Learning About Flow – My Experience

Learning About Flow – My Experience

Flow Sports

 

 

Do you ever have that moment where you are completely focused and involved in an activity? Where your whole world at that moment is focused on what you are doing and nothing else? Well, typically, these are descriptions of our optimal mental state of functioning – otherwise known as flow. Founder Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi defines flow as that moment of complete immersion in an activity.

Learning about flow can be difficult. The concept itself is puzzling as it can elicit multiple descriptions. It can be inferred as a thought or a feeling but essentially flow is a state of mind.

I am recently learning about flow and as I learn I find that I am constantly able to relate it to multiple areas of my life and believe that others would be able to do the same.

Flow seems to show up in sport, education or in the workplace. In sport, athletes associate flow with some of their greatest performances. Within education individuals may experience flow as they learn and extend themselves beyond their perceived ability. Within the workplace employees often become so immersed in their tasks that it can create the feeling that that the act is no longer work, but it is play. Leading people to think that if they can reproduce this feeling, that they love, they will never have to work another day in their lives. Ultimately, anyone can experience flow in their desired field, its more their mind set in that field that determines whether they induce flow or not.

 

 

Flow is that optimal state of consciousness where you feel and perform your best. Your concentration can be somewhat tunnel vision, focusing on the task and letting everything else fall away. Individuals who experience the flow state often report that time can either slow down or speed up, heightening the performance focus.

As I continue to learn about Flow, I release that it is something I once had for the sport of rowing. I used to be a highly competitive rower in school. I knew that I loved the sport, waking up every morning to train in the rain and cold. Although after 4 years of rowing it wasn’t just a love for the sport any more, it had turned into, what I now know as the foundation for a flow mindset. In short, I trained to learn and enjoyed each moment because I loved what I did. During rowing, I had that feeling of complete immersion and focus on what I was about to do. Each stroke wasn’t a chore, they just came effortlessly, one after another. As the boat used to glide along the water and the coxswain yelled to the crew, I would find myself zoning out from everything, just focusing on hanging onto this strange but exhilarating feeling that I never wanted to end. After 4 years, I had gone from feeling the pain in each race, the feeling of my blisters rubbing against the ore and my body screaming to stop, to suddenly never wanting to stop. Every day I longed to get back on the water and dreaded the time when rowing would finish. Since finding those sweet moments of flow in my training, that moment of no longer thinking, but just doing, all the boring sessions and mental battles that would ensue during the early years of rowing became worth it. All the long hours of sweat and heartache had become a justifiable means to a rewarding end – flow.

2 years later, whilst I still love rowing and training, I no longer perceive the state of flow when I’m out there on the water. Many things have changed since the days when I was able to achieve the flow state readily. Nowadays, I no longer row at such a competitive level, I no longer have a strong desired goal, and I am not as committed to the club or people I row with compared to when I was representing my school with my best friends. I realise now, that through a combination of all these factors, I lost my flow. As a result of losing my flow I’m less motivated to go to training, to committing to the workload and therefore my performance has decreased. It is easy to become complacent, once achieving flow believing it will always be there, but flow is much rather a state of mind, it isn’t something that you achieve once and have forever from that moment. Multiple factors come into play in the development and maintenance of flow.

 

 

Having this experience of finding flow and then losing it, has allowed me better to understand the concept and further understand many athletes. Flow occurs when an individual has a clear set of goals, focused attention on the task, a feeling of serenity and timelessness, a feeling of personal control over the situation, and a lack of awareness of the physical needs that accompany the task. In retrospect, I had lost a lot of these descriptions. Many high-profile athletes can also loose the state of flow, impacting their performance and often causing their decline, although few gain the ability to understand and find their flow again, improving their performance better than it once was.

Now that I am on a journey to find my flow again, it has been important to me to note that flow occurs in the moment of the task at hand, therefore when attempting to achieve the state of flow being mindful of my thoughts in the moment and managing my feelings of stress and anxiety has been crucial – they can all effect one’s flow. When I’m anxious or overly aroused I can now use relaxation techniques prior to the activity. Relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing help to increase my concentration of the task at hand and focus on what’s relevant, rather than allowing my mind to wonder. This allows me to be more engaged in the task prior to it beginning.

I’m learning now, that no matter the area in which we experience flow, these experiences of flow can not only improve our skill development but also offer significant benefits to our performance. Finding flow not only improved my motivation to continue to get better, but because I was more willing to learn, I ultimately found the sport more enjoyable. As a result, I trained harder, faster and my performances improved.

The flow state relates to the term, ‘in the zone’, whereby we find an ego-less state of complete concentration and absorption. This state allows the us to be 100% positive, focused on the process committed to the execution. We take ownership for our responsibilities in the task, which ultimately improves our performance.

There is so much to flow, I’m learning everyday. But for now, I’m enriched by the knowledge that flow is a state of mind that it is not limited to any individual. It’s not dependent on one’s intelligence, ability, or status. Rather it is achieved when individual’s apply themselves to a task (no matter what it is) in a certain manor.

Learning about flow has given me hope, guidance and a level of confidence that those special moments that used to treasure so much are just around the corner.

