed in the past but were never so prevalent as to warrant being named and studied. With the world culture veering wildly as information overload overwhelms our cortical abilities, our attention tends to be diffuse, unfocused, and constantly hopping from one distraction to another — conditions inimical to Flow.

A terrific book given to me recently by my great new friend and partner in Playshops, Richard Zackon, The Taboo of Subjectivity, by Alan Wallace — which recounts with such authenticity one feels as if Wallace is the reincarnation of William James — describes how James analyzes the most advanced “mystical” contemplative state he himself achieved as being one of alert vivid attention. Furthermore, the state was free of subjective constructs, conceptual thinking, and the singlepointed focus was on the nature of the experience of consciousness itself, thus utterly transcending the usual experience of mindand its incessant chatter. James thus demystified this state by explaining its differentness in purely scientific terms.

So long as one is not master of one’s own attention, none of the other suggestions we have provided or can provide will bear fruit in the way of Flow state. This is why so many of the Eastern traditions start with, and continuously emphasize, concentration training. Such training is no longer optional in the racing world of information overflow in which we now live, it is something we all need almost as much as we need love.

We cannot cover the subject of concentration training fully in this one post. A few key secrets of achieving concentration in current real world conditions will have to suffice for a start:

  • Focus 100% on one thing at a time.
     
  • Be present in the moment.
     
  • Do not rush — go no faster than you can with a rational and appropriate degree of perfectionism for the challenge you are facing.

In order to focus on one thing at a time you need:

  • To ruthlessly block off distractions.
     
  • As distracting but important ideas arise, jot them down on a side notepad and put them totally out of your mind until later. At the end of each day, integrate the list of waiting thoughts in priority order in a single list (or a personal list and a core business list). This will enable you to turn away from distracting thoughts without your mind tugging at your sleeve, fearing that important time limits are being exceeded on one or more of these items. Indeed, get done the side-notes in their own needed timeframes.

More on attention in future posts. This one dimension is one of the most important overlooked matters in world culture circa 2012.

Best to all,

Bill

PS – Gian Fulgoni was kind to tweet our last post – Click here.

What Is A Friend?

Volume 2, Issue 10

Being a friend to everyone is conducive to the Zone

Flow state, aka the Zone, is behind the purpose of The Human Effectiveness Institute. In last week’s post we focused on the internal maintenance of a good mood as a precursor to the autotelic (doing it for its own sake not for outcome) Flow state. Self-management of attitude for maximum performance was the point of that post. In this post, we focus on the external world and the ways in which it can be leveraged to help you and your team into Flow.

How do personal interactions lead to — or away from — the Zone?

When someone frustrates you or otherwise pulls you out of your good mood, investigate first how you played along with the event so that it was both of you causing the bad mood. This construct will get you quickly to the levers you can pull to effectively work on that relationship. And the best way to carry out such a long-term plan (relationships are not short-term situations) is as a friend, not as an enemy nor as a distant party.

Resist the temptation to demonize the other person. Realize they got to where they are through a series of events that were perhaps unfortunate and be glad your corresponding events left you with more visibility and perhaps less closed-mindedness. Be open to all possibilities including that your behavior was the progenitor of the events you did not enjoy.

Resist the temptation to teach other people — that is not what they want. If they want your advice, they’ll ask for it. What they want the most from you is simply and truly to be their friend. So what does that mean?

  • Warm, good feelings (love) — from the heart;
     
  • You tell them the truth — in a way that helps not hurts;
     
  • You want them to succeed — even if they succeed ahead of you;
     
  • You share fairly with them;
     
  • You encourage them;
     
  • You help them see the brighter side. People want to be in a good mood — bring yours and they will join you — that is leadership.
     
  • Help them find creative outlets that might have higher probability of success than their current time use.

So being a friend really entails a lot. It is the optimal underpinning to any relationship, including relationships with relatives. It helps make the Zone happen for you, your friends, and sometimes among whole teams of people.

Best to all,
Bill

PS — Ed Keller and Brad Fay of KellerFay have just come out with their new book THE FACE-TO-FACE BOOK: WHY REAL RELATIONSHIPS RULE IN A DIGITAL MARKETPLACE. The revelation of the book is that face-to-face conversations still rule in terms of volume and in terms of credibility, despite all the press about social media. The practical application is about how to use not only social media but everything else that has been proven to work to drive positive conversations including face-to-face. The book includes case studies naming brand names such as Kraft and General Mills. Learn what works. KellerFay not only talks the talk but walks the walk as proven by the way they are marketing the book on Facebook, for example, where you can get a free excerpt at http://on.fb.me/IPgVLE; Win a Free Copy http://on.fb.me/IqzisA. The book is available on Amazon, BN.com, and 800ceoread.

