Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City


Have you ever experienced the sensation of the world seeming to slip away and there is just you “in the moment”? Whether an athlete or a performer, getting into the “zone” becomes an important asset in the delivery of a peak performance. So what is this “out of self” experience and how and why does it occur?

In his book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Czikszenmihalyi introduces the con-cept of flow. Proposing that the human brain has a limited “computational” capacity to focus attention on many things simulta- neously, he defines flow as “a state of consciousness where one becomes totally absorbed in what one is doing, to the exclu-sion of all other thoughts and emotions.” In Buddhism, this state is referred to as limen or threshold in which one “dissolves and transcends the self, rising above the flatland of individual identity and toward a more dimensional sense of belonging.”

Both flow and threshold bring about a sense of freedom from inhibitions and outside distractions. An intense focus or “psyche energy” creates an opening for this phenomenon. The body and mind (and voice) work uniformly together to produce the highest caliber performance. Performing seems effortless and timeless. Exuding confidence and empowerment, performers open themselves up to all possibilities, lead-ing to a greater, expansive connection with the music and the audience.

These moments may be of short duration, occurring during an audition or a solo, but it can be cultivated and habituated as a regular part of life. Being fully involved and absorbed in something can take us outside of ourselves, leaving behind preconceived ideas or opinions and even to an extent, our identity, awaking us “to the ten thousand things” of possibilities.

However, this state is not a free for all. It happens as the result of practice and preparation. Learning to get to the zone requires discipline and a strong foundation of skills and determination. For singers, only when the vocal technique is stable and habituated and the music internally learned can they achieve flow or limen during a performance. Singers make choices that align with certain conventions and constraints (ex. Classical music has different rules than jazz) while still allowing for freedom of expression (who has ever performed the same song, speech etc. the same every time?)

Although this idea of flow may feed into the concept of the “mad” artist, according to poet Jane Hirshfield, “madness and art-making are not the same; where the two coexist, the madness almost always ends up destroying the art, and often the artist as well”.

I think most artists and athletes would agree that “getting into the zone” has great benefits, but that spending all our living hours there, away from our everyday reality, may lead to madness! Learning how and when to go with the “flow” is an important part of an artist’s tool kit. So for anyone, being “zoned” may bring amazing results!,

Getting in the Zone: Flow and Finding a State of Peak Performance. Journal of Singing, January/February 2018, Vol. 74,No. 3, pp.329-334. NATS. 2018

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