 

Written by Gabriella Brown

Yoga and Flow

Yoga and Flow

Flow Performance Skills Tips and Training

Learning how to find flow is unbelievably beneficial to yoga. If you practice yoga regularly, you may already be very familiar with finding the flow state but perhaps not been able to label it – until now. The time when our thoughts merge with our mind, and we enter a bubble where we only see and feel what is necessary to the pose. The space in which an intense act feels effortless, as if for a few seconds we are simply watching our majestic body reach further, higher and deeper than ever before. The usual struggle and limits are distant noises, our attention is 100% immersed in the present moment, and when we emerge from this space we feel elated and surprised by what our mind and body have just achieved. For these precious seconds, we clear our cognitive functioning of the ego-driven automated patterns of thinking that typically limit our performance.

By valuing these moments, lifting them up our priority ladder and becoming a flow seeker, we awaken the mind to find these special moments more frequently. By prioritising a flow mind-set, we are naturally led to engage in more flow states due to its cyclical nature. By becoming aware of the opportunities around us to find flow, we can turn a routine yoga practice into an ideal opportunity to find flow.

The challenging situations in yoga are prime for inducing a flow state. During a yoga practice, our challenge-skills balance is always being tested. We might possess the abilities to hold a certain posture, but in order to deepen and improve said posture, our skills must be pushed to the point of ‘failure’. As we attempt to deepen a posture, we become engulfed in what we are doing. If we are not, we fall out of the posture. In allowing this immersion into the pose, external distractions can disappear, past and future events are not considered, and the passing of time can become distorted. Sound familiar? We can become completely immersed in the present. It is here that flow is experienced, at the point where our skills are slightly inferior to the challenge, and where we perceive these challenges as opportunities to engage in positive risk, which fosters our growth, development, and improvement.

These moments feel so good they can knowingly or unknowingly bring us back to the mat again and again. But how do we reach this space called ‘flow’ more frequently? Well, it starts by embracing a flow mind-set. Amongst many things, a flow mind-set involves understanding the experience and seeking it in our activities. We become a flow seeker. Embracing a flow mind-set encompasses focusing on the process and letting the outcome take care of itself. Flow is an autotelic experience; therefore, our desire for excellence and stretching our ability on the matt must be intrinsically motivating and rewarding, meaning we engage for the pleasure of the move – nothing more. When this mind-set combines with clear goals, such as a clear understanding of the upcoming pose,, we enable our subconscious to develop a strategic plan of how we are going to achieve our goals – minimising the need for conscious activity. This allows our mind to be present and visualise ourselves performing a posture to our desired level of excellence. As such, our mind is not consciously concerned about the result, and we become free to enjoy the journey. During this pursuit for mastery, our ability improves and we start getting excited about the challenges ahead, as we see them as our greatest opportunities to improve.

The mind-body connection that is so present in yoga is a vital component in finding flow. In this sense, engaging in yoga organically presents a gateway to finding flow. In turn, a focus on flow during our yoga practice gives rise to plentiful opportunities to improve, and more importantly, enjoy our yoga practice. This magnification of our mental state during our routine, allows us to pin-point the areas that need attention, obtain more relevant information and ignite our flame for yoga. It furthers our ability to achieve the purpose of yoga – uniting the mind, body and spirit.

For more information on flow coaching or flow training or if you would like a flow workshop, please click here.

Authored by Cameron Norsworthy and Jack Hudson-Williams

Flow Interview- Ari Iso Autio

Flow Interview- Ari Iso Autio

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Tips and Training

Before we start, I would like to Introduce you to Ari;

Ari is a  yoga teacher and  co-own Lumi Power Yoga  in London; His background is in business, in corporate. He spent 20 years as a management consultant, working around the globe. Then he discovered yoga, initially as a way to deal with burnout, and then he got hooked and got deeper and deeper into it, and eventually it took over.

He is from Finland and grew up on a farm.

Elena: When I was reading about yourself, you were saying that you’re an unlikely yogi.

Ari: Unlikely yogi yes! I think that’s right. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be in this… like having this kind of conversation with you, I would have said, “You must be crazy,” it just wasn’t in my awareness. I was very focused on climbing the corporate ladder, and very logical, very rational, very driven and successful in that, and I always thought yoga was something a little bit weird. But then, as with many things, I got into yoga through burnout and just hitting barriers in my life; professionally I was hitting walls, I was going through a break- up, I was living in a different country, it all came together, and then someone said, “You should try yoga,” you know, one of those things where your friends say, “You really need something,” and I went, and before I knew it I was practically living at the studio, and it took over.

Elena: Amazing. When do you think was your first flow moment that you can remember?

Ari: I was reflecting on that question, and I can certainly remember… When I started yoga, a few months in, I did what was then called a Personal Revolution Bootcamp, it was an intense week of yoga, and I remember… I was new to yoga, and about halfway through I just remember this one particular practice where I really felt alive and present, and after the practice I remember just lying in a pool of sweat and just thinking, “I’m happy. Everything is just working, everything is good,” and I guess… I don’t know if you call that flow, but that was the first sort of sense of me being complete, complete and full in the moment, like nothing was missing, and that really stands out. Since then there’s been lots of different experiences, but that’s what opened the door I think.

