A Peak Performance weblog

The quality of our participation with time, space, and knowledge corresponds to differences in the quality of our experience in the following metaphor:

Imagine that you live within the depths of an ‘ocean’; you are completely permeated by it. It gives to you, and you take what it offers, acting in ways that are expressive of the purity and power of the water. The results of your actions remain within that same sphere, flowing freely back into the water. But the ‘ocean’ is vast, unbridled power, not limited or constrained by anything, and constrains nothing. It permits everything, even ways of relating to it that are very limited and ‘stand-offish’.

Let’s suppose that you become identified with one of these narrow, aloof ways of interacting with the ocean. It’s as though you have drawn above it, ignoring the qualities and depth of its waters. You don’t even “acknowledge” that depth; you don’t knowingly interact with it. But you can never completely sever your connection, so you can never avoid depending on it and interacting with it in some way. The result is that the ocean leaps up and slaps you in the face with the peaks of its high, jagged waves.  This is the only form of contact your aloof stance will permit.

Perhaps you come to live on the very peaks of these waves and look across to the peaks of other waves around you. You pretend that reality is comprised only of what floats there on the peaks, that there is no ‘underneath’, not even any supporting water, except perhaps in some abstract sense. Even so, part of your new existence is the constant, shocking sensation of being struck by ocean sprays.

Perhaps you take this unpleasant experience as meaningless, just a ‘background phenomenon’. But it won’t go away. Always churned about by the waves, out of phase with the rise and fall of other peaks, it is hard to relate satisfactorily to others. The structures you build seem unstable, subject to some relentless, destabilizing power, and you are always struck in the face by the surging water.

If, eventually, you relax your obsession with scanning across the peaks, and become willing to give more attention to the water itself, to acknowledge it in a participatory sense, you can delve deeply into the ocean. Then, much to your vast amazement, the annoying stinging sprays and the undermining influence of the waves ceases. Your awareness is not restricted to maintaining contact with tiny, erratically jumping objects separated from you by unbridgeable distances.

‘Beauty’, ‘peace’, ‘security’, ‘fulfillment’, ‘intimacy’, ‘knowledge’, ‘communication’, ‘coexistence’ all come to acquire meanings very different from what they had for you on the surface. This ‘ocean’ and its ‘waves’ are only rough metaphors for the range of space and time as they are seen by different types of knowledge, different degrees of participation. Frustration, loss, and separation may have been typical themes for the knowledge of the surface, which was subject to the waves. But nothing can be lost or exhausted for that knowledge which remains attuned to the depths of space and time. Everything that fulfills and delights, and everything that stimulates knowledge to become more sensitive and encompassing, is perfectly preserved there. You can see why it’s so important that we be totally ‘in’ or ‘within’ time, space, and knowledge.  (p. xxx-xxxiii, DOT I)

Time, space, and knowledge do not act in one particular way . . . . [it depends on] how deeply we acknowledge* our connection with them. Whether we acknowledge them or not, we are using them, and they are using us. Just because we ignore them, depending on them only unconsciously, doesn’t mean that there’s no interchange. We are still bound to time and space; we and they are inseparable companions. If we ignore our connection to them, we relegate ourselves to lives of a kind of menial, trivial service: the only way we allow ourselves to be used by the universe at large. (p. xxx, DOT I)

*footnote: “‘Acknowledging’ is not just an acceptance of an idea. Remember, the emphasis is on active expression—participation. What is the depth and quality of our participation?” (p. xxxi, DOT I)


Levels representing the full range of human experience

What is the full spectrum of states possible for human beings?   Is there a comprehensive catalog of states?

So far, the only candidate I’ve seen for a clear English description of the full range of human development, with its incredibly varied views, perspectives, and focal settings, is Tarthang Tulku’s series of books on the Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK) vision.  These books describe three main levels of human functioning: “As an organizing principle for an inquiry into time, space, and knowledge, it can help to think in terms of three different levels.  The first level starts from our common, everyday views of how these facets of our being operate.” (p. xxix, Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space) The third level is an enlightened state that we might compare to the zone described in Chapter One. A second level, an intermediate level that occurs during our development from the first to the third level, is also described in the books. The following section has a summary of these three levels, drawn from the six books of the TSK series: Time, Space, and Knowledge (1977), Love of Knowledge (1987), Knowledge of Time and Space (1990), Visions of Knowledge (1993), Dynamics of Time and Space (1994), and Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space (1997).

Before we examine these levels, let’s take a look at why Tarthang Tulku describes them in terms of time, space, and knowledge.  According to the author, “Time, space and knowledge are the most basic facets of human experience.”  (p. xv, KTS)  “We are partners  with space through physical  existence,  partners  with  time through actions, and partners with knowledge through awareness. Though these three facets of being may be neither  ‘absolute’  nor  ‘ultimate’,  they  constitute  the ‘stuff’ of our lives—starting points for an inquiry that can transform our being.”  (pp. xx-xxi, LOK)

Focusing on time, space, and knowledge–rather than the self–affords a new approach at the outset.  “Conventional  knowledge  today  focuses  on  the  self: what  the  self  needs,  what  it  understands,  what  it  is capable of. Suppose that we shift this focus, looking in a more neutral way at how our being functions.” (p. xiv, SDTS)  “When we place these three factors—space, time, and knowledge—at the center of our being, something quite remarkable happens. Knowledge comes into its own, informing experience and existence in a very powerful way.” (p. xv, SDTS)  “The starting point for such transformation is to investigate time, space, and knowledge in our own experience, challenging the restrictive ways that we have learned to think of them.” (p. xvi, SDTS)

Now we examine the characteristics and limitations of level one.

Summary of level one

This is the ‘normal’ way we are and operate after our ordinary Western conditioning is complete.  This level is sometimes also called the ordinary level:*

Time is divided into moments and seems to flow linearly and out of our control, from past to future, at a constant rate. Within this flow we are limited to occupying a kind of ‘moving spot’ that we call ‘the present’. We seem to ‘have’ time, yet sometimes feel like we’re running out of time, and can’t stop the relentless flow that causes us anxiety, friction, overwhelm, and pressure.

Space is seen as an indefinitely extended ‘nothing’, with distance felt between things within space. We and things feel substantial, independent, and persistent, ‘occupy’ different locations in space, have size, volume, edges, and an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.  We have a kind of private mental, or personal space, but this seems less ‘real’ than physical space.  Personal space seems independent of others and other things, and yet seems to change somewhat, depending on our feelings and connections with others.  Our experience of space can feel restrictive, confining, and pressured, rather than open and free.

Our knowing or ‘seeing’ is limited to a particular ‘thinker’ position or ‘point of view’, with a felt separation or ‘distance’ from what is known.  Knowing and knowledge usually seem to be located primarily inside our heads and minds.   An act of knowing takes some time, and involves directing knowing from its source ‘here’  toward distant objects and events.  We collect experience and information by these acts of knowing, and build up models, systems, and theories.  Very often our knowing and perceiving is inaccurate and biased, depending on our unresolved emotional difficulties (conditioning) and current desires and fears.

We believe we are the independently capable selves felt at the center of our lives, the selves that apparently are responsible, do the thinking, make the decisions, and sometimes have problematic conditions.  We believe and feel we are the central character in the ongoing story of our lives unfolding against a backdrop of time and space.

*footnote:  first level is ordinary level considered in light of further possibility

Summary of level two

‘Timing’ occurs as a succession of experiences in the same ‘spot’ or ‘field’, rather than establishing an extended `world out there’. Things, places, and processes become appreciated as being very fluid. Subject and object alike are seen as projections of the underlying energy of second-level time.

The ‘quantity’ of second-level ‘space’ is indeterminate.  While objects and the observer are distinct and independent, they are also known as interdependent and co-referring. There’s an increase in personal freedom, less psychological pressure, and greater physical relaxation. All going from place to place which validates the picture of a spread out world, actually occurs as a succession of ‘timed out’ experiences in the same ‘spot’.

Knowing is not so much a possession, but a luminous, transparent `attribute’ of experience and mental activity through which ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’ jointly emerge together with dichotomies such as ‘subject’ and ‘object’, ‘observer’ and ‘observed’.

Summary of level three

Different times are not linked, in a way that irrevocably separates them, by their respective positions in an infinitely extended temporal series. The ‘series’ is a fiction. There is no ‘going’ and no separate places. It is as though all the friction in the world were removed.

While all familiar things are separate and distributed over ordinary space, delineated partly by differences in position, they are all intimately connected insofar as their Great Space dimension is considered. Space is not contrasted to objects, and `distance between’ becomes meaningless. All existence and experience is like an apparition.

We develop a mode of ‘seeing’ which is not limited to a particular position or ‘point of view’ at all, dissolves the ‘distance’ between knower and known, is not a meaning but is unlearned or nonlearned learnedness, and which is beyond the concern for ‘getting’, approaching, or defining.

This brief depiction of level three from the Time, Space, and Knowledge vision is consistent with the depiction of what is called the zone. And it’s worth noting that here also we find no complexes, personality, or identity, much less conditions like  emotional upset, doubt,  and separation that are common with level one.

