“The flow experience, like everything else, is not “good” in an absolute sense. It is good only in that it has the potential to make life more rich, intense, and meaningful; it is good because it increases the strength and complexity of the self.”
After my last break up it took me about 6 minutes to decide to fully step into the heart ache.
For a good few hrs. I moved – sort of danced around my room trying to shift it, I nursed it and took my heavy, unrested heart to the ocean for sunrise and then I picked myself up and got on with my day. I knew it at the time and I admire my maturity in reflection that to fully step into it and let the pain consume me for a time was key to my healing, I didn’t try to fight it I just let that ache flow.
More recently I had a first kiss with a potential new love, a sweet innocent kiss in the early afternoon of a perfect summers day.
I floated into my apartment, collapsed on my bed, let the current of bliss pulse through me, I even wrote down ‘my eyes close and I’m only the current, like water spilled on earth I dissolve.’ So taken by the moment was I.
At opposite ends of the emotional spectrum I experienced a state of flow, an unimpeded current of energy moving through me, I simply held space for it. The intensity of that first state is a direct in, its often our pain that calls us to presence with such immediacy that we can’t help but be with it.
In fact I find the sweet moments and their residue are often a little more fleeting.
What’s interesting to me and an ongoing experiment is can we sustain a state of flow in the moment to moment experience of daily life?
Mundane as it may sometimes seem.
In my meditation practice the ordinary mind is charmed into a state of flow that allows the thoughts, breath, sensations to come and go freely while I gently preference a bija mantra (seed sound) that opens me to a spaciousness that was always there but mostly unnoticed. Some of my meditation studies have sought to bridge the gap between the exclusivity of a seated practice and the movement of daily life by using walking meditation, mindful eating, sensory awareness, even asana could be included in this category. All useful pathways for sure.
Let me ask you this – Is there anything you do that makes you forget what time it is?
Besides heart ache, new love elation, some meditations, I’ve lost track of time dancing, watching a sunrise, in conversation and so fortunate am I to often feel that way when facilitating a yoga class.
That forgetting, that pure absorption, is what the psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi calls “flow” or optimal experience. He also suggests that if our skill set meets a challenge equal to or even a little more challenging than we are ready for there is an entry to the slipstream. Oh and repetition is necessary.
I believe there’s an invitation there to CREATE the conditions for flow.
“Control over consciousness is not simply a cognitive skill. At least as much as intelligence, it requires the commitment of emotions and will. It is not enough to know how to do it; one must do it, consistently, in the same way as athletes or musicians who must keep practicing what they know in theory.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,
Consistency may not be key to entering the flow state, I believe that can happen spontaneously, but I feel it holds the key to sustaining it. So the question is really what do you do REGULARLY that makes you lose track of time?