Anyway, I started studying the mind-body’s arousal system in 1988. While I found it to be an automatic defensive response, I wondered if there were ways to use it consciously, or at least to program the subconscious. I would lay awake at night, going over the things I had learned about my research that day and go to sleep hoping that I could trigger something in my subconscious to help myself in pressure situations to get optimal use of my adrenaline system. Then in the daytime, my arousal system would kick in during the pickup basketball games at the YMCA.
The split screen sensations appeared on two afternoons in the middle of games with sweat pouring from my brow. But they were not triggered through conscious thought. Somehow, the taste of sweaty salt was a trigger to send me to the next level; that, plus my bogeyman. Some of my mates turned tougher when women were watching them from above on the exercise balcony, but for me, my opponents gave me the incentive to excel.
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On both afternoons, I felt I had something to prove against an opponent. He was Dale Getty, 15 years younger than me. He was the epitome of an all-league jock; he’d been a quarterback of a university football team and an international caliber basketball player. He was muscular, talented, and extroverted, the image I’d had of macho when I was a teenager and none of those things myself; maybe that’s why my idols were Arnold Palmer and Bobby Hull. Off the court, nice guy Dale and I got along well together, but I always got pumped up more against him. The concentration on my shot was always sharper when Dale was covering me.
One afternoon, I felt the power surge early. It’s hard to describe, but I was quicker, springier, and tougher than normal, like my feet were unshackled from gravity. It was like I’d traded my bag of bones in for a new, improved version. Everything I touched seemed connected there was great flow to the action whenever I was near the ball, like a dance on the varnished floor. I had no feeling of elbows, knees, or joints in my body, just elastic. Whenever I got that feeling of no feeling, I used a cue word to vault me to the next flight stage. Now! I’d say to myself, as if I was slamming my foot to an imaginary accelerator. At that point my mind would stop making conscious decisions for my body. The hell with it; whatever happened happened. And my concentration became almost supernatural. Macho Dale was helpless to stop me. He got that insecure look I have seen many times, although I didn’t look into his face often. Y ou couldn’t launch your bogeyman against an opponent if you were friendly with him in the field of battle. You played dispassionately, trying to aim your energies at the task at hand and not the middleaged guy across from you; your aggression also carried less guilt that way. In organized leagues, I knew players who intentionally didn’t learn their opponentsnames for the same reason.
While I was shooting in the zone, I would see the flight trajectory of the ball before it actually left my right hand. Then I would see the ball go into the basket twice the first time about one-quarter of a second before it actually did. But this was not pre-conceived visualization more of a precognition less than a second before it happened. And this occurred on several shots on both those days. The crazy thing was it felt totally natural, although prior to this I had never experienced it before. I’d shoot, then I’d see two balls, one right behind the other. Both of them swished. Never did I see the ball leave my hand and then have it end up missing the basket. In fact, I do not remember missing any shots in those two zone afternoons, although I probably missed one or two. Another thing, I do not remember any conscious thought while I was on a roll. I was plugged into something so smooth and so connected with everything else, I knew the results would be positive. I wasn’t playing; I was feeling. There was little or no strategy. It was all action, or reaction. I was so immersed in the zone, I didn’t stop to think: Hey, look what I just saw! I was too busy keeping the momentum going. There was no conscious attempt to aim at the basket. I just faced the target and threw the ball up and it was caught in an invisible giant vacuum cleaner and sucked into the basket. That’s how big the metal hoop seemed to me. As I cut down on my peripheral vision and shrunk the gym down to only the things I needed to see (task vision), the target got bigger. Sounds simple, eh? It was, and it wasn’t.
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