Three ways of experiencing a feeling

To see more clearly how these three main levels of functioning are related, we can depict what happens as you change the way you relate to a particular feeling from a first-level to a third-level way.  Although any feeling could be used, in this example, let’s take the example of a feeling of pain in the shoulder.  The pain is presumed to be the same energy in the descriptions of all three levels–it is the way the pain energy is experienced, or the overall view of the energy, that is different.

One: At level one, our usual way of experiencing, the pain is usually labeled, often as something negative, and is experienced as located in a particular place in the body, in this case in the shoulder.  You, identified as the self, are not merged with the feeling, but are related to it as a feeling that you have.  Your experience of time is linear, flowing relentlessly in one direction. Space is experienced as extending in three dimensions.

Two: At level two, the feeling is not experienced as so clearly locatable as in the first way of experiencing. The feeling is in the same physical location, but one experiences the boundaries of the feeling to be more open or less definite. There may be a shifting back and forth from seeing the feeling as negative, to relating to it as simply neutral energy. One senses the surrounding space differently—not so extended, more open, less fragmented, and less container-like. Similarly, the sense of oneself as the observer of the feeling is more spacious. Rather than an intellectual way of relating to the feeling, there is a simple, nonverbal observation or sensing of it. There’s also a sense of time slowing down.

Three: At level three, there is simply the pure energy of the feeling, with no labeling, and no identification of location in the body. There is no feeling of oneself as an observer separate from the feeling.  Awareness is merged with the feeling-energy, which is not experienced as negative. There is no sense of time passing, and no experience of space as a container for things and events. Space is simply nonextended openness that accompanies and permeates the feeling.

Carl Honoré, advocate of the slow movement, talks about how slowing down will make you a healthier lover and better worker.

Source: tech.co

Many articles like this one attribute a lot of the stress we feel in life to the speed at which modern suburban life moves.  While there’s no doubt about the increasing speed of modern life, there is considerable doubt about blaming our stress on speed.

Let’s take a look at a simple example that shows the difference between speed and stress:  a merry-go-round in a children’s playground.  The centrifugal stress  that you feel when the merry-go-round turns quickly depends on where you stand on the platform.  Stand near the edge and you will feel like you’re being pulled off by the momentum; stand near the center of the platform and you will not be pulled off, even if you do get very dizzy spinning around. Similarly, there is little movement near the center (eye) of a hurricane or tornado compared to the momentum near the periphery of the whirlwind.

But if the stress isn’t due to speed, what is the cause?


How is the experience of time related to pain, stress, disease, and health?  Are there ways to change the experience of stress and pain by changing our experience of time?

With experience as a physician in both East and West, Dr. Stephan Rechtschaffen sees dire consequences if we don’t change our experience of time: “Until we learn to control time consciously, our lives will continue to speed away from us, and we won’t even notice the beauty or the events around us. We’ll simply be left with the feeling that something’s missing, something’s disappeared.” (p. 14, Time Shifting)  And it’s not a matter of just feeling stressed out:  “By living in mental time–in a speeded-up world–with the resultant repression of emotional issues, we increase the chance of disease.” (p. 171)   However, “If we can think of time in a different way, if we become aware that it contains myriad rhythms and that any individual moment can be expanded or contracted under our control, then I believe we can make time our servant–and in doing so, fill our lives with happiness and health to a degree most of us don’t experience and cannot even imagine.” (p. 3)  “The misuse of time in today’s society should lead to a ‘time movement’.” (p. 226)  Such a movement has been started–see   http://www.tskassociation.org/time-movement.html

(Linear) time is bad for our health!

“Beat the Clock” was the name of a TV show that was popular years ago. To win prizes, contestants had to complete certain tasks within short periods of time. It was fun to watch the people race around, make mistakes, and get frazzled. Unfortunately, for many of us “Beat the Clock” would be a good title for our lives, where we’re the frazzled contestants racing against time. Do you have too much to do, and not enough time? Is the only ‘solution’ to race against time and just put up with the extra stress? Most of us think so. “Our lives have turned into a grueling race toward a finish line we never reach.” (Jay Walljasper, Utne Reader)

“Many people now find that they live in a rush they don’t want and didn’t create, or at least didn’t mean to create. If you feel busier now than you’ve ever been before, and if you wonder if you can keep up this pace much longer, don’t feel alone. Most of us feel slightly bewildered, realizing we have more to do than ever–with less time to do it.”  (p. 4, Crazy Busy)    As mentioned in an ABC news video some years ago, “many of us are now in a hurry most of the time,” and have the strong feeling that we don’t have enough time.   These mental and physiological habits strongly and adversely affect our health and well-being.

Dr. Stephan Rechtschaffen wrote, “I would say that 95 percent of the stress in our lives relates to our feeling of time poverty.” (p. 48, Time Shifting)  “Unless we consciously learn to control time in our lives, the stress we suffer will only get worse. . . . Until we learn to control time consciously, our lives will continue to speed away from us . . . .”  (p. 14)  And it’s not a matter of just feeling stressed out:  “By living in mental time–in a speeded-up world–with the resultant repression of emotional issues, we increase the chance of disease.” (p. 171)

In 1988, when things were probably less hectic than today, French CEO and journalist Servant-Schreiber wrote, “Unfortunately, the poor use of our time does not make us fat, and so its effects are less visible.  That may be why the problem has not yet been given national priority. Nevertheless, it can make us as sick as overeating.  Ulcers, heart attacks, and cancers are created in the furrows of stress . . . . In a sense, this situation is much more serious, because many more people suffer from stress than from obesity.” (p. 31, The Art of Time)

Our modern culture of ADD and turmoil

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, who specialized in diagnos­ing and treating ADD for twenty-five years, wrote, “I have come to see it as a metaphor for modern life . . . . Once applicable only to a relative few, the symptoms of ADD now seem to describe just about everybody.

“People with untreated ADD rush around a lot, feel impa­tient wherever they are, love speed, get frustrated easily, lose locus in the middle of a task or a conversation because some ether thought catches their attention, bubble with energy but struggle to pay attention to one issue for more than a few sec­onds, talk fast or feel at a loss for words, often forget where they’re going or what they’re going to get, have bright ideas but can’t implement them, fail to complete what they’re doing, have many projects going simultaneously but chronically postpone completing them, make decisions impulsively because their brain’s circuitry is overloaded, feel they could do a lot more if they could just get it together, get angry easily when interrupted, feel powerless over the piles of stuff that surround them, resolve each day to do better tomorrow, and in general feel busy beyond belief but not all that productive.

“Many people who do not have true ADD do have many of those symptoms these days. You might say they suffer from a se­vere case of modern life.” (p. 8, Crazy Busy)

“Most of us do try to do too much in too little time . . . . Owing to the conditioning we’ve received in the past ten years [from 1996-2006], some of us are simply un­able to slow down.

“Others frankly don’t want to. . . . No one needs to read three newspapers every day, check e-mail every ten minutes, make or take scores of phone calls every day, and channel surf during all conversations, tuning out the mo­ment stimulation subsides. These are habits some people de­velop simply because such habits make them feel charged up, as if doing a lot fast puts them on the cutting edge of life.

“In today’s world, free time or down time-time to do noth­ing but just hang out and think or feel or listen and watch-has become as rare as silence. Instead, we hop to. Gotta have action. Keep driving, don’t stop for long, don’t pause to linger, wonder, or think. . . . the modern imperative is to keep moving, eyes roaming, attention on scan, cell phone in hand.  Look at our popular movies. Long on action, special effects, quick cuts, and fast pace. Short on character.” (p. 58)

“What’s our hurry? Why, as the novelist Milan Kundera points out, is speed our new form of ecstasy? In fact, both speed and ecstasy are slang terms for drugs of abuse, drugs that can make you high. But even without taking a drug, mod­ern culture associates going faster with being happier as well as smarter.

“Neither makes sense. There is no correlation between a fast life and a happy life. Indeed, if anything there is a negative cor­relation, as fast lives tend to be stressful.” (p. 121)

Cultural turmoil and violence

“The misuse of time in today’s society should lead to a ‘time movement’.” (p. 226, Time Shifting, 1996)  (Actually, such a movement has been started–see   http://www.tskassociation.org/time-movement.html  )  “If we cannot incorporate the ability to timeshift to a slower beat, . . . then, as Alvin Toffler points out, the shattering stress and disorientation caused by too much change in too short a time will overwhelm us.  Indeed, in many cases, it already has, as evidenced in the cacophony, the shattered relationships, the violence, and the greed that surround us.”  (pp. 229-230, Time Shifting)

How has this ‘time sickness’ and modern turmoil come about?  Here’s an explanation by meditation master Tarthang Tulku:

“We readily take on old patterns collected and transmitted down to us. Our thoughts and sense experience, our emotions and moods combine and edit . . . previous patternings to fit the present situation. . . . As the past accumulates layer by layer, its weight exerts an ever stronger pressure on the present. . . . Much of what amasses, however, has no apparent direction or meaning . . . . There are simply more names, more images, . . . more to cope with and engage, more to direct, more to absorb and deal with. The  experience  of  processing  this  expanding  and proliferating transmission can leave us feeling almost stunned.  We  experience  the  weight  of  time  pressing in on us, active in the obligations of ordinary reality and  the  obscuration  that  clouds  our  comprehension. Time  that  has  been  strongly  dimensioned  exerts  a pressure  that  is  almost  tangible,  pervading  our  lives, our circumstances, and the repetitive patterns of our thoughts.  The  production  of  new  stimuli  far  exceeds our ability to consume them.