Elena: Listening to this, it sounds like one of the dimensions of Flow, the perception of time disapears. During the practice, you were like, “Wow, what just happened?!” like you mention, “I was covered in sweat and the activity was totally finished, but I didn’t realise what was going on during the activity,” ?

Ari: Yeah, that’s right, and since then there’s been many different instances, but I think for me it’s actually becoming more aware of what is happening with me. What yoga gives me this awareness  and therefore I can probably recognise when I am in a flow and when I’m not in a flow; I can put feeling, emotions, words, descriptions, distinctions around it, and I think that’s one of the big tools of yoga.

Elena: Being fully aware and fully present?

Ari: Yes, and being able to… Flow can be quite conceptual, and it is a concept in a way, but it’s also a collection of different things that happened, and in order to see that those are happening, I can feel like you need a different level of awareness to notice whether it’s happening or not, and I think that’s what yoga has given me; whether it’s me being with my kids, whether it’s me practicing yoga, whether it’s teaching yoga, whether it’s leading trainings.

Elena: I like what you’re saying, and I totally feel connected and aligned with that. Because also one of the dimensions of the flow state is to be fully present, fully aware of what’s going on, and yoga, as you say, helps you with that. What would you say helps you to be in that state of full connection and awareness?

Ari: Well, I think actually the way I think of flow is that flow is an outcome and flow happens when a lot of things come into place, and so what helps me get into flow is conscious practice of those things that need to be in place. If I think of yoga practice, it’s very simple: the more I come on my mat in a purposeful way and the more I practice the physical practice – the more I practice my breath, the more I practice my gaze – the more likely it is that I will then enter into a flow. It’s almost like those things have to be in place, because otherwise I will always be caught up in the technicality and in the doing of it, but worrying about “Am I doing this right?”

Elena: Yeah. That’s another dimension, when the self-talk or self-consciousness disappears when you’re fully present there’s no self-talk anymore, there’s no “Am I doing this right? Am I doing this wrong?” or that type of thought.

Ari: It’s kind of… I was thinking, flow is not… It might feel easy in the moment when I’m in it, but to get into it there’s a lot of work that goes into it, to be able to be in that state, whatever the activity is. If I think of myself as a parent of two small girls, initially that wasn’t a flow, that certainly wasn’t a flow; I needed to learn and practice and figure out how things work, and then…

Elena: Yes, so it’s a process and it’s also a choice.

Ari: Exactly.

Elena: Obviously you teach many students here in the studio. What advice would you give to them about being aware of the flow state and also how to get into that state? What do you think would be the top three pieces of advice that could help them?

Ari: Well, the first one we already covered, which is just practice; there is no substitute for it. The second one I think… Flow, by definition, it’s from somewhere to somewhere, so having an intention for your practice. It might be for that practice in the moment, or it might be for that day or it might be for your life, like something that you’re moving towards and consciously creating in your being, in your movement, in your breathing; it’s all there. And then there’s maybe a final: there is practice and there is intention, and then there’s something about just surrender, like being able to just let go of anything else and surrendering to what is, not aiming to make it perfect but…

Elena: When you say surrender, you mean acceptance?

Ari: Yes, it is an acceptance, it’s a… It’s an acceptance that all of these things are happening right now.

Elena: Good advice. You were explaining your trajectory and how you started in the corporate worldand how you ended up here, as a co-founder of the studio. What would you tell to your younger self who was starting in the corporate world?

Ari: I would like to say a couple of things. One is… Something about trusting my intuition more initially, to making things my own quicker, rather than feeling like I need to follow others or dothings in a certain way. Related to that, what I would say is life is short. Don’t waste a second; get clear on what you want and move quicker towards it.

Elena: We were talking before about intention and setting goals, what you want to achieve and where you want to go.

Ari has a very calm and peaceful voice, you transmit a lot of calmness and tranquillity. Do you have any techniques that help to ground you, if you’re stressed or you’re doing multiple things at the same time? What do you do to calm down or relax?

Ari: Well, for me it’s the obvious things: it’s getting on my mat, it’s practicing, it’s breathing and it’smoving. The other thing I do is journaling and just reflecting, setting intentions in the morning, reflecting in the evening. It can be two minutes, it can be five minutes and it doesn’t take long, but just… That helps me get a grip of the day if you like, it’s a moment. The final thing I do a lot of is I walk. I know it might sound obvious, but I walk everywhere and also… I sort of walk with purpose. I often listen to something inspirational, something that I can learn from, something that puts me in a good state, and I use every bit of time that I have. So when I walk tonight, when I walk from this studio home, I will have about 10 minutes and I’ll put something inspirational, I will listen to someone talking to me, giving me something that fills me up and it kind of grounds me in… It’s kind of inspirational, but it’s… I don’t know, it just lifts me up.

Elena: What inspires you?

