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Abstract and Figures

The Zone is a state of mind/body coordination that is much sought after by athletes because it is so conducive to achieving peak performance. The experience of this state can be so transcendent that some have come to view sport as a spiritual practice. An immensely popular recent movie about competitive chess, The Queen's Gambit, is not overtly about the Zone, addressing such popular themes as female empowerment and chess as a replacement competitive sport in the socially disconnected time of Covid. But its popularity may also stem from its evocation of the peak performance Zone in chess matches. The film's young female protagonist is able to play inspired chess by using a range of approaches to accessing this altered state of consciousness (ASC). This essay will discuss several aspects of the Zone, including psycho-spiritual tools to elicit it, pathology-based medical explanations for its occurrence, paranormal aspects of this ASC, and its possible role in helping humanity cope with the Covid crisis. (Spoiler alert: Important plot points from the Netflix movie The Queen's Gambit will be discussed in this essay.)
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E. Leskowitz / EXPLORE xxx (xxxx) 14
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E. Leskowitz / EXPLORE xxx (xxxx) 14
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Uncited references
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... In contrast, works on nonduality or transcendence of duality are scarce within sport psychology. Very brief mentions can be found in works discussing Chinese martial arts ( Kee, 2019a ) and altered states of consciousness in chess ( Leskowitz, 2021 ). The work most relevant to the present discussion is from Loy (1985) , which associates wu-wei with nondual action, or "action in which there is no bifurcation between subject and object: no awareness of an agent that is believed to do the action as being distinct from an objective action that is done " (p. ...
Wu-wei is an important construct but is rarely discussed in the sport psychology literature. The present discussion fills the gap in literature and provides a conceptual overview of the wu-wei alternative. After explaining wu-wei briefly, the current state of mindfulness research is discussed to highlight the lack of research in understanding wu-wei and non-striving in sport psychology. In addition, the links between wu-wei and relevant constructs including mindfulness, non-striving, flow, nonduality, Zen, Mushin, motivation, goals, and implicit learning were clarified. Furthermore, suggestions on incorporating wu-wei as part of mindfulness training for athletes and possible future research directions are provided. In this difficult time of the global pandemic, wu-wei or non-striving mindset can help supporting athletes’ well-being and pursuit of goals beyond winning and striving.
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Background: Numerous world cultures believe channeling provides genuine information, and channeling rituals in various forms are regularly conducted in both religious and non-religious contexts. Little is known about the physiological correlates of the subjective experience of channeling. Methods: We conducted a prospective within-subject design study with 13 healthy adult trance channels. Participants alternated between 5-minute blocks of channeling and no-channeling three times while electroencephalography (EEG), electrocardiography (ECG), galvanic skin response (GSR), and respiration were collected on two separate days. Voice recordings of the same story read in channeling and no-channeling states were also analyzed. Results: The pre-laboratory survey data about demographics, perception of the source, purpose and utility of channeled information reflected previous reports. Most participants were aware of their experience (rather than in a full trance) and had varying levels of perceived incorporation (i.e. control of their body). Voice analysis showed an increase in voice arousal and power (dB/Hz) differences in the 125 Hz bins between 0 and 625 Hz, and 3625 and 3875 Hz when reading during the channeling state versus control. Despite subjective perceptions of distinctly different states, no substantive differences were seen in EEG frequency power, ECG measures, GSR and respiration. Conclusions: Voice parameters were different between channeling and no-channeling states using rigorous controlled methods, but other physiology measure collected were not. Considering the subjective and phenomenological differences observed, future studies should include other measures such as EEG connectivity analyses, fMRI and biomarkers.
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Prospection, the act of attempting to foresee one’s future, is generally assumed to be based on conscious and nonconscious inferences from past experiences and anticipation of future possibilities. Most scientists consider the idea that prospection may also involve influences from the future to be flatly impossible due to violation of common sense or constraints based on one or more physical laws. We present several classes of empirical evidence challenging this common assumption. If this line of evidence can be successfully and independently replicated using preregistered designs and analyses, then the consequences for the interpretation of experimental results from any empirical domain would be profound.