“When the past-centered identities of each moment shape our present responses, emotionality builds. . . . Externally there are sudden shifts in the temper of the times and the play of circumstances.

“Today we live in times when such trends have moved into the foreground for everyone to see. Tendencies that have accumulated through history are coming together. Like streams flowing into a river, they feed the force of time’s current until it threatens to rush out of control.”  (pp. 86-8, Dynamics of Time and Space)

The relationship of linear time, stress, pain, and disease

What’s the toll of this turmoil on most individuals?   Dr. Larry Dossey is a physician who thoroughly investigated the question of how the experience of time relates to pain and disease.  Here’s an excerpt from his book titled Space, Time, and Medicine:

“Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned to salivate inappropriately we have learned to hurry inappropriately. Our sense of urgency is set off not by a real need to act quickly, but through learned cues. Our “bells” have become the watch, the alarm clock, the morning coffee, and the hundreds of self-inflicted expectations that we build into our daily routine. . . . Our sense of urgency results in a speeding of some of our body’s rhythmical functions, such as the heart rate and respiratory rate. Exaggerated rises in the blood pressure may follow, along with increases in blood levels of specific hormones that are involved in the body’s response to stress. Thus, our perceptions of speeding clocks and vanishing time cause our own biological clocks to speed. . . . the end result is frequently some form of ‘hurry sickness’–expressed as heart disease, high blood pressure, or depression of our immune function, leading to an increased susceptibility to infection and cancer.” (p. 49)

“We determine our own reality by mirroring our perceptions of a fleeting time in our body’s function. Having convinced ourselves through the aid of clocks, watches, beeps, ticks, and a myriad of other cultural props that linear time is escaping, we generate maladies in our bodies that assure us of the same thing–for the ensuing heart disease, ulcers, and high blood pressure reinforce the message of the clock: we are running down, eventually to be swept away in the linear current of the river of time. For us, our perceptions have become our reality.


“Our sense of time is not only a major determinant in our awareness of pain, it affects our health by influencing the development and course of specific diseases. This is nowhere more obvious that in persons who have been called Type A individuals by Friedman and Rosenman. Type A persons have ‘hurry sickness.’ Their lives are oriented around goals, deadlines, and objectives, which they seem to react to in a driven fashion. They are unable to approach a task in a healthy, balanced way, but in extreme cases seem almost consumed by a need to accomplish and achieve.

“Not only do they have an inward sense of urgency, their outward behavior suggests the same quality. When sitting they may be in constant motion, not only with thoughts, but with body parts–hands, fingers, legs, feet. They are usually vocal, verbally expressing the products of a mind that cannot rest. This behavior frequently generates discomfort and tension in those around them.

“It is as if Type A persons are ‘time sick.’ They resemble patients who are in chronic pain in that they have an acute sense of time. Only in this case, unlike the person experiencing pain, there is never enough of it. . . .  (p. 50)

“Time sickness is not merely a colorful appellation, it is an actual illness possessed by the group as a whole. It is not just that Type A persons may experience excessive anxiety, that they may be more nervous and discomfited than their Type B counterparts, in which case their hurry sickness might be counted only as a nuisance or a bother. The problem is worse than a nuisance: Type A individuals, as a group, die earlier. Their behavior puts them at risk for the most frequent cause of death in our society, coronary artery disease.

“The importance of the exaggerated response to time, the sense of urgency displayed by Type A individuals, is that it is translated into physiologic effects. These effects are pervasive and are seen long before heart disease supervenes. These physiological events are so characteristic of time-sick persons, they could be called the time syndrome. Among them are increased heart rate and blood pressure at rest; elevation of certain blood hormones such as adrenalin, norepinephrine, insulin, growth hormone, and hydrocortisone, all of which are ordinarily secreted in an exaggerated way during times of urgency or stress; increased gastric acid secretion; increased blood cholesterol; an increased respiratory rate; increased secretory activity of sweat glands; and increased muscle tension throughout the body. The time syndrome is a body-mind process with effects on all major systems. It is not simply a conscious experience of unpleasant feelings.” (p. 51)

“Many illnesses–perhaps most–may be caused either wholly or in part by our misperception of time. . . . I am convinced that we can destroy ourselves through the creation of illness by perceiving time in a linear, one-way flow.” (p. 21)

“The chronic misjudgment of the nature of time should be seen for what it really is: chronic disease itself. It is a silent process, but for many of us an inexorable one leading to disease which can be fatal. We do not ordinarily judge it in these terms, of course, and too frequently ascribe our sense of time urgency to ‘nerves.’ Having misjudged the cause of our distress, we misjudge the solutions– tranquilizers and alcohol are too often the most commonly trusted antidotes.” (p. 166)

Learning a new sense of timelessness

“Persons who experience pain ordinarily live in a contracted or constricted time sense. Minutes seem like hours when one is hurting. Because the time sense is constricted, pain is magnified-sometimes far beyond what seems appropriate. Are there ways to intervene in painful situations, ways to manipulate the sense of time by expanding it? Can we lessen pain by “stretching” the time sense?”  (p. 46)

Evidently so.  Here’s a transcript from one of Dr. Dossey’s physician patients who learned biofeedback therapy to deal with headaches: “I watch the River of Time flow gently for a while . . . . The river slowly starts to curve so much that it begins to flow back on itself, gradually forming a complete circle. . . . the circular River of Time . . . starts to flood its banks inwardly . . . . and as it continues a giant lake is formed. . . . The surface becomes calm and still, reflective as a mirror. . . . time itself, has ceased to flow. . . . This timeless Lake of Time is indescribably serene, like a high alpine lake you encounter unexpectedly and never want to leave. It fills me with a sense of peace and I stay there feeling the stillness of the Lake of Time for as long as I wish. . . .

“This patient had himself learned how to manipulate his sense of time to his clinical advantage. He had learned to experientially slow time and to stop it . . . . His headaches continued to diminish. . . . Events did indeed enter his awareness sequentially, yet this process was entirely divorced from any sensation of a linearly flowing time.”  (p. 20)

Besides this imagery of a river flowing, “There are a variety of images that can be used effectively in manipulating the sensation of pain. The technique which [a patient named] Monica used to abort her discomfort was to visualize the location of her pain as a small glowing red ball. She would focus as intensely as possible on this image, and when it was extremely vivid she would cause the ball to begin to move, ever so slowly, outside her body. She would center the ball about six feet in front of her. Then this small red ball of pain, glowing intensely, would begin to grow. It would enlarge to the size of a basketball, hovering in space. Moreover, it was suspended in time. Monica’s description of this state was that time ‘stood still.’ Although events were ‘still going on,’ such as the red ball continuing to shimmer, time had ceased to flow.”  (p. 173)

“I began to realize that I was witnessing patients becoming healthier through acquiring a new experiential meaning of what time was all about.  My patients were learning a strategy that held serious consequences for the improvement of their health.” (p. 21)

“As we learn to meditate, or when we become familiar with the states of consciousness that are peculiar to biofeedback, autogenic therapy, or to other techniques employing deep relaxation, we develop a familiarity with a new sense of time. We begin to experience time in new ways. We begin to feel at home with time as it expands. Phrases such as ‘the ever-present now’ and ‘the eternal moment’ become full with meaning. Above all, we develop a friendliness with time.

“As this new regard for time evolves to deeper levels, new understanding unfolds. It becomes apparent that one of the motivating forces behind our old way of reacting toward the passage of time (p. 52) was fear–an indisputable feeling that took the form of busying ourselves in needless motion. This frenetic behavior begins to appear as a defense against time, a resistance that assumes its final form in our individual, silent protest against death itself.

“All time-driven events such as illness and demise begin to appear less menacing. Events in our daily lives such as tragic happenings, which used to stir us reflexively to remorse, now evoke less painful responses. We see the world differently through a new time. And as we learn to see a friendlier face of time, the mask of death itself becomes transformed–if not into a smile, perhaps at least without a frown.” (pp. 52-3)

“Perhaps it is not surprising that most great religions have always prescribed methods such as prayer and meditation . . . in practicing these disciplines one quickly discovers that the experience of time changes. It ceases to flow; and experientially one feels enveloped by the stillness of which all the great mystics have spoken.” p. 30

Treatments for linear time

“Almost all substances that we [physicians] use to treat severe pain modify the patient’s sense of time. Patients who receive these medications do not say, of course, that their time sense was altered, but they respond with statements such as ‘that medicine made me float!’ or ‘I became really drowsy,’ or ‘I forgot where I was.’

“There simply is no good vocabulary to use in describing these events which occur hourly in every major hospital. What does a patient mean when, after receiving pain medication, he says, ‘I really lost track of things for a while,’ or ‘That medicine really ‘zonked’ me,’ or ‘That stuff ‘bombed’ me out?’ Undoubtedly altered time perception is one of the hidden meanings in such statements.

“Not only drugs but other techniques as well do much to alter the time sense and have become valuable adjuncts to controlling pain. Hypnosis is one such example, and is of incalculable value for some patients in pain control. Biofeedback, which relies heavily on imagery and visualization in achieving physiologic self-control, has a marked effect on modifying time perception. Meditation, autogenic therapy, and progressive relaxation have similar effects. In fact, any device or technique that expands one’s sense of time can be used as an analgesic!

