Notes on Flow - Nicky Rowbotham

Flow State

A flow state is often referred to as a state of effortless concentration, where creativity and effort flows.  Finding flow has become synonymous with an almost blinkered focus and being immersed in an activity to achieve an unparalleled state of productivity.  According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what you experience in that moment known as flow state is defined as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” Csíkszentmihályi, who popularized the term in his 1990 book, the mental state of flow involves “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

But what if it was a more holistic state of being?   Not just how we work, manage teams or create, but also how we manage our energy and exist in mind, body and spirit. A state of easefulness and grace; where we are balanced and grounded, in tune and intuitive, aligned and in touch. Surely if we’re in harmony with our bodies, minds and nervous systems, a flow state in work and creation would be easier to access. We’d also see a benefit in how we live. 

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it.  Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality.  It can be no other way. This is not philosophy.  This is physics” – Albert Einstein

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi refers to flow as the ‘psychology of optimal experience’ or ‘being in the zone’. Holistic flow, in my opinion, is rather the psychology and physiology of optimal experience and being.  Finding flow by living in tune and in the zone, at ease with our bodies, emotions, health and the environment pays dividends in our everyday wellness and energy levels, rather than just being a transient state that we enter for work and creativity alone.

To achieve this, we need to tune into our bodies with a sense of wisdom as to how they work in an adaptable, agile, effortless and easeful way. We shouldn’t fight and force, but rather flow with an understanding of grace and an age old wisdom.  We need to move from being triggered by everyday stresses to healing and feeling in tune.  We need to interrupt our behavioural patterns and triggers that loop us back into a closed off and stressed out state.  What if we used our fear and stress as an alarm clock and a catalyst to wake up and change our state of being?    I often hear people saying that they don’t have a choice and that stress is happening to them.  I felt similarly when I was stuck in a nervous system state of fight or flight.  I felt overwhelmed, stuck and like I wanted to go under water and hold my breathe until the moment had passed me by, like a wave crashing overhead.  Ironically breath work and immersion in water are two very powerful tools to help our nervous systems regain balance (more on that in a later note). 

In survival mode we are in a constant reactive state of frustration and fear, where our ability to have impact is dulled and your ability to save yourself or others is less.  We’re often overwhelmed by everything that comes at you and everything feels like a personal affront or attack.  Like a ninja, slow things down.  Take a few deep breaths, interrupt your normal behavioural pattern or trigger by using a pattern interrupt technique like saying ‘stop’, putting your hands up in front of you or physically stepping back and ask yourself through intentional awareness how you want to react.  This allows you the space or time to see a situation coming, anticipate, the ability to read a situation, develop a plan and act in a way that is a aligned and appropriate. Then move to the side and let the harmful, energy and triggers pass you by.  Ask yourself how they serve you and let them go. Most things that come our way are not meant for us, but they often land on us.  When we move to a more practiced kind of love and resilience, that is less judgemental and controlled by comparison,  we choose to step away from the chaos.

It’s time to re-pattern completely.  Don’t close yourself down and stay in old patterns, bound by old triggers. Open up and release. Let go and flow.  You don’t have to respond to everything that comes into your energy field and you don’t have to make everyone comfortable. You serve others by slowing up with love and grace, whilst living in your flow.

Photo by Frank Mckenna on Unsplash

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