Ari: I’ll tell you the main thing that inspires me, and it’s being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s just someone coming to a yoga class and just having a 60 minutes time-out from their busy life, just time out, just space, or whether it’s they’re going through something and that 60 minutes gives them a new angle on things or whatever it is, but it’s just being able to give back what I’ve gotten from yoga and share that gift of presence, clarity, intention, and that inspires me. Yeah. That’s what makes me get up in the morning.

Elena: That’s your purpose?

Ari: Yes, it is.

Elena: I like it. Maybe you use the same techniques, but after long days or long practices or maybe sometimes stressful moments, do you do something to recover? Does yoga give you that recovery, or do you use other methods?

Ari: I’m kind of a reflective type, so that helps me recover, my own space; I’ll quite happily go into a cave for an hour and that helps me recover. The other thing that helps me is being taught or trained or inspired by somebody else, like letting myself be a student and maybe going out todo a workshop or do a training, and getting filled up and recovered in that. Yeah, sometimes you just need to refill.

Elena: I don’t know whether you’d like to share anything else?

Ari: My teacher is Baron Baptiste and in his book he talks about flow, and there’s a sentence which I wrote down because I thought this was so spot on… He says, “Yoga is the point where many aspects of a person merge together in one flow towards some new point, the point where many aspects come together in flow towards some new point, and I thought, “That’s it.” It’s bringing the physical, mental, spiritual, all of us… When I’m in practice or in flow or wherever, bringing it all together and then moving from there towards a new point. That’s what we talk to in classes, flow, we call it Vinyāsa and it’s one of the pillars of the practice.

There’s a lot of value in just flowing, like physically moving and flowing, without trying to get it right, like just… and there’s an energy that comes through in that and there’s a release that can happen that way. The word “flow” has so many different meanings, but to me that’s how it manifests itself on the mat.

I started to write down the characteristics of flow: there’s presence and there’s direction, there’s purpose, there’s clarity, body and mind integration. And sometimes it’s also… At least for me, flow is… Sometimes it’s imperfect, in the sense that I will go in and out of the flow. So it’s not necessarily this unique, blissful state that’s always magical.

Elena: I agree, you cannot be 24/7 in that state, you can go in and out. The more tools you have or the more practice, you will get more into that. And in the end it’s a choice, so if you also have that intention at the beginning of the day, you will see it more often.

Ari: Yeah. And it’s really being aware… One thing is practicing on the mat… Where I’m doing a lot of work right now is training other teachers and running workshops and being in front of people and leading things, and being able to notice when I’m in a flow with that I love that, like having the audience and being able to deliver my message and sensing what’s going on and being in that flow, and it’s great to be able to bring tools physically of the practice into that.

“Am I breathing? Are my two feet on the ground? How am I standing? Where is my mindgoing to now? What am I focusing on?” bringing all of those things and being able to see that.

It’s like everything becomes three-dimensional and quite vivid when I’m in that state. And then noticing also when I go out of that and I go into the “need to look good” or trying to say things in the right way and then stepping back. I just find it fascinating.

Elena: When was the last time you were in the flow state?

Ari: When I teach, I think that’s where I always look for a flow state. It was when I taught, two days ago.

Elena: That’s good. Thank you so much!

Ari: Thank you! Good questions.

 

Thank you Ari for your time and wisdom, see you on the mat.

Flow Interview – Homero Diaz – Redbull Enduro Rider

Flow Interview – Homero Diaz – Redbull Enduro Rider

Enduro Flow Performance Skills Pilot Stories Tips and Training

Roaring around on a motorbike since the age of four, Mexican Enduro rider Homero Díaz has built a whole life around the world of off-road, two-wheel racing ever since. He’d already won his first race by the time he was eight and is not only a three-time National Mexican Enduro Champion, but also a three-time Latin-American title holder.

We had the chance to interview him and know more about he gets into flow:

Cameron: I guess we start off with what might you know about flow, and what’s your experience is to date, and then maybe go into questions you might have around the state, and then go into a little bit about what we can do in the future, and the rest of it. Sound good?

Homero: Yep.

Cameron: What’s your current understanding of flow? Can you explain a flow experience that you’ve had?

Homero: Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about this since the first message that I got from you, and… I think it relates to that moment… Well, I guess the connection we have, you and I, is because of the sport I practice, right? So, I think the main thing about flow is that that moment when you stop… when you stop seeing stuff and you start feeling stuff. Like, in my sport it’s during a special test or a track or whatever, and you feel more… Like, the way you enter into a turn, or the way the bumps feel, or the jumps feel, or the ~rides~ or whatever; it’s more about feeling than seeing I guess, and it also translates into being on a slow motion… I guess everything goes in slow motion, but it doesn’t mean you’re going slow; it just means that you’re… it comes into your brain really, really clear, that it makes you comprehend it really well. That way… I guess that’s the reason why you feel everything’s coming in slow motion, because you comprehend it really, really well and so clear.

Cameron: Yeah. And can you explain a moment or a previous experience that you might have had, either at a tournament, or just you… your biggest or best ever flow experience?