“It is important to realize that when we experience a technique that diminishes pain through expanding our time sense, we are not merely exercising self-deception. We are not fooling ourselves into thinking the pain is not there. Evidence is solid that mental states can evoke actual changes in brain physiology, changes that alter pain perception.” (p. 47)

“Most persons learn these skills easily and they come to enjoy the imagery process. Why? The new mode of time perception feels good. To be forever bogged down in a sense of time urgency is defeating. Stress and anxiety for most of us are unbearable without periodic alleviation. Thus, to involve oneself in a new mode of time perception is to experience good feelings.

“We have seen earlier that participation in the states of consciousness that we typify as being serene, calm, and relaxed generate physiological changes that can be measured. The changes that occur are as real as those produced by any drug. Changes in hormonal levels in the blood, variations in heart rate and blood pressure, and changes in levels of muscle tension and blood flow to certain regions of the body accompany a subject’s imagery efforts. Thus, since the processes of imagery and visualization are [sometimes] involved in these states, we can begin to see these processes as potent therapeutic agents. They are ‘medicine’ in the truest sense, as real as drugs and surgical procedures.” (p. 167)

“The physician, nurse, or therapist who aids the patient in pain is more than a dispenser of analgesics. He can be a guide. He can be one who shows the sufferer the way through the corridors of time to the still point where time ceases to flow, and where pain abates. And the patient, the suffering patient–how can we avoid the conclusion?–becomes a time traveler.” (p. 174)

The construction of time

Following is a transcript of a dialog between Jiddhu Krishnamurti and David Bohm from The Ending of Time.  Although it may require careful reading and consideration, from this transcript you may be able to understand how our sense of time flow is the result of separating ourselves from a painful feeling.

J. Krishnamurti broaches the possibility of ending psychological time:

K: Now how am I . . . to be free of time? . . . Can time as thought come to a stop? The memory of experiences, hurts, attachments . . . can come to an end when the very perception asks, what is it? What is hurt? What is psychological damage? The perception of it is the ending of it. Not carrying it over, which is time. The very ending of it is the ending of time. . . .

Trying to understand Krishnamurti’s proposition, David Bohm focuses the discussion on a specific example of being hurt:

DB: The first thing is that there has been a hurt. That is the image [of ‘me’ being hurt], but at first I don’t separate it. I feel identified with it.

K: I am that.

DB: I am that. But then I draw back, and say that I think there must be a ‘me’ who can do something.

K: Yes, can operate on it.

DB: Now that takes time.

K: That is time. . . . Let’s go slowly into it. I am hurt. That is a fact. Then I separate myself—there is a separation—saying, I will do something about it.

[Note the importance of simply feeling the hurt rather than separating from it, as discussed in Chapter Five.]

DB: The ‘me’ who will do something is different. . . . It projects into the future a different state.

K: Yes. I am hurt. There is a separation, a division. The ‘me’, which is always pursuing the becoming [In this dialog, the word ‘becoming’ refers to the ego trying to become something], says, I must control it. I must wipe it out. I must act upon it . . . . So this movement of separation is time.” (p. 72)

DB: . . . A person is thinking that the hurt exists independently of ‘me’, and I must do something about it. I project into the future the better state and what I will do. . . So I am hurt and I will become non-hurt. Now that very thought maintains the hurt.

K: That’s right. . . .

DB: Now if you don’t maintain it, what happens? Suppose you say, I won’t go on with this becoming?

K: Ah, that is quite a different matter. It means I am no longer thinking, no longer observing, or using time as an observation.

DB: You could say that is not your way of looking. It is not your theory any more.

K: That’s right. . . .

DB: Because you could say time is a theory which everybody adopts for psychological purposes.

K: Yes. That is the common factor; time is the common factor of man. And we are pointing out time is an illusion . . .

DB: Psychological time.

K: Of course, that is understood.

DB: Are you saying that when we no longer approach this through time, then the hurt does not continue?

K: It does not continue, it ends—because you are not becoming anything.

DB: In becoming you are always continuing what you are.

K: That’s right. Continuing what you are, modified . . .

DB: If man feels something is out of order psychologically he then brings in the notion of time, and the thought of becoming, and that creates endless problems. [This last statement is from p. 23.]

Thus Krishnamurti also said, “I want to abolish time, psychologically. . . . If psychological time doesn’t exist, then there is no conflict, there is no ‘me’, no ‘I’, which is the origin of conflict.” (pp. 14-15)

Healing pain

In the following quotes from Dynamics of Time and Space, Tarthang Tulku uses the word time in a broader sense than just psychological or linear time, as the word is used in the above excerpt. With this provision, however, one can see remarkable similarities in content.

When we lose contact with time, we have cut the dynamic central to our lives. . . . Subjectively, there is the sense that time is flickering, like a film not properly adjusted on its reel . . . . There is strain that goes nowhere. . . . These structures are in place before consciousness fully forms. . . . they give rise to nervous agitation or uneasy pain . . . .

If the momentum of time’s forward conducting persists, the agitation and its underlying ‘flickering’ intensify. Suddenly there is an abrupt break, as if the reel of film . . . had snapped. Everything freezes—movement vanishes. . . . Pain has been transformed into the fixed and rigid structures of linear time. Consciousness emerges into a temporal order in which time is a hostile force . . . . Time in its pastness grinds us down . . . feeding us the lifeless recordings of the past and the seductive fascinations of the future.

Caught in this fabricated past and future, we are divided against ourselves. Our knowledge and energy are spread across the linear length of the temporal order. Thus, when we set a goal, we assign a part of our constructed identity to that goal. Now it is as though a part of us was ‘out there’ in the future along with our projection, pinned against the temporal horizon of the present moment.

Increasingly confined, we find it deeply disturbing just to inhabit the successive moments of our lives. . . . The specific ‘point’ of time that we occupy lacks all capacity to hold time’s dynamic. Life goes out of the present, drained away ‘across’ time.

We may respond by withdrawing into a dull numbness that has a quality almost like being shocked or stunned. . . . In our worn-out dullness, we are like a baby that has cried itself into exhausted sleep.

If we could awaken at this point to the feeling of pain, we would actually be close to the original dynamic of the time that we have lost. But this alternative is not available, for we are too closely identified with the pain. As ‘I’ merge with ‘having the pain’, I become the victim of what objectified time has presented. I possess the pain and am possessed by it; in this feedback I repossess it, tightening its hold. Awareness arises only in the wake of recognition, and so can lead only in the direction of further identification.  Accepting the reality of the pain assures its continuation. (pp. 295-7)

Through a direct focus on the painness of pain, this ready interpretation can be recast or re-projected. If there is no ‘I’ as subject—no one making efforts with regard to the pain—there will be no pain to be identified. As pain enters experience and is projected into awareness, it is received without labels and identifications and reactions. There is nothing to be conditioned and no one to be caught. Without the subjective framework, pain is stripped of its solidity.

. . . In this new arriving of what time presents, the logic of temporality defeats itself. The past is gone, the future not yet arrived, the present too short: ‘I’ am nowhere. (p. 305)


These excerpts show the importance of the full perception–rather than avoidance–of painful experiences, preventing the rigid construction of linear time.  Understanding how time is fabricated from the self separating from painful experience can be very helpful in relaxing and opening up pain.  The second excerpt gives clear instructions on how to dissolve pain:  Although “accepting the reality of the pain assures its continuation,” “Through a direct focus on the painness of pain, this ready interpretation can be recast or re-projected. If there is no ‘I’ as subject—no one making efforts with regard to the pain—there will be no pain to be identified. As pain enters experience and is projected into awareness, it is received without labels and identifications and reactions. . . . Without the subjective framework, pain is stripped of its solidity.

Healing Time and Pain exercise

The following exercise can be very helpful in relieving pain.  Rather than a visualization of some kind, it directly and openly explores different aspects of experience without any manipulation or effort to change anything. The initial instructions (first three paragraphs) should help relax and loosen up mental and physical tension, while the rest of the instructions address pain from several different perspectives, leading up to a direct shift in the way it’s normally perceived.  Of course you can practice any part of this exercise that seems especially helpful.  A narrated version of this exercise can be found at http://www.tskassociation.org/pain-management.html

[ ” . . . ” signifies a pause.]

You can first explore the physical and emotional tension in your body. Imagine yourself as a tiny point of awareness. As that tiny point of awareness, travel through your body exploring particularly the areas in which there is tension, pain, or a feeling of heaviness. . . . Move through the space of the body, and when you encounter some heaviness, pain, or density, travel through it and allow it to open up. . . . You can also allow the size of the visualized body to change. It might expand and become more spacious, allowing you to more freely travel through the densities and feelings. . . . Continue, and allow the space and awareness to become lighter and more open.

Now you can relax the mind. Observe how thoughts arise and then disappear. In the movement from one thought to another, a kind of force or energy accompanies specific thoughts, creating a momentum that pulls or draws thought forward. . . . Some thoughts seem very large and heavy, while others are smaller and lighter. Each thought may have a different weight or gravitational pull. Observe this gravity of thinking in operation. . . .

