Dan Millman’s The Way of the Peaceful Warrior recounts the true story of an Olympic gymnast who was able to excel by finding a state of Zen. We’re all looking for a performance edge — and this Zen can be achieved without the need to shave one’s head or don orange pajamas. Pay attention, Grasshopper:
This ‘Zone’ and its state of ‘Enlightenment’ can be tough to define, but you’ll know it when you feel it. During this rare state, performance will increase exponentially, success falls within reach and happiness is virtually guaranteed.
Put simply, it’s about being Present. Mental “Presence” allows us to accomplish things with serenity, efficiency and joy. Neuro-Scientists refer to this as cerebral “Flow State;” a sensation everyone has experienced yet few consistently attain.
To ‘Be Present,’ one simply dedicates 100 percent of their focus to the task at hand. That’s it.
Sound easy? Not even close. Our brains are capable of performing multiple disparate functions with amazing synchronicity. Regardless of what we’re doing, the mind is a constant jumble of thoughts, memories, regrets, hopes, fears, plans and insecurities. I’m not talking about schizophrenics; I’m talking about everybody. With such immense neurological capacity, our brains are like a NSA supercomputer playing solitaire.
While you’re reading this blog, driving your car or running on the treadmill, your mind automatically finds ways to keep itself occupied.
One chronic bandwidth-hog is the past. This cacophony of memories, emotions and regrets is fertile ground for a bored brain. We’ll constantly relive the good, the bad – decisions and consequences of our personal history. Yet all is irrelevant to our current life.
Another enormous piece of mental bloatware is the future. It’s true that thoughtful planning is a critical foundation to success. However, the “Future” is and always will be, a theoretical concept. You can’t actually live there, because it’s always just out of reach. But like IBM’s “Deep Blue” computer, our minds are constantly running millions of chess-like scenarios while instead should be focused on what we’re doing right now.
The worst mental horsepower drain, however, comes from our own insecurities. We tend to subconsciously scan others — comparing, contrasting and concluding — with judgments tainted by negativity. We evaluate how we are perceived, how we perceive others and craft opinions to feel better about it. Then we’ll make additional self-judgments — were those assumptions fair? Am I too intolerant? Am I this way because of my father? All while walking, eating a hot dog, planning the kid’s birthday and wondering if we left the garage door open.
So why aren’t these histories, dramas, anxieties, and judgments more of a problem? Because most of the time, our minds can handle the workload. We don’t need to dedicate 100 percent toward the present task, because our brains are hyper-functional multitasking CPU’s.
But what if, instead of allocating 15 percent of our brains to what we’re doing now, we focused 100 percent of that supercomputer to just one task — immediately increasing our mental performance by 85 percent? Fears, distractions and anxieties simply melt away due to bandwidth constraints. We’re in the ‘Zone’. We are Present.
Complex challenges, by nature, automatically focus our brains closer to 100 percent. This is why riding a motorcycle is naturally therapeutic. Riding a bike activates nearly all senses simultaneously, demanding physical and mental coordination which creates mental flow. Full enlightenment is just a knee-dragging corner away. All powersports enthusiasts have experienced that beautiful ‘Zone’: the moment of joy when man and machine become one. Within that moment, you were the best you could be; 100 percent focused on the now. You were Present.
Now here’s the hard part: Can you find that moment of Enlightenment during a regular work day? Can your mind ‘Be Present’ without being forced into it? It takes practice, but the payoff is worth it. You’ll be better at what you do — anything and everything you do — with a moment of Zen.
Start small. While performing a task, try to block out everything except that task. Release your regrets and fears, accept yourself for who you are, accept everyone else for who they are and focus solely on the present. Don’t think ahead. Dedicate all of your thoughts to that moment, to that task. Then find joy in it. Be the best you can be at that task — in that moment — and savor it. Breathe. Repeat.
Like I said, it ain’t easy. Your mind will pull you away, time and time again, and that’s ok. Release it and come back to the moment.
Your past is only code sitting in mental memory; your future is merely a theoretical concept. Your only opportunity for happiness is in the present. So find joy in it, any chance you get.
And … Ride On,
Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 25 years in the Powersports Industry, currently serving as Vice-President of EagleRider Motorcycles [www.eaglerider.com]. Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer, publisher, or clients.