Homero: Probably when… It comes up a bit more as a surprise when you’re starting to become a better rider, and all of a sudden you start figuring it out. Now with more experience it’s easier to get into that flow, but when I was starting to become a better rider, close to 2003 and 2004 when everything started, when I was racing ~the Worlds~… It would have been like on a very, very long special test during an enduro race, where it was [03:00] probably a 12- or 15-minute special test, which in our sport is a really long special test; a 15-minute special test is a really long one.

When you get out of the special test, and you say “Oh man – it went through reall fast!” or “It went through really easy!” that’s when you understand that something happened. At that time I didn’t know what had happened, but now with more experience I know that I had gone into a really good flow or a really good sense of concentration, and now I can get it really easy. But it takes time, it’s not easy, it’s not an easy process to get into that state of mind. So, probably during those stages—usually I remember that the Scandinavian races were the ones that had the longest special tests all the time.

Like, a really short one was eight minutes and the really long one was a 15-minute special test. That took us about, I don’t know, about 12-15 minutes to ride on the motorcycle. So, being on the same level of flow from the beginning to the end of the special test is really hard, and usually I used to get it from the mid-point on, but when you start getting it from the start to the end, that’s when you know that things are happening the right way, you know.

Cameron: Yeah, for sure. And what helps you get into that space? Is there anything specific that you focus on beforehand, during, after, or you kind of manage in your mind the motions, or externally?

Homero: Well, I guess being relaxed, and trying to focus on that exact moment, although what I like to do is just think on that precise special test. I don’t try to think about the whole picture, I want to focus on that moment only, and then from that special test, when it’s over…

Well, in our sport we walk the special tests before, and we’re not allowed to use any vehicle. Like a bicycle, we cannot use a bicycle to walk the special test – it has to be by foot. So, when I get to the special test now on the motorcycle, I like to focus on what I walked, what I saw, and then try to use little pieces of that special test, and then connect… Like, if it was a 10-minute special test I would probably remember the first three minutes, and then from then on I would remember the second three minutes, and so on.

Because sometimes it’s just too much information to learn right away, so when you know how to divide a whole in fractions, it’s really easy to become one with the track and one with the motorcycle, and that way at the end you start flowing more and more. You know, as I told you before, it’s hard at the beginning, at the beginning of a sports career, but then with more experience you learn how to connect each and every dot with more accuracy and more speed.

Cameron: So you break the course down into small little steps, remembering each one. Do you visualise what’s your perfect route between it, and then the next bit and then the next bit, and then add them up as you go along? Is that what you’re saying?

Homero: Yeah, exactly. And the way I do it is I try to… I try to relate little things which can make me remember the whole course. I don’t know, let’s say if I was walking the test with one of my buddies and he started all of a sudden talking about the party he had a few years before or one week before, I say “Okay, this is this straightaway where we talked about the bar or the party.” you know, and then we… I relate that session to memorise the next thing. And then we say “Oh, look at that tree – it looks like a bird!” or whatever, and then I say “Okay, okay – this is a turn right before the tree.” and then we see whatever, or we hear a sound “This is the downhill right before we heard the sound.”

You start… It’s a bit… It’s a bit hard to explain, but once you start connecting all those little things that happen, all of a sudden you’re going to remember a 12-minute special test; exactly where you need to break, where you need to ~stand~, where you need to accelerate, what kind of obstacles you need to avoid or what obstacle you can use to increase the speed on a little section, you know. I’ve done many, many races all over the world, and I know how to relate to make it easy to remember.

Cameron: What do you do just before the race starts? Are you focusing on those small little chunks and visualising your way around the course, or what are you doing? Because obviously the heart’s beating, you’re getting aroused. What allows you to plug in?

Homero: Well… Usually we talk about before a race as like 30 minutes before or so, but I like to talk about before a race the night before a race, which is one of the most important moments, because the way you sleep is going to be the way you race most of the time. So, when I go to bed before a race I try to remember all the little things that I saw during my ~walk out~, you know, and that’s the way I fall asleep. I close my eyes and I start remembering the whole track or the whole course, and if I fall asleep before I finish the track that’s good, that’s no problem.

But you have to start getting into your racing mode before the race, and that way the next day you wake up and you’re starting to get more ready and more ready and more ready. It’s like going into a room, getting ready. When you start getting closer you start feeling it; every step you feel it more and more, and you need to be more concentrated. I mean, most of the riders that I know, the professional riders, we get into a sense that… I don’t know, it’s either you get more serious, or you get louder, or you smile more… It all depends on how you approach your race.

For example, I just get… I mean, I’m a… Outside the races I like to be very smiley and a very funny guy and everything, but when the race goes, when I’m starting to get close to the race it’s racing mode, and you get really serious, and that’s when… I guess that’s sometimes when the people know you, they know you when you’re racing, and they say “Oh, this guy is really cocky, and this guy is really serious, or this guy is…” Because that’s ~our office~, you know, that’s what we do for work. I’m going to work to the races, and I’m just being serious, because I take it really, really serious. And that’s a state of mind also, because that’s… We’re used to getting serious when it’s time to work, you know.