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This paper is outdated. Its conclusions are superseded by my 2016 paper: Searching for Global Consciousness: A 17-year Exploration.
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The ability to alter one's emotional responses is central to overall well-being and to effectively meeting the demands of life. One of the chief symptoms of events such as trauma, that overwhelm our capacities to successfully handle and adapt to them, is a shift in our internal baseline reference such that there ensues a repetitive activation of the traumatic event. This can result in high vigilance and over-sensitivity to environmental signals which are reflected in inappropriate emotional responses and autonomic nervous system dynamics. In this article we discuss the perspective that one's ability to self-regulate the quality of feeling and emotion of one's moment-to-moment experience is intimately tied to our physiology, and the reciprocal interactions among physiological, cognitive, and emotional systems. These interactions form the basis of information processing networks in which communication between systems occurs through the generation and transmission of rhythms and patterns of activity. Our discussion emphasizes the communication pathways between the heart and brain, as well as how these are related to cognitive and emotional function and self-regulatory capacity. We discuss the hypothesis that self-induced positive emotions increase the coherence in bodily processes, which is reflected in the pattern of the heart's rhythm. This shift in the heart rhythm in turn plays an important role in facilitating higher cognitive functions, creating emotional stability and facilitating states of calm. Over time, this establishes a new inner-baseline reference, a type of implicit memory that organizes perception, feelings, and behavior. Without establishing a new baseline reference, people are at risk of getting "stuck" in familiar, yet unhealthy emotional and behavioral patterns and living their lives through the automatic filters of past familiar or traumatic experience.
In this study, a classification task asked participants to look at 180 facial photographs of deceased individuals (photographs were taken years prior to their deaths) and guess the cause of death from three equiprobable categories: heart attack; death by firearm; or car accident. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) data were simultaneously collected during the task. The participants included individuals who claimed “mediumistic” (psychic) abilities and controls who claimed no mediumistic ability. Pooled data showed accurate guesses for the cause of death (partial η² = 0.12; p = 0.004), and control subjects were primarily responsible for this effect (partial η² = 0.11; p = 0.005). EEG and ECG differences were found between the mediums and controls. Control participants had larger amplitude event-related potentials (ERP) following the presentation of the images than the mediums, between 80 and 110 ms, and between 200 and 350 ms. This could be interpreted as reflecting greater attention and less response inhibition by controls as compared to the mediums. Participants in the control group also had lower average heart rates than the mediums, possibly indicating less stress during the task. Speculations and limits regarding why controls performed better than mediums are discussed.
Context: Throughout history people have reported exceptional experiences that appear to transcend the everyday boundaries of space and time, such as perceiving someone's thoughts from a distance. Because such experiences are associated with superstition, and some violate currently accepted materialist conventions, one might assume that scientists and engineers would be much less likely to report instances of these experiences than the general population. Objectives: To evaluate 1) the prevalence of exceptional human experiences (EHEs), 2) the level of paranormal belief, 3) the relationship between them, and 4) potential predictors of EHEs in three groups. Participants: Potential volunteers were randomly selected to receive invitations for an anonymous survey. Main Measures: Data were collected on 25 different types of EHEs, demographics, religious or spiritual affiliations, paranormal beliefs, mental health, and personality traits. Group differences were analyzed with chi-square tests and analysis of variance, and predictors were evaluated with a general linear model. Results: 94.0% of the general population (n = 283), 93.2% of scientists and engineers (n = 175), and 99.3% of enthusiasts (n = 441) endorsed at least one EHE (X² (2) = 21.1, p < 0.0005). Paranormal belief was highest in EHE enthusiasts, followed by scientists and the general population (F(2,769) = 116.2, p < 0.0005). Belief was positively correlated with experience (r = 0.61, p < 0.0005). An exploratory general linear model showed that variables such as mental health, personality, impact and family history predict the endorsement and frequency of EHEs. This study indicates that EHEs occur frequently in both the general population and in scientists and engineers.