[WARNING--this spring board hovers perilously over the deep end....]
Ah yes, it was just a matter of time before our discussions here came full-circle! Skiing and life--parallels, the macrocosm and the microcosm, the perfect blend of mind, body, spirit, of technique, tools, physics, and philosophy, of mountains and metaphysics....
(You're right, Powder lurkers--you probably DON'T get it. Don't even try!)
Even our most technical discussions have sometimes broached the deepest mysteries of the universe, the paradoxes of the infinite (see "How do you make a perfect turn?"
). Even the most seemingly concrete and practical things--basic movements on skis--entail acts of faith.
And now this! Great topic for a smokey Saturday here in Colorado, Nolo (yes, we're still on fire, and there hasn't been enough rain to hit the ground in weeks).
This has nothing to do--and it has everything to do--with ski technique!
But Nolo--who's to say that the instant I become conscious of what I'm doing, what I'm doing does not now shift to become this very act of consciousness, and that therefore, I am very much still "in the moment"? Cannot "the moment" transcend itself to encompass my self-awareness?
Is not this capability for self-awareness perhaps the essence of being human? Is it not what, ultimately, makes any experience truly worthwhile--the fact that we are aware that we have HAD the experience? And is it not essential for directing learning, and even for this very conversation here at EpicSki to exist? To be "in THE moment" entails excluding all other moments and all extraneous thoughts from our consciousness. While it may be an enviable state to flirt with, if we lived there, we could not discuss it! We could not appreciate it. And we'd never know we were there!
Not to suggest that these reflections are anything but practical, but getting back to ski technique, and the role of awareness.... It is true that optimal performance requires completely immersing ourselves "in the moment." As you said so well, Nolo, total awareness of all that is relevant, and only what is relevant, requires 100% of our mental focus and perception. Thus, it precludes judgement/evaluation and precludes even the awareness of the state of awareness that we are in--at "the moment."
This sort of focus is rare indeed. I've seen it in the very top level of the world's elite athletes, and I believe it is what seperates them from "second best." They have the ability to completely block out everything that is not relevant to their performance, and they can do this (almost) at will. The intriguing discussion/poll of "experience vs. performance"
takes on new importance when we recognize that "experience" and "performance" are very much mutually exclusive!
There are only a few times when I believe I've approached truly being 100% "in the moment" myself. Most of them involve whitewater, many of them involve skiing, but ALL of them involve intense situations with life-and-death significance. "Weren't you scared?" people ask me. And the answer is absolutely, "no"--didn't have time to be scared! Didn't even think of it! Was not aware of it. Perception, instantaneous action, unfiltered reaction, performance, adrenaline--with no judgement, no evaluation, no fear, total focus only on "the moment".... "The experience," along with the fear, comes only later, after the fact, when you can step back and look at the bigger picture with your SELF in it, evaluate your actions, and think about the dangers that could have been....
[EDIT--in rereading my own post, I am surprised and fascinated by the observation that I left out even the WORD "I" in so many sentences in the preceding paragraph! It was not intentional.]
"I became lost in the moment." What a profound statement! When it happens to you, "the moment" is all there is. The "I" and "the moment" become one, inseparable.
Perhaps the fact that I can even remember these experiences suggests that I was truly not quite all the way there, "lost" in the moment. I don't know. I treasure these experiences, rare as they are. They are both frightening--in retrospect--and intensely, profoundly, satisfying. Perhaps some people experience this more often, and have found more ways to induce it. Meditation, narcotics, who knows--there may be many other routes to the same place. I suspect, though, that many people will live their entire lives without ever once experiencing this temporary "loss of self."
"Pure performance," "the Zone," call it what you want--it entails in some ways total abandonment of "control." It is frightening. It literally means letting go of yourself, while at the same time trusting in yourself, 100%. Only then can we expect to discover our true potential. And it is amazing what we can do when we devote 100% of our mental, physical, and emotional resources to...ANYTHING! Ah--just to GLIMPSE this potential, just once....
As much as true PERFORMANCE requires entering "the Zone," total sensory awareness without judgement or distraction, the self on "autopilot," and so on, LEARNING requires evaluation, judgement, understanding, conscious practice. Becoming what is NOT (one way to define "learning") requires stepping out of the moment, over-riding the "self" as it IS, evaluating, practicing, CHANGING.
Of course, learning WILL happen without such evaluation, but I will have no say in what I learn if I
don't direct it mySELF! If I want to learn something in particular, some goal of my own choosing, I have to CONTROL my environment and my activities and experiences within it--not just perceive and react to them. I have to direct my movements intentionally, often disregarding my "natural instincts" and conflicting learning, and even disregarding the negative feedback--the discomfort, pain, unfamiliarity, awkwardness, fear, embarrassment, and so on, that often accompanies learning new things.
All right, enough already! I'm going out on my bike--to see if I can get lost!
Bob Barnes[ June 22, 2002, 12:57 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]