Cameron: That kind of leading up to… so maybe from 30 minutes until before you start, do you have any kind of preparation? Do you try and listen to music, do you try and zone out, do you try and have a laugh, do you just try and relax, or you focus on doing your equipment? Would you have a…

Homero: No, I… Most of the time I have rubber bands hanging on the canopies or the tents on our team, and I start warming up, doing a lot of moving. I usually start from the bottom up – ankles then calves then knees and so on until the neck – and I’m… I don’t know, I have this idea that I need to start sweating before the race starts, and that’s how I want it, that’s how I want it to be. It helps me get in the mood a little bit easier. I’m already having my muscles a little bit ready, my heart rate is a little bit up, and then everything starts to click in, and then… You know, when I get to… We put our bikes in [~3, 13:27] or the impound, we impound our bikes 30 minutes before, so we have those 30 minutes of free time to warm up or do whatever we want.

So, from the moment we impound I start doing all my warm-up, and I prep my goggles and everything… I prep all that just to have something to do during my free time. And then once the race starts it’s just… I mean, again, go with the flow, you know, whatever happens happens. But I try to concentrate on every special test, you know, I take it easy… Like, when I go to special test one I remember special test one – that’s it; I don’t have to start remembering about special test two. Then when I get to special test two I remember only special test two. I like to divide everything by fractions. And then if we’re going to be doing at the end of the day 16 special tests, you know, it’s just that; just remember pieces, little pieces of the whole thing.

Cameron: And what do you do in the last 30 seconds before the lights go on, or you’re ready to go? What are you focusing on, what are you preparing?

Homero: Well, I have a… Like, every single time right before starting a special test I put the bike in neutral, and then I… Let me show you what I do. [laughs] I’m like this, and I’m like… I do my hands like this and I rub them, I rub my hands to create a little bit of energy that way, and that way I can… Like, you know, if you start thinking more about energy and becoming one with your own self and all that, and especially when… I was taught by my dad that when you do this you cannot be sad, you know. Like, if you go like this you always smile, and you create energy, so that’s one of the things I do. I clap my hands, I clap my hands really hard, then I rub them, and then I start. And you’ll see me do that in every single special test from 2004 to today.

Cameron: Yeah, nice! Perfect – that’s a really good cue!

Homero: Yeah. [laughs]

Cameron: Yeah.

Homero: That’s my… That’s my secret! [laughs]

Cameron: Yeah – awesome! Have you ever tried to feel that energy? So, when you rub your hands, and then you keep rubbing them, and then just between… Can you feel like almost as if you’ve got two different magnets pushing against each other?

Homero: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Cameron: Can you feel that?

Homero: Yeah.

Cameron: So then do that, and then try and widen it and get it kind of bigger, and you might need to push in to feel that resistance, so almost you can feel that energy. Can you feel that?

Homero: Yeah, yeah.

Cameron: Yeah? And then try and get it big so it’s like a football.

 

Thanks Homer for this interview

 

 

Flow Interview – Matt Whitfield, Naval Aviation Pilot

Flow Interview – Matt Whitfield, Naval Aviation Pilot

Aviation Flow Performance Skills Pilot Stories

We had the chance to interview Matt Whitfield about his experiences with flow while flying the skies.

Cameron:         Hello and welcome to another flow session! We’re very lucky we have the presence of Matthew Whitfield who’s a lieutenant commander. He spent 20 years as a naval aviator pilot and instructor, and spent the last eight years flying as a display pilot for vintage jets. We just wanted today to talk to you a little bit about your own experiences, how you might have experienced flow and how you felt within that flow experience, and also maybe to highlight to others who are looking to find flow more frequently in their lives, just one or two nuggets that you’ve used in your past that you might be able to communicate. Take us through a short memory that you have where you were intensely in flow, just briefly describe the situation and then how you felt during it.

Matthew:          Okay, certainly. I’ve given this some thought and I had a choice for two, one of which was flying a Harrier alongside an aircraft carrier at night, decelerating into the hover and coming across the deck and land; that was one. But what I think I’m going to talk about is the moments that are required in preparation for a display in the world’s only flying single-seat twin-engine supersonic fighter, so we’ll do that one I think, that was the Sea Vixen. I last flew that in 2013, and I picked up some incredibly good habits from the other guys in the Navy over the years. For me the flow… we would jokingly call it your happy place, the place at which you know you’re cooking on gas, you are delivering your A game, that you’re going to be safe, accurate… I suppose we used to say of display that a display can either look good, feel good, look bad but feel good, or look good and feel bad, there’s always a combination; when you’re in flow, you get both.

So, for me the flow would start, or understanding I was in flow was part of this environment we have across aviation now, certainly in the military, of getting into the bubble. A bubble is a metaphorical shape that you are in, and everything else you need to perform to the best of your ability is within that bubble for you, and I’ll give you an example of what sort of stuff that is. That is you’ve had a quality weather brief, a met brief, you’ve chatted with your engineer about how the aircraft’s been the few days before the performance, what it was when you last flew it, that you’ve had a quality brief from the display organiser, and that I’ve had time between that brief and my show time, the time I’m expected to display, I’ve had plenty of time to sit and be at peace and mentally rehearse what I’m about to do.