Keep Positive Emotions Focused in the Present

Volume 2, Issue 8

Transmute negative emotion instantly

We continue our discussion of how to get into the Zone.

Gene Roddenberry was aware of the higher levels of life. He used the fictitious race of the Vulcans to demonstrate a species aware of these same higher levels, and who practiced severe control of their emotions. Presumably this would not only make them better people but would allow them to enter the supernatural-seeming Flow State, the scientific term coined by Czikszentmihalyi for the Zone.

The Vulcans were not very advanced in their understanding of emotions, or they would not have tried to control them. “Control” connotes stifling emotions, suppressing them, thus containing and compressing dangerous pressures that will then only rupture out somewhere doing even more damage.

The Human Effectiveness Institute agrees with the Vulcans that negative emotions are something you want to cut off ASAP to return to a balanced state of objective equipoise. Until that happens you are sucked into the emotions and mentally compressed — as if caught in a premeditated trap where your brain’s ability to think clearly is being squeezed in a vise-like grip by a giant clam, the clam being the emotions. They are definitely formidable opponents if one tries to squeeze them down. Negative emotions instead squeeze your cognitive part down. (Not so with positive emotions of course.)

A frontal assault against the emotions misses the point entirely since your emotions are the clearest expression of what you really want. Why would you want to not receive that valuable information?

Channeling the emotions is what’s needed here. Get aside the runaway horse and grab and steer the reins. Extract all the understanding from the emotional message and the messenger will relax.

Use of mental metaphors is a valuable part of the Institute’s IP (Intellectual Property) because they work. (That IP belongs to the public and our job is to get it all out to everyone in the most effective way.) Parts of the mind behave like animals, parts behave like robots, and other parts behave like they are the truest expression of your self’s spirit. Metaphors communicate effectively with all those parts at once, getting them all on the same page.

In the prior post we talked about the autotelic nature of behavior one engages in when in the Flow state, or the Zone. This behavior is being engaged in as an end in itself, because the player enjoys that behavior and makes himself/herself better and better at it. It’s fun. Winning is not the point. Glory and money and power and sex and big ego are not the point.

So you see the Zone also has an axiological basis. It’s about the values you have. Being drawn into obsessive fixation on the usual things listed above stops the chance for Flow entirely. You can’t serve two masters — Flow is all about unity. You can’t be lying to yourself and saying you don’t care about egoism or materialism — you actually have to have transcended those things at least during periods of Flow. If you rarely transcend those things you will rarely experience Flow, and vice versa.

Flow happens when your positive emotion is focused in the present, in the exact now — you are fully engaged in the moment, all of your mind is there, wrong decisions (if you make them) float away with no more than an instant’s regret, and you don’t go into a spiral of wrong decisions driven by anger at yourself, which of course takes you out of Flow.

If your positive emotions are focused in the past or future but not in the now, that is the very definition of how not to get into Flow, because your behavior is not autotelic — you are not doing the present activity as an end in itself.

Negative emotions arise when one is attached to something and feels thwarted or about to be thwarted in getting the thing one is attached to. They also arise when one is blatantly attacked — the time you really need to be in the Zone — so it is good to learn how to rechannel the emotional energies back into objectivity. This requires a degree of emotional intelligence and menschness.

When you find you can’t quickly snap back and you get sucked into a downward emotional spiral, ask yourself what is the thing you’d have to give up and not care about in order to relax naturally? Experiment with giving that thing up mentally — what if you lose, not a big deal — and then go ahead into the action with a sense of humor and fatalistic acceptance for the given fact that whatever is happening is happening.

You may say right now that losing is a big deal but you’ll be surprised how repetition of the exercise makes you stronger at being able to transmute negative emotions into self-understanding, clarity, and action focus. You can learn fatalistic objectivity — accepting “what is” and making the best of it — just the way you learned everything else, with your mind. That part is not supernatural at all. It has more tricks up its sleeve than any of us have used, and Flow is about discovering more of them.

Best to all,

Bill