Where do the thoughts come from?. . . Where do the thoughts go?. . . What happens in the interval between one thought and the next? . . . Watch very sensitively for the moment when one thought fades and another arises. There may be a space available which you can contact and even expand. . . . In this space does the ordinary flow of time occur? . . .

Notice how the mind, the body, and pain and emotional feeling interact. Notice how they change from moment to moment. . . . You may also notice tendencies for the self to intervene and ignore or push away the intensity of feeling. . . . There may be a tendency for the self to remain outside the feelings and to simply observe what is happening from a distance. . . . a tendency for the self to comment on and think about the situation but not be totally involved in it. . . . Notice the complex interrelating among self, sensations, mind, thoughts, emotions, body, and other, which constitutes this situation. . . . Notice the tendency to control, or own or disown different aspects of the scenario, to draw them towards the self, or to push them away from the self.

When there is pain, we often maintain some kind of position or point of view that is separate from the place where the pain is located. See if you are aware of an observing position, a sense of self, or a sense of identity, that is being maintained apart from the pain. . . . Allow yourself to feel the firmness or rigidity of any such position. This position is usually distant from another place where the pain is located. There may be a tendency to ignore, control, or push away pain by keeping it at a distance. . . . Allow yourself to become aware of any other painful position. . . . Then become aware of the boundary or energy between the two positions. Notice how the two positions divide up the space. . . .

Let the contrasted positions of the observer and observed pain, and their associated thoughts and stories communicate with each other, while you simply listen to the stories and observe what’s happening in a neutral way. . . . At first the thoughts and positions may alternate in prominence or weight as you observe, but as you continue, they might both be present at the same time, carrying equal weight or significance. . . . Watch how the prominence of the positions changes over time.

In the same way that you did with your body, allow a tiny point of awareness to travel through the two spaces of observer and observed sensation, and open up the separation and the boundary between the spaces. . . . See whether the sense of distance between the two positions or points of view diminishes. . . . Notice whether the positions are any less definite from what they were originally. See whether the boundary between the two spaces has changed in any way. Is there any kind of space that includes the two positions now?

Continue the exploration, attending to pain in all its forms. . . . Cultivate the intention of healing the pain. . . . Let pain contact awareness directly, allowing its staccato throbbing to be fully present. . . . Let pain and awareness fully commingle, so that neither is at all apart from, or separate from the other. . . . If the pain is still ‘sharp’, or if time still occupies sharply defined ‘points’ or moments, bring more awareness to the breath, and gradually let the breathing slow down. . . . Eventually there may be no ordinary sense of moments, or time passing. . . . There may be no sense of identity that is distant from, or apart from, the sensation. . . . By relaxing into pain, you may find there is only sensation, without a sense of ‘I’ that is a target for, or victim of, the sensation. . . . Awareness and sensation can be in direct touch without confrontation, effort, or control. . . Without a doer or thinker, and without the labelling and distancing of what’s happening, there is only sensation, not pain. . . . There may be a way of relating directly and immediately to the sensation that is no longer sharply painful, an immediate way of relating that occurs ‘within’ or ‘beneath’ the ordinary flow of time. As long as there is no rejecting and identifying with sensation, there will be no getting stuck in it. Sensation can appear as movement and energy, yet not have the character of pain. . . . Contacting this energy of time directly, ‘beneath’ the ordinary flow of time, the entire situation can be opened up; the energy of pain can be turned toward release. Nothing is established or identified, nothing grasped or rejected or taken hold of in any way.

This exercise is an amalgamation and edit of a number of exercises from two books by Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge, and Dynamics of Time and Space.


ABC news report on time pressure, 1999.

Dossey, Larry, M.D., (1982). Space, Time and Medicine. Boston & London: Shambhala.

Hallowell, Edward M. (2006). CrazyBusy. New York:  Ballantine Books.

Krishnamurti, Jiddhu, and David Bohm (1985).  The Ending of Time.  San Francisco:  Harper & Row.

Rechtschaffen, S. (1996). Time Shifting. New York: Doubleday.

Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Louis (1988). The Art of Time. Reading, Massachusetts:  Addison-Wesley.

Tulku, Tarthang (1994). Dynamics of Time and Space (DTS). Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing.

Tulku, Tarthang (1977). Time,  Space, and Knowledge  (TSK). Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing.

Walljasper, Jay.  (1997).   “The Speed Trap,” Utne Reader, Mar-Apr 1997

I found this post on a discussion forum on the web:

“The idea of “Time Management” is one of the biggest misconceptions of all.  There are only twenty-four hours in every day and we can’t stretch or shrink time.  Thus we can’t ‘manage’ time, we can only manage ourselves in relation to the time we have.  Time is unique because it is finite.  Time is the only resource that must be spent the instant it is received.  Many people miss the point about effective time management.  Good Time Management techniques will save you at least one hour a day and maybe more, but the real question is; what will you do with the extra time?”

Perhaps the main proposition here is that (1) time management is a misconception because (2) there are only 24 hours in a day and (3) we can’t stretch or shrink time.   But if we all have 24 hours in a day, what do we mean when we say “I don’t have time!”?  Obviously we’re not talking about clock time, but we are expressing something. And if time “must be spent the instant it is received,” what do we mean when we say time management can “save you at least one hour a day”?  So I agree that there is considerable confusion in the way we talk about time and time management.

For sure, our Western cultures teach that when we talk about time, we usually mean physical time or its measurement, clock time.   And perhaps the only way we can change physical, or event time itself is to travel near the speed of light in some kind of rocket.    So, yes, in the sense that we don’t (except during space travel) change physical time itself, we do not ‘manage time’.

But does time management only work with physical time?  Besides clock and physical time, there is also psychological time, inner time, felt time, experiential time, or a number of other terms pointing to another, inner type of time–time as feeling or experience.

This third face of time is probably the most important for our happiness, although it’s also probably the face that is least known, least understood, and most undervalued. Here I will call it felt or experiential time. Felt time includes all the different ways we feel or experience time. We may feel time move quickly when we’re having ‘a great time’. During some of the best moments of our lives, things slow down or even seem timeless, with little or no feeling of time passing. On the other hand, we feel time ‘drag’ or pass slowly when we’re bored, or having ‘a bad time’.  Thus some times seem ‘long’ and others feel very ‘short’.  And we feel anxious about time when it ‘goes too fast’, or it seems we don’t have enough of it–even though we all have the same 24 hours a day.  Thus the sense of time flowing or passing is actually very flexible, not fixed and limited like physical time.   Experiential time is clearly very changeable–it even seems to disappear ‘sometimes’!  So although there are only 24 clock hours in a day, might there be a possibility that we can learn to stretch or shrink felt or experiential time?

But then again, why would we want to?  We Westerners gradually and implicitly teach our children that time is linear, like an invisible conveyor belt that moves horizontally at a constant and unchangeable speed between past, present, future ‘rooms’ in our experience.  (This image is from anthropologist Edward Hall, The Dance of Life, pp. 78-9.) The trouble is that seeing time linearly causes us to struggle and race against time. Our work is effortful and stressful; time has a kind of built in friction.  In modern times “it feels like our lives have turned into a grueling race toward a finish line we never reach.” (Jay Walljasper, former editor of Utne Reader)   Physician Larry Dossey said, “Many illnesses—perhaps most—may be caused either wholly or in part by our misperception of time. . . . I am convinced that we can destroy ourselves through the creation of illness by perceiving time in a linear, one-way flow.”

So the mental and physiological habit of linear time–although ‘normal’ in many cultures–is bad for our productivity, health, and well-being. Yet conventional time management usually sees linear time flow as ‘normal’, presuming  that  the  river  of  time  really  does  flow between past, present, and future, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.  CTM just tries to make the best of things within the limitations of the river of time, offering  us  different  ways  to  swim  as  we’re  swept  downstream  by  the current.

To my mind the biggest misconception in CTM is that time flows linearly, and we need to somehow just adapt to this flow.  Scientists have never found any flow ‘out there’ in reality.  “The flow of time is clearly an inappropriate concept for the description of the physical world that has no past, present and future” (Thomas Gold, “Relativity and Time” in The Encyclopedia of Ignorance, ed. R. Duncan and M. Weston-Smith (New York: Pergamon, 1977), p. 100.) It’s just an unhealthy mental and physiological habit taught as we grow up in different cultures, and we can learn how to gradually break the habit.

This is where the new field of inner time management (ITM) comes in. Rather than the usual CTM focus on what we want to do, ITM provides methods to directly optimize how we do things, especially our moment-by-moment feelings of time passing.  Its ‘goal’, if we can call it that, is to change our ordinary linear way of experiencing time passing, along with related troublesome feelings—including ‘overwhelm’, time pressure, frustration, boredom, time poverty (the feeling that we don’t have ‘enough time’), anxiety about time, and ‘hurry sickness’–to the timeless state of peak performance.