That involves for me certainly closing my eyes, and I got into the habit of actually doing it before I even got to the airfield. It might be on the bus there or in the hotel room, but certainly in the moments before we fly, before I climb up the ladder, get into my happy place as I’m strapping into the aircraft. The last four or five minutes I’d be in my flying kit, we’ve done the brief, I’ve out briefed – the last brief we have for everything – signed for the aircraft, spoken to PK, the engineer, given him my helmet, and then I just stand there with my eyes closed and visualise where I’m looking in the cockpit, where I’m going to look out of the window, what I should expect to see between each manoeuvre, the speed I should be at and the altitude I would anticipate needing to be at to be able to complete each manoeuvre.

Cameron:         Okay. What sort of manoeuvres are you talking about?

Matthew:          Nothing extreme. It’s an old aircraft, we’re limited to 4 g [four g-forces] so there’s no what we’d term looping manoeuvres. Most people I think can imagine what a loop is: you fly along, pull all the way around upside down, and once you’re upside down a loop you’d continue that circle and come around. There was no need to do that with these aircraft; people don’t come and marvel at who’s flying it, they want to see the aircraft and listen to the sound, so there was no need to do that. So it was just being able to link each manoeuvre seamlessly together, there was no need to try and punchy and snap and “Oh, look at me – wow, brilliant!” it just should be a very graceful linking of stuff.

I always found it was very important to have that four or five minutes before I climbed up the ladder and strapped in, the PKs strap me in, listen to the radio, put my oxygen mask on, take one of the pins out on the ejection seat, and then just sit there listening to the radio, taking a few deep breaths.

I now know that was mindfulness type stuff, but I would do it just to calm down; adrenalin was rushing, there could be tens of thousands of people there waiting, and there’s never a guarantee you’re going to get airborne, these are old aircraft that may or may not have a snag when you start up. But I can put my… [laughs] I could see myself do it, the steps up the ladder, the sound of going up the ladder, the feeling of the leather flying gloves, the knowing I’m going to be hot because it’s the summertime – I’m wearing a green flying suit, I’ve got a g-suit on, I’ve got a life jacket on, I’ve got a helmet that’s green so you’re warm – and strapping into the aircraft, sitting into a seat… And the smell of the cockpit… You know, these old aircrafts have an absolutely distinct smell, and that, again, helps me go, “Ah, I know what I’m about to do now.”

Cameron:         Yeah, so that kind of primed you almost in a ritual to get to that happy place.

Matthew:          Yeah. It was the same on board the carrier, on Ark Royal, that process of carrying your helmet across the deck, saying hello to the plane captain, having a polite chat with those going up the ladder, check your ejection seat and then walk around the aircraft, and you were then on the flow, the flow state was increasing because it was a ritual. There was things you would check before you get into the aircraft, there were things and a process you go through about starting one of these aircraft. You don’t just go, “Oh, a bit of this, a bit of that,” it’s an absolute process and there’s good reasons for that because mistakes get made. So that’s before we even got airborne, that’s how it is. [laughs] I’m still thinking about going up that ladder, a little red ladder on the side of the aircraft!

Cameron:         [laughs] Those experiences can suddenly bring up a lot of arousal and memories and emotions. When you’re actually in that experience, you’re flying and you’re being as graceful as you possibly can, trying to get your timing absolutely perfect, what are the… If you were to describe to someone how that felt when you’re in it, and I know you’ve had a brief look at the nine dimensions of flow – and maybe if you can relate to a couple of those, fantastic; if not, no problem – but just give us a description of how it felt to you being in it.

Matthew:          I think without a doubt, and other people who’ve done this, it’s the control element, that the environment you’re put into to display a historic jet at an air show is very controlled. There are gates you have to make – your paperwork, your medical, the weather, etc. – but actually me in the flow, it’s the control, knowing that on previous occasions if I’ve thought I could’ve done better about something, when I’ve reflected back on that or debriefed with the guys, I’ve spent time mentally rehearsing those moments so it’s embedded in my brain so things happen automatically. Yes, I think about it, but I know that as I roll out what I should see as I put wings level, I’ve got two seconds with wings level to make sure I’ve got full power ~to patch up~ 390 to 420 knots at 4 g, and I know what line in the ground I’m not allowed to cross, or the rules say you’ve got to be up away from the crowd, the rules are very strict.

So it’s the control for me, knowing that I’m in control of the aircraft; if I cock up, it’s my fault. There’s no excuse blaming the wind because I’ve been briefed on it, I’ve mentally thought about that before I got in, and I… I suppose a sense of pride of what I represented, the Royal Navy, the fixed wing service, the aircraft carrier, you don’t want to let people down and I think there’s a lot of self-pressure on that front. But the control elements of knowing that my right hand isn’t squeezing all the buttons out of the control column, out of the steer case… I’m very relaxed, my right arm is relaxed on my knee, my feet are on the pedals, I’m strapped into the seat but I’m still completely free to look around and out of the window for those visual cues that I know I should be seeing, and my left hand is quite relaxed on the twin throttles, on the two engines, and that’s where my hands stay until moments I need to flick a switch. But I know that’s coming, I know when I need to flick it because I’ve practiced.

