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Back on track

Unschool from birth!
14th December 2014
A festive gathering
24th December 2014

The urge came on out of nowhere. It came on so strong that there was no resisting it. Within just twenty minutes I was off.


It was Wednesday afternoon and I should have been resting, being still on the road to recovery after two dreadful weeks of being ill, and having been up since 4am catching the early flight back to London Gatwick. My mind however had other plans. WAM! Bike ride. Of course, I thought to myself, what else?!

I rushed to the garage to see what state my bike was in. I had not been on it since last Christmas. After a few minutes digging, I had managed to drag it out into the light and was relieved to see that I had given it a clean before retiring it for over a year. A pang of excitement hit me as I realized it was actually going to be possible to go on a bike ride before it got dark, and I busied myself oiling the chain, pumping the tires, and getting geared up.

Within just twenty minutes I was out by the roadside clipping myself in, and after a brief safety/ reality check of “Is this really a good idea?”, I was off!

The first few pedals were all it took to convince me it was a good idea. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy cycling, and the sheer sense of power that comes with being on a decent bike.

I deliberately kept it short, having not much daylight left and conscious I was still recovering, and then spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping. Two days later however, with the sun shining brightly the urge hit me again. This time I decided to step things up a little and do one of my old favourites, and soon enough I was flying along Knatts Valley road into glorious sunshine. The feeling was incredible and the view, when I was not being blinded, even more so.

For the first time in weeks my mind was clear and with the wind whipping past my ears I felt alive.

Knatts Valley Road, Google Maps

Knatts Valley Road, Google Maps

The stupidly horrendous hill at the end of the valley soon put a stop to this short-lived feeling however. I had forgotten just how steep and long it was. But despite feeling completely shattered, I noticed that part of the feeling from the valley had stayed with me.

Opening a book on parenting a few days later, that just happened to be lying around the house for my sister, I was amused to find that the first chapter was on “the zone”. The Zone being simply an optimum state, above our normal state of being. Thinking back on my ride I realized that that was what I had felt. After months of not¬†having entered it, it had finally happened again.

We tend to think about the Zone as an uncommon experience that can just happen to athletes. This is not true however. Anyone can enter the Zone, and it can be a common experience if we let it. As for what being in the Zone means, it could be anything in which people go beyond the ordinary.

Acute well-being, peace, calm , stillness, detachment, freedom, weightlessness, ecstasy, power, control,, being in the present, mystery, awe, unity, altered or extrasensory perception, flow, optimum experience, and authentic play… What people have in common is that they’re describing a state that is beyond their ordinary functioning.

Michael Murphy
Co-Founder, Esalen Institute, Author, In the Zone, Future of the Body

When we are in the Zone, everything becomes so much easier: work becomes child play. So why do we stress ourselves out, planning schedules, setting targets, trying to sell ourselves 100% of the time? Why can’t we take a step back, look at life like a game, and enjoy the things we do and the people we interact with. And if it’s possible for everyone to enter this state, why don’t we do it more often? The Zone is different for everyone and again different to enter for everyone, but a common theme seems to be ridding yourself of anxiety and of stress.

So instead of filling yourself with unnecessary worry and stress this Christmas, just eat lots of turkey and bacon. Use the time to relax with your family, and come new year go forth into the world and play. Let your mind and body transcend into this optimum state,  and become alive once again.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and look forward to an exciting year with you all, but for now, it’s time for another bike ride…

Douglas Ward
Douglas Ward
Douglas Ward is a freelance sound engineer and web developer currently based in Berlin. Having climbed his first mountain at an age of just 6 months, he has a huge passion for anything involving the outdoors and adventure. Doug is keen runner, cyclist, climber and kayaker. He is conscious of how important the wild is, especially in childhood, and interested in the role of free play in development.

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