Research on peak experience and peak performance shows that these experiences are timeless, as well as optimally productive and fulfilling.  According to Dr. Larry Dossey, “In total immersion in a task, whether listening to lungs or weeding vegetable gardens, time is abolished. It stands still.”  (Dossey, Space, Time, and Medicine, p. 34)  According to Stanford business professor Michael Ray: “If you pay attention at every moment . . . you become more efficient, productive, and energetic, focusing without distraction directly on the task in front of you. Not only do you become immersed in the moment, you become that moment.”  (Hunt and Hait, The Tao of Time, p. 67)  Time management instructors Hunt and Hait wrote: “When we live in the now and are totally absorbed by the activity at hand, we become our most positive and productive selves. . . . Engrossed in the now, we slip effortlessly into a no-boundary place in time and space, a timeless dimension where energy abounds and time is irrelevant.”  (Hunt and Hait, p. 66)

So there can be tremendous value in the new field of inner time management (ITM) whereby we can learn to stretch or shrink felt or experiential time–a discipline Dr. Stephan Rechtschaffen called Time Shifting (1996, Doubleday).  For more information about ITM, see http://www.tskassociation.org/time-movement.html    So, time management doesn’t change or manage physical time itself, but there is a type of little-known inner time management that focuses on our experience of time, taking as its goal ‘movement’ toward the timeless zone of peak performance.

“Unfortunately, the poor use of our time does not make us fat, and so its effects are less visible.  That may be why the problem has not yet been given national priority. Nevertheless, it can make us as sick as overeating.  Ulcers, heart attacks, and cancers are created in the furrows of stress . . . . In a sense, this situation is much more serious, because many more people suffer from stress than from obesity.” (Servant-Schreiber, The Art of Time, p. 31)   “The misuse of time in today’s society should lead to a ‘time movement’.” (Rechtschaffen, p. 226)  “Unless we consciously learn to control time in our lives, the stress we suffer will only get worse. . . . Until we learn to control time consciously, our lives will continue to speed away from us . . . .”  (Rechtschaffen, p. 14)

alternate text

Our typical approaches to resolving troubling conditions and issues are completely oblivious of the crucial fact that all these conditions as well as the self structure to which they seem to ‘belong’ are simply (convincingly real) instant-by-instant fabrications that don’t need solving. We can learn to see how the apparently continuous movie of life, with limiting habits of self at center stage, is actually a bewildering flurry of momentary, fleeting projections onto the screen of ordinary consciousness. Troubling scenarios clearly have no absolute or fixed, unchangeable nature—unpleasant experiences seem ‘real’ only because of the way of projecting.  We can let the projecting process go, without ‘freezing’ it and then trying to fix the problems that were frozen.  Aware of this projecting, we can redirect its energy, breaking up limiting scenarios as soon as they appear, and before we get caught up in the parts and story lines. By recognizing the ordinary structures of life before they are firmly in place, as they are just taking the stage, we can directly and powerfully break free from limiting patterns.  Without special effort—for no effort is needed—the whole of experience is already transformed. (DTS, p. 302) “Our whole purpose is to go beyond this typical lower time orientation of ‘someone’s doing something’. . . . If we can understand this correctly, then our difficulties in living can be solved very easily, naturally.”  (pp. xxxv, DOT I)  “The idea should be to not add or subtract anything from the immediacy of any knowing encounter.” (p.  xiii, DOT I)  “Everything required for contacting freedom and everything required . . . is already being done.”  (Interview with Tarthang Tulku)

For the second edition, go to:



No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

To facilitate progress toward personal and organizational goals, each individual can define performance values to measure his/her involvement along one or more dimensions of the experiential field. As we act to accomplish our goals, we can then periodically measure these values as a way to evaluate and drive our progress.

Then, assuming that individuals periodically make suitable redefinitions of their performance values, the following two practices should optimally drive and sustain long-term individual and, for those involved in organizations, organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity:

(1) The primary practice, related to the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field as often as one can, while:

(2) Acting and keeping one’s scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

Introducing the Issues Addressed

Employees and management alike suffer from the lack of a vision and operational method of optimal work which truly provides and actively fosters a natural meeting ground for both personal fulfillment and corporate results, and which inspires people toward peak performance, self-actualization, and optimal well-being.

We can inquire first, whether there actually is a balanced, general vision of Optimal Work. If so, instead of the modern preoccupation with bottom-line results, it would ideally balance concerns about productivity, product and service quality, and employee well-being and work capacity. And if it’s truly general–applicable to any person, environment, culture, and task–it cannot be defined in terms of organizational structures, management styles, employee habits, and best practices or processes.   Though such a vision can’t prescribe specific practices or processes, perhaps it could tell us how best to do processes and practices by defining a set of possible experiential “performance values” and tracking our progress within this set.

Second, we can inquire how workers can best motivate themselves, or be motivated.  Besides the usual external carrot-and-stick management methods, there is the inherent drive for self-actualization described by Maslow.  Are there ways for individual workers to set up a challenging atmosphere centered on this perennial, intrinsic drive? If so, how can management establish extrinsic organizational goals and yet support this intrinsic drive? Might it even be possible to foster a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and organizational results that has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives?


No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

I propose that to optimally facilitate progress, each individual should maintain a scoreboard that represents progress toward both personal and organizational goals (determined as described in step 1 below), and should then focus on one’s experiential field while making different possible ‘moves’ of increasing involvement defined by performance values measured along one or more dimensions (this will soon be explained further).


In a typical organization the primary emphasis is on productivity and the bottom-line Outer gameboard goals (step 1). Sometimes there is a secondary emphasis on quality.  Very seldom is there even the simple recognition of the importance of the natural process of trying to deepen our concentration and involvement in the experiential field when we try to improve performance.

Emphasizing results on the scoreboard can negatively affect employee well-being. By focusing on results without a balanced attention to their well-being (which can be measured on the experiential field) employees may produce a great deal during a long work crunch, yet burn out in the process.  It’s clear that focusing on results, often touted as a kind of overall ‘best practice’, does not guarantee optimal employee well-being or even long-term productivity.  As Kenneth Blanchard asked in Managing By Values, when you’re playing tennis, what kind of results can you expect if you keep focused on the scoreboard–measuring profit or ‘results’–rather than the ball?  (Blanchard, p. 49)

However, with a set of experiential performance values (defined in step 2), you can drive balanced, overall personal and organizational progress–including improving quality, and employee well-being–if everyone focuses on increasing their own engagement/involvement on the experiential field (see “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?”  http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html ) rather than focusing on the scoreboard, productivity, or the bottom line, all of which are lagging indicators.  In the preceding chapter we saw how measuring involvement provides immediate feedback to drive progress.

For clarity in this article we can distinguish two types of involvement, behavioral and inner. Behavioral involvement is measured in terms of a person’s actions, or observable behavior. For example, one might join a group concerned with the disarmament movement.  This type of involvement is often noted in black-and-white terms–that is, you’re either involved in a movement or you’re not. Most of the literature on involvement or engagement uses this behavioral meaning (for example, see dictionary.reference.com).

However, use of the word involvement in this article often refers to inner, or experiential involvement, which is measured by the degree to which one is fully preoccupied or experientially absorbed in whatever is at hand. It focuses on change in one’s inner experience. While inner involvement is also often seen in black-and-white terms, it can instead be defined and used as a work performance measure that varies along one or more dimensions of the experiential field (discussed in detail below).

Outer involvement behavior, such as attending meetings, is often accompanied by ‘moves’ or changes in inner involvement, but these two aren’t always congruent: people can just ‘act the part’: “talk the talk” outside, but still not “walk the walk” inside. For a significant contribution, ‘inner’ buy-in is necessary, mere behavioral compliance is insufficient.


To clarify what inner involvement is and how it changes at transition points, and perhaps to see how numerous the possibilities are, you can examine this account of an extended work period during which involvement increases gradually for some time, then decreases a while. Increasing involvement is defined in the case of this example simply as “a more complete integration of the experiential aspects of the work scenario;” decreasing involvement is “greater disintegration of experiential aspects of the work scenario.”

I have a speech I need to prepare. There’s a feeling of dread. It’s Monday, and the speech is to be delivered Thursday. It takes considerable effort to even think about getting started on the script. I need to get it done, but I don’t want to. I could avoid the feeling of dread and the task of speechwriting, but I’m not going to be that irresponsible. So I allow the feeling to be there, and begin to make notes about the talk. The sense of dread gradually dissipates.

I visualize myself speaking a few days from now, at a point along a linear time line that extends from here in the present to Thursday. I feel time flowing strongly and relentlessly in the background. There’s pressure and a subtle sense of anxiety attending the flow of time. I could focus on the deadline up ahead and the feeling of time slipping by, and make myself more anxious, but I decide to let go of these unproductive concerns and focus on the work. The pressure and anxiety about the deadline gradually subside as I turn toward the work a little more.

After I get more of an outline for the talk, it begins to feel like writing this speech is a kind of ‘thing’ that I have to do, something very separate from me, almost forced upon me. I notice my feeling that it’s being imposed from outside. There’s a tendency to take the idea at face value, to believe it and react to it. But from another perspective it’s clear that no one is forcing me to do this. It’s my decision. As this becomes very clear, I relax a bit and think about what to do next.

Although the task is no longer just an idea to me, I still experience the work from outside, as an observer who is not “into it.” The papers feel distant from my body. I am aware of a lot of other objects in the room, as well as other things that I have to do in the next few days. My energy is somewhat scattered. The subject-object split and the scattered energy are recognized as signs that there is an opportunity for more involvement in the scenario. I could see these experiences as being normal, but from past experience it’s clear that they are common, yet not ‘normal,’ and if I take them as being realistic for this kind of work, the work scenario will not improve.

