The Ease Of Being In Flow
Have you ever experienced moments when everything seemed to just flow? Moments when you didn’t have to struggle or fight or force things to happen? It’s as if there were a giant hand holding a magic wand a few paces ahead of you at every step, magically shifting circumstances so that everything goes your way.
As a writer, I’m keenly aware of “the flow.” It usually means the difference between my words spilling smoothly and effortlessly onto the page, or each word being wrung stiltedly and painfully from my resistant mind.
The flow seems to happen spontaneously most of the time. We might be working, running errands, doing chores around the house, or even just kicking back and watching television. Whatever we’re doing, we realize that we feel good. Calm, relaxed, alert, happy – we are in a state of non-resistance. We’re not struggling with errant emotions or frustrated desires. We simply feel in tune with the rhythm of life.
Not only do we feel better, but our experiences seem to be easier, smoother, more enjoyable. People we encounter seem kinder, we end up getting the good parking spaces at shopping malls, money comes to us more easily, our relationships seem more harmonious, and so on.
Though we’ve probably all experienced this buoyant state of being at one time or another, most of us don’t experience it enough. On a regular basis, we deal with setbacks, irritations, frustrations, disruptions, interruptions, and moments of pure exasperation. Worse, once we are “out of the flow,” it seems incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to get back into the flow.
Well, I’m here to tell you that not only is it possible, but it’s also quite simple once you understand the steps that will bring you back to a harmonious state. Lately, I’ve been exploring these steps in more detail, and I’d like to share some tips to help you get (and stay) in the flow in your own life.
Understand the source – before we move on to the tips, it’s important to understand that this “flow” comes from WITHIN YOU. It’s not some distant essence that you have to locate and draw from. There are no magic words to recite, and you don’t have to rely on anyone else to make your life more harmonious.
On the flip side, just like you are responsible for the times when you’re in flow, you also need to take responsibility for the times when you’re out of the flow. Most of us tend to blame our outer circumstances for our lack of balance and peace. While they can certainly encourage us to feel a certain way (frustrated, angry, impatient, etc.), they cannot control our emotions unless we choose to let them.
And the source of “flow” — IS our emotions! That’s a crucial point to understand. Feeling inflow, or feeling out of the flow, is an indication of whether our emotions are in alignment, or not.
Let go – once you understand that you are the creator of the flow in your life, the first step (and probably the most difficult) is to simply LET GO. Let go of your resistance to certain circumstances, your attachment to specific outcomes in your daily experiences, and your desire to control everything that happens in your life.
This is challenging to say the least, especially if you’re in the midst of unpleasant circumstances. Still, just for the moment, stop fighting, stop struggling, stop resisting, and just focus on accepting.
Open up – whenever you can imagine expanding your mind and opening your awareness to your surroundings. Tune in to what you feel and allow yourself to become immersed in the sensations. Don’t judge them or try to change them, just experience them. Allow them.
Be present in whatever situation you find yourself in. Rather than focusing on the way you want things to be, stay with the way things are right now. Be okay with whatever you’re experiencing, instead of trying to swim against the current.
Be joyful – find something positive about your current circumstances and focus on it. Tune in to the better aspects of where you are, and be grateful for them. You can use a gratitude journal to record these things in written form, or just concentrate on them mentally and take a few minutes to appreciate them.
Choose To Flow
Choose to flow – okay, here’s where it gets fun! Rather than focusing on the ways you’re NOT in the flow at any moment – choose to GET into the flow. Say aloud, “I am totally in the FLOW right now.” Or when you begin to experience challenges, say to yourself, “Okay, I’m going with the flow, I’m not going to resist, I will simply go with the flow.”
And then do just that. Don’t let yourself get frustrated or stressed, simply repeat the letting go a step above, and consciously CHOOSE to go with the flow. Imagine that you are a leaf or a twig being carried along on a swiftly moving stream. Relax your muscles, breathe deeply, and simply allow yourself to be carried along. Even better, choose to enjoy the ride. 🙂
Like any new technique, this can take time and practice before you experience the full benefits. But the good news is that the more you focus on it and the more you work on staying in the flow, the easier it will get! Before long, it will seem like an automatic process and every day will seem to hold a spontaneous element of flow, no matter where you go and what you do.
Going With “The Flow”
Flow state, that mysterious mental zone where time and the outside world seem to disappear, is one of the keys to peak performance. Frankly, your ability to harness the limits of your intelligence, creativity, education, or talents will be largely determined by your capacity to remain in flow while under stress.
Those who cannot suffer stage fright, writer’s block flop sweat, and numerous other labels for the same phenomenon inability to access the deepest wells of confidence and performance in the actual arena.
The key to unlocking this particular inner vault is to look at the phenomenon of the flow itself, separate from any specific usage or application.
We all experience the flow phenomenon. The last moments before we fall asleep or the first after awakening (also known as the hypnogogic state) have this quality. Ever gotten on the freeway, lost yourself in thought, and only snapped out of it when your exit appeared?
Flow. Gone running, dancing, or walking and found time dissolving, so that an hour felt like mere minutes? Flow. One exceptionally powerful flow moment would be the last few seconds leading up to orgasm when it feels like the barriers between you and your lover are melting away.
All of these moments share something in common: they all deal with the dissolution of the subject-object relationship. The painter melts into the canvas. The writer disappears into the book, the reader into the magazine, the lover into the beloved, the martial artist into the flow of throw and punch.
We stop being aware of ourselves and begin to sense a connection between all the disparate parts of the activity as if we are simultaneously stepping back for a wider view, and sinking inwards to a place of almost impossible intimacy.
It is a path to genius. One might take the position that the ability to hold flow under stress is the single greatest key of all high-performing human beings in any arena of life. What is talent, separate from the focus required to manifest it?
There are many disciplines that address flow: meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, prayer, etc. And there are tools that work terrifically well for familiarizing you with this state: sixty beats per minute Largo rhythm string music (Vivaldi is great!), hot baths, incense, massage, etc.
Distance running or rhythmic walking, dance, gardening, or cooking (for some people), playing music, painting, and numerous other activities touch this space. Just look for the moments when time vanishes.
One core technique, used worldwide in thousands of disciplines, is breath control. This is key because breathing is the only physiological process both voluntary and autonomic, and is thus a key to the unconscious mind.
Learning to breathe slowly and deeply even under stress will de-inhibit the flow response, allowing you to access your deeper wisdom and creativity even when a project is due by noon, or the baby is screaming in the next room.
To take advantage of this fact,
1) Learn to breathe deep in your belly. Lay on your back, and put a book on your tummy. As you inhale, it should rise. Exhale, it should fall. Your chest should move as little as possible.
2) Five times a day, at every hour divisible by three (9, 12, 3, 6, 9) concentrate on your breathing for sixty seconds. Learn to do this while driving, sitting in meetings, standing in elevators, or walking down the street.
3) Place (or catch) yourself under moderate stress, and practice this breathing. For instance, in the middle of an exercise class, while public speaking, in the middle of an argument, while caught in bad traffic while experiencing an anxiety attack. Learn to breathe calmly and deeply in such situations, and you re-pattern your nervous systems threat response, enabling you to calm yourself to enter flow.
There are certainly other methods, but this one, modification of breathing, has worked for thousands of years and hundreds of millions of people. It will work for you, as well.
Create a good day & go with the flow!