I write down some more ideas that I want to present, visualize myself giving the speech, and check the list to see what is missing. I write down a few more ideas. I feel a little puzzled about the order of these ideas. There’s some momentum to write more ideas down as well as a draw to examine the confusion. I know if I simply rush to put more ideas down, I may miss something important. I face the confusion, and soon realize that a couple of the topics would be better at a different place in the talk.

Things begin to flow a little more easily. Although time is not passing so strongly from past to present to future, more work ‘events’ seem to be occurring every minute, as if some other kind of momentum was accelerating. I reorganize the list, then read the list from beginning to end, once again visualizing giving the talk. At this point I am considerably more involved in the work. I am not aware of other projects I have to do, or other objects in the room. I am not an observer separate from the work. In fact, there is only a slight boundary that is sometimes felt between my mind and body and the papers. When I am thinking, I am often not aware of any objects at all. The quality of thinking is different also, not so much like ‘I’ am pushing the thoughts. Although a bit of effort is required on my part, the thoughts and the work seem to flow somewhat by themselves. And this is not just a feeling, I’m getting the work done more quickly. The insight about rearranging topics clearly came on its own, with no volition on my part. My feeling of time has changed considerably. Time has only a subtle flow apart from me and the work. I feel very little anxiety about time passing toward the deadline.

Now the writing really takes on a life of its own. Ideas come easily, and insights are frequent, surprising me again and again. The material seems completely original. The process is creative in the sense of presenting material that seems new and fresh, not arising from any apparent source. I experience wonder and awe at the process and the accuracy and value of the content written. I feel good about being able to participate in this process. Periodically there are little bits of pride that arise as I congratulate myself on my improved progress. I have thoughts about rewarding myself by taking a break. There seem to be more points at which these interruptions and others are noticed. I could take a break, but I know I would miss the strong flow of the work and the fulfillment I am experiencing, let alone the opportunity to get so much done so quickly. It is also realized that congratulating myself on ‘my’ progress doesn’t make much sense, since it doesn’t feel like ‘I’ am the source of the flow. These distractions are noticed and disappear very quickly.

There are no noticeable feelings of anxiety, fear, or pressure. Nor is there a feeling of time passing. I am not aware of objects in the room, nor of the work as a ‘thing’ or project. There is little felt separation between ‘my’ mind and the thinking and writing being done.

At some point, I get confused about the message I want to get across in the speech. There’s a strong tendency to avoid the confusion, and a pull to continue the momentum of the work and figure out what to write next. My mind starts to wander, and I look at the clock and realize it’s almost time for my favorite TV show. I know this is the best time to do this work, but pretty soon I’m thinking about how I might be able to finish my work after the show is over and during my free time the next couple of days. Yes, it seems possible! I think I have enough time. With some subtle anxiety lurking in the background, I procrastinate, put my work aside, and begin to watch the show.

The flow of work has stopped and time slips by quickly again. While I’m watching TV, I’m slightly anxious, subtly aware of what time it is and how much time I have till the end of the show, when I’ll return to my work. Watching television is not a flowing experience now, nor is it as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. My mind is divided between the show and being aware that I really want to do my work. I am self-consciously watching TV here in the present, feeling anxious and guilty about a job waiting for me in the future. My experience is divided into present and future, into an anxious self and the relentless flow of time. Besides anxiety, I also feel guilty or pressured about not getting the job done. The scenario is complicated, with my awareness divided, time partitioned into present and future, strongly ambivalent feelings about what’s happening, and a persistent sense of separation between myself, the TV, and my work.


In the previous section, we concluded that work progress naturally results from (1) noticing the transition points where your (inner) involvement could either increase or decrease, making the scenario either more simple/integrated or complicated/fragmented, and then (2) making a ‘move’ in the direction of increasing involvement. This is the natural way that we improve productivity usually without even thinking about it.

This leads to a hypothesis about the best way to drive progress.  Presuming that there is sufficient organizational support (mostly management understanding and trust) for the environment described below in steps 1 and 2, the following work practices should optimally drive and sustain both long-term individual and organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ as often as one can (a process defined as continuous improvement), while:

(2) Working and keeping measures of one’s progress and goals (the scoreboard) “at the back of one’s mind.”

The significant presumption of the hypothesis is that the ‘inner’ playing field and the scoreboard are not separate, but related parts of our larger reality in which moves on the inner, experiential field drive both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ progress.  Although most people in most cultures and in these times have become preoccupied with the outer world, this statement redirects the emphasis and says that the inner field is essential–outer results somehow follow directly from inner progress. In the book Peak, Chip Conley confirms this: “I came to realize that creating peak experiences for employees, customers, and investors fostered peak performance for my company.”

This approach to optimal work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing Values (MBAV), similar to Blanchard’s Managing by Values approach, for which it’s stated, “When we keep our eyes on consistently operating our business by aligning with our core values, the scoreboard does in fact take care of itself!” (Blanchard, p. 49)

We could reword it this way:  Actualizing values drives inner and outer progress.  When people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or on what could be called inner performance values–they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.  As Blanchard says, when people do their best, “all of their attention is on what they’re doing . . . . The results just seem to flow from this focus of energy . . . . Lots of companies seem to watch only their scoreboard–-the bottom line.” (Blanchard, p. 3)

Three steps are suggested for implementing this Managing by Actualizing Values approach.


Each person identifies and prioritizes his or her personal and organizational goals using common time management practices (For example, see conventional time management (http://www.manage-time.com/103Frames.html  on the Results in No Time website at www.manage-time.com).  This action is initially done, and updated periodically when useful, by every individual in the organization, whether manager or individual contributor.

One should not start with an organization’s mission alone, which just limits possibilities at the outset.  Any organization is just part of a much larger whole, and the MBAV goal here is to improve performance in life in general, not to limit oneself to only personal or corporate goals.  Anyway, any effort to keep corporate and personal goals separate is artificial and confusing at best–our personal lives affect our corporate lives, and vice versa.

Organizational goal-setting may be done privately by management, or more publicly with (external) involvement or participation by other employees. The organization must at the very least, somehow clarify and periodically update its goals and mission, and pass this direction on to all employees.

These goals then are up for adoption by every individual employee–and it’s still up to the individual to decide whether to adopt them.  In some cases there may be personal ethical or moral objections.  In Managing by Values, Blanchard says, “a company  creates  a motivating environment for its people–one in which  employees can  see that  working  toward  the  organization’s  goals is in their  best  interest.” (Blanchard, p. 23) However, presuming that this is in fact the case can be misleading or even dangerous, and personal freedom and integrity takes priority over trying to accommodate an organizational decision that one doesn’t put faith or credence in.

Personal goal-setting may be done privately or in a group setting.  Ideally an organization will provide time for identifying personal goals.  Doing so demonstrates management’s understanding of the close connection and interrelationship of personal and organizational goals, as well as support for, and trust in the efficacy of MBAV.


As discussed in my article “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?” (http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html, with a shorter version at https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/boosting-productivity-quality-and-well-being) inner, experiential involvement in the current scenario is directly proportional to employee well-being, productivity, and quality of product and service. We could symbolize it this way:  I ~ W*P*Q.  Thus tracking and improving experiential involvement is both an indicator and a driver of all aspects of progress.  In addition, unlike other measures of progress defined in terms of specific results, services, or production processes, the natural practice of tracking involvement–however it is defined, as discussed below–has the important benefit that it can be used not only while focusing on any task, but also as you switch between tasks, or even when there is no apparent task at hand.

Inner involvement is operationally defined as a measurement of one or more dimensions, with each dimension having a set of work-process or performance values that are experientially possible during a work period.  For this step, each individual should specify his/her personal set of performance values to be used to measure inner progress at work, and if desirable, during other times as well. There are many ways to do this—your choices will probably depend in part on your own personality, goals, and religious or spiritual disciplines. Consider the core values that, for you or your organization, will guide and shape the way you fulfill your purpose.  Whatever your selection, how you define engagement or involvement will determine what your suggestions are for improving them.  Your definition will also determine whether truly continuous improvement can be fostered using the performance values—some specifications do not provide sufficient granularity for continuous improvement.

As a first example of how to do this, one’s performance level can be measured very simply along a single dimension by choosing one of the following seven ‘values’:  (1) avoiding, (2) holding back, (3) being resigned to doing something, (4) getting into it, (5) being involved, (6)  being absorbed, (7) being completely engrossed. Then at work you can periodically recall your recent experience as if you were viewing a videotape replay, determine which of these five performance values best fits your experience, and then look for ways to improve. Using these values provides a rough measure of involvement.

A second way to track engagement: define it as a combined measure of three dimensions, awareness (A), concentration (C), and energy (E) (See Tulku, 1994, pp. 120-129).  You can assign numbers from 0% to 100% for each of the three dimensions, and use the average of the three values for the combined measure of involvement.

Third, you could estimate involvement as a combined measure of three dimensions of integration, energy-flow, and spaciousness:  a high degree of involvement can indicate an experiential melding of objects and individuals, an effortless yet powerful flow of events, and a sense of openness pervading the entire work scenario. A low degree of involvement could mean that individuals and objects were strongly felt to be separate, intense effort was required to get small things done, or the work scenario had a heavy or inert feeling.

Fourth, for fine granularity and precision, you could (a) define engagement as a combined measure of the twelve dimensions defined in an article on the zone published in the Jossey-Pfeiffer Bass 2007 Annual.  These dimensions or aspects of the zone approximate irreducible aspects of peak experience.

Then (b), as in the second way to track engagement above, chart the rise and fall of these twelve factors throughout the day by periodically considering the following questions that contrast various aspects of ordinary work from peak performance:

1. Are you applying effort or control to something that feels separate from you, or does your activity seem to flow effortlessly ‘by itself’?

2. Do things feel familiar, somewhat predictable, or even habitual, or does each new moment, along with all that appears in the momentary scenario, seem spontaneous and fresh?

3. Are you looking forward to being done with the work, or are you currently fulfilled within your work-in-progress?

4. Do objects and events take up space and appear to be separate and dispersed, or are do they seem intimately connected in and even as one space?

5. Is there a private space or personal world that feels separate from everything outside, or do inner and outer, subjective and objective appear to be inseparable facets of the same undivided space?

6. Is there a sense of self that stands apart from experience and externals, or do you feel identified with, or absorbed in, what is happening?

7. Is knowledge simply something that you or others possess or lack, or is there a sense of being intimately part of what’s around you, knowing things that are happening ‘from inside’ them?

8. Is knowledge only identification, categorization, judgment, and detached observation, or also an illuminating clarity merged with the subject being explored?

9. Are there divisions among your self, mind, body, and personality, or is there a natural sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and satisfaction?

10. Are you driven by a need or a desire for pleasure, or is everything being found to be immediately and inherently fulfilling?

11. Do you notice a feeling of time flowing in the background, or are you timelessly involved in something?

12. Does reality seem solid, fixed, and substantial, or does everything seem somewhat fluid or dreamlike?

However you define your involvement system, it would probably be helpful to compose some questions to help determine your current performance level and the direction for progress.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Consider relating to one’s work using average performance values limited by inculcated experiential strictures (see https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/whats-the-zone-of-peak-performance/ on my blog).  An individual who is experientially separate from the work action, and who experiences the flow of time from past to present and future, has ‘room for improvement’ in the transition toward peak performance values. Because the spectrum of fitting values is broad, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational and practical purposes.

If, because of your growing insight and realization, you periodically make appropriate revisions of your personal definitions of involvement, these performance values could gradually approach the irreducible, core values of the ‘zone’ of self-actualization.  By thus improving the precision with which you observe the workflow, you will have the granularity of feedback necessary to directly approach peak performance.

Besides helping to empower every individual worker, centering our approach to peak performance on increasing involvement relieves management of the effort involved in carrot and stick methods of motivation. These methods depend on repeatedly filling individuals’ lower-level needs (such as approval and security), which can only be temporarily satisfied.   In contrast, the motivation toward self-actualization does not seem to die out.  As Andrew Grove pointed out, “Unlike other sources of motivation . . . self-actualization continues to motivate people to ever higher levels of performance.” (Grove, pp. 163-4) Thus he suggests that “Our role as managers is . . . to . . . bring them to the point where self-actualization motivates them” (Grove, p. 168)

Another huge advantage of this MBAV approach is that there’s no need to persuade or convert anyone (including managers, who often “don’t have time for” this kind of approach) to adopt a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines. The method allows and even fosters people’s own current religious or sectarian (e.g., time, space, and knowledge—values ‘unoffensive’ for scientists and engineers) definitions of performance values on the experiential field. Organizational developers don’t need to adopt and implement another foreign program. It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress. Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the common employee distrust of management’s motives.


The following two work practices should simultaneously optimize and sustain long-term individual and organizational progress–including productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the Inner board:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field of experience as often as one can, while:

(2) Working and keeping one’s goals for the results scoreboard ‘at the back of one’s mind’.

About practice 1:  Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the experiential field as often as one can.

Although as we grow older, most of us become preoccupied with the outer world, to win the overall game of life, we need to focus and master our play on the inner, experiential field.

I made some arguments discussing step 2 above to support this statement, but can I really prove this to anyone?  I doubt it.  Though my arguments might be convincing, certainty about the efficacy of driving progress via increasing involvement will probably come only from validating it in your own experience.  That was certainly true for me.

To try it out, view your experience as a kind of playing field where you are the only player. The object of the game is to approach peak performance by driving inner involvement–in whatever way you have defined it–as high as you can.

To do this, as you work, occasionally notice where you are in the range of performance values you defined in step 2.  Are you experiencing ‘lesser’ values, or does your process currently exemplify the values toward the center, towards what is sometimes called the ‘zone’ of peak performance?   Use the questions you wrote in step 2 to determine the level of your involvement, and the direction for improvement.

If it seems there is no restriction or limitation, no opportunity for improving our work process, you can simply enjoy things and go on.  However, it’s often easy to identify a limitation on complete involvement in the work scenario. There seem to be countless opportunities for most of us to improve the degree to which we are absorbed. As we deal with those that are obvious to us, before long it seems we are naturally presented with possible transition points that are more subtle.

If you are aware of a performance value that is low, do whatever you can to change it to a central value.  For example, if energy is a dimension that you’re measuring by a percentage value, and your estimate was 40%, do something to increase your energy level.

On the other hand, sometimes people will define dimensions in terms of ‘values’ representing feelings, such as the level of anxiety about time passing.  Then you can simply attend directly to the feeling for however long it persists.  By noticing these feelings consistently and persistently–whether  focusing only on these feelings or simultaneously continuing to work–you can eventually dissolve  the obstacle clouding  the fuller and more frequent appearance of central values in experience.

It could be helpful for motivated individuals to meet periodically (even if only around the tea/coffee pot or dining area) and discuss obstacles and insights–our experiences are often very similar and it can be helpful to share how we deal with them. Participants might also practice various ‘noticing’ exercises designed especially to break up the limitations keeping us from deepening our involvement.  Management’s support for such meetings would be influential.

About practice 2:  Work and keep one’s goals for the results scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, this approach to Optimal Work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing ValuesWhen people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or what could be called inner performance values.  And although they naturally and periodically recall their tasks, objectives, and priorities as they work, they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.


In order to optimally drive progress in productivity, well-being, quality, and work capacity in any culture and environment, the primary focus should be to continuously improve inner involvement, which is defined as a measure of one or more dimensions of values that are experientially possible and measurable during a work period.  While experts in organizational development are usually preoccupied with dynamics and methods of outer or behavioral involvement, the most important, deterministic aspect of all forms of involvement is ‘inner’, or experiential–without this, behavior is meaningless and robotic.

There are many effective ways to define inner involvement.  The utility of one’s definition will clearly depend on two important factors.  First, it depends on the ‘fit’ or congruence of performance values chosen–by each individual–with the individual’s personality, goals, and religious or spiritual values and discipline.  Without a significant degree of congruence, the individual’s well-being and performance will suffer.  If the organization imposes values that conflict with those of the individuals–even if it considers those values worthwhile, innate, natural, divine, “best values,” empirically validated, or obvious–there will be conflict and overall progress will surely suffer.  Ideally, management will be willing to trust the discovery of efficacious and naturally motivating values by each individual.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values also depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Therefore, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational or practical purposes.  In addition, this method allows an evolution in definitions of involvement when appropriate–and with the average person this does happen occasionally.

As stated earlier, a huge advantage of this is that there’s no need to convert anyone to a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines.  It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress.  Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives.

In addition to congruence of performance values chosen with the individual’s personality and preferences, efficacy of each individual’s definition of involvement depends on the approximation of these same performance values with what to some people are presumed (and to other people are credible, or self-evident) essential, core, irreducible,  or ‘zone’ values of what has variously been called peak performance, self-actualization, self-realization, or enlightenment.  Managing by values is probably effective because of the focus on values instead of results, but its efficacy also depends on what values are used, and how they are used.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) national web site used to state: “Although there is an intellectual construct called high performance work, it does not have a common definition.” However, a definition of optimal work can be drawn from common descriptions of peak experience by Maslow, Murphy and White, Csikszentmihalyi, and Tarthang Tulku, among others.  From their works and many more by other researchers and writers we can piece together a vision of the zone and use it in our measurements of involvement during work. This foundation is currently available. Shared and irreducible attributes of cross-cultural peak experience can help provide the direct experiential–not theoretical or behavioral or results-focused–basis for continuous improvement, moving us toward realizing the zone and increasing engagement/involvement whenever possible, and managing by actualizing values at the deepest levels.


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Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Grove, A. (1983). High Output Management. New York: Random House.

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Maslow, A. (1962). Toward a Psychology of Being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

Murphy, Michael H. and Rhea A. White (1995). In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports. New York: Penguin Books.

Conley, Chris (2007). Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.  Audio recording of his book.   Recorded Books.

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Randall, S. (2007).  Exploring the ‘Zone’ of Peak Performance. An article on pp. 171-96 of The 2007 Pfeiffer Annual: Annual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

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Tulku, T. (1977).  Time, Space, and Knowledge:  A New Vision of Reality.  Berkeley, CA:  Dharma Publishing, p. 93.