Cameron:         When you say control, what is really noticeable for you in that experience? Is there a pressure to be in control, or do you actually feel you almost have like a limitless control?

Matthew:          It’s certainly not a pressure to be in control, it’s a function of flying these aircraft; I don’t have 320 passengers on board, I have nobody else on board, it’s me in this aircraft in an ejection seat if it goes wrong. It is knowing I have the capability to do it, the aircraft has the capability to do it, and when I’m in the groove, on my A game, it happens, it will be a seamless… You might go too far into wind, reversing… “Okay, ease off the rate of roll here because it will look seamless.”

Cameron:         And where’s your attention during that time? When you’re in that zone and you’re saying you’re looking for visual cues, where else is your attention?

Matthew:          Several areas. Because of course you’re using your ears, there is an element of using the ~seat of the pants~ stuff, understanding when you’re still pulling or you’re pulling harder. So visually your eyes are flicking between the cues you need out of the cockpit – landmarks, the runway or the display line you’re flying to: it might be the air traffic control tower, the lines on the ground that are marked out for those of us flying – but there are key moments when you absolutely need to be looking at my air speed and the altitude I’m at, or it should actually be the height of course you’re above the airfield.

Because I need to have control of my energy state, the aircraft’s energy state. If I’m low-level, I need to be faster to have enough energy, that when I pull up I convert the kinetic energy into potential energy, I’m converting my speed into height, so I know that when I pull up using 4 g I’m going to have 4,500-5,000 feet, which is ample height to continue the next manoeuvre. I won’t be the type of chap who pulls up at 350 knots and thinks 4g, he’s going to end up at 3,000-3,500 and he hasn’t got the altitude or the height now to finish the manoeuvre. So your question about where is your attention… Your eye… I’m very strict on where I look at particular moments. Before I pull up I want to know my speed. When I’ve pulled up and I’m upside down before I roll out, I need my height, and there is an element of speed because of course I then need to roll; it’s no good rolling when I haven’t got enough speed.

Cameron:         That situation you explained to me just then made me think there’s a hell of a lot of decision-making that happens instantly in that second or however long you’ve got; and they’re critical decisions, the wrong decisions can lead to disaster, etc. It seems from what you’re saying that a lot of that doesn’t happen necessarily consciously, and I almost had this picture in my mind as you were explaining the energy resource of that plane almost as if it was your own body.

Matthew:      Yeah.

Cameron:         That’s how it… The picture came to me that you’re almost examining the plane’s energy levels as if it’s your own and almost feeling like there’s a heartbeat in there.

Matthew:          Not necessarily a heartbeat, but there’s not one of us who flies for the military I don’t think – the Army  Apache pilots to the Royal Air Force Hercules pilots – those of us who are on your own in an aircraft, millions of pounds worth of training put into you and millions of pounds worth of aircraft… If you strap that aircraft to me, that’s how I envisage it: I go up that ladder, settle into the ejection seat, strap in the five seats and then it is part… It’s part of me, we’re now a team, me and the aircraft, we’ll do this – definitely you strap that aircraft to your back. And the colleagues of mine over the years, especially when you’re on board or back at Yeovilton in Somerset… You do, you are part of that weapon system… Through the incredibly difficult, tough training you go through, to be successful you have to understand why it’s important you’re like that.

Cameron:         Thanks for sharing that story, that’s a really great insight. What’s your challenge to get back into that state, where everything happens seamlessly and decisions are made real time? What’s you find your biggest challenge is to get back in there?

Matthew:          Distraction, and it has happened. For those eight minutes when Sea Vixen clear take-off… That’s it now. That flow is there, we’re there, we’ve got eight minutes now before I land and taxi back in, and my flow state stops when the ejection seat is safe, the canopy is opened, I’m unstrapping and carefully getting out. Distraction is what breaks the flow state. That can be air traffic, it can be another radio call you weren’t necessarily anticipating, but for me it has been air traffic, it routinely would… Through no fault… It’s quite right, they should make this radio call, but it wasn’t what I was anticipating, and it does just stop the flow and you have to dismiss it if it’s not relevant to you, and of course typically it will be relevant to you so then you have to adapt.

Cameron:         Great stuff. I know you’ve had a brief look at the 12 steps to flow, which is our framework for how people can focus on finding flow more frequently. I know we haven’t gone through them in depth at all, but are there any that just instantly spring out at you that you think, “Yeah, this is definitely something I’ve focused on over the years to help me get into this happy place.”?

Matthew:          It’s number four for me, mastery. You only need to mess up once in this business and you’ll never be invited back to do it again, there’s no ifs or buts and it is pretty black and white. So mastery, being able to understand that people want to see the aircraft, they don’t really care who’s in the aircraft. There are aeroplanes that people want to know it’s “Wow, look at the Red Bull Air Racers, aren’t they incredibly talented at what they do?” but in vintage jets it’s the aircraft they want to see. So it’s being able to relax off the pressure of me and understand I can now master what I need to do to deliver. That’s why I took it perhaps too seriously but very seriously this rehearsal, this understanding I’ve been able to get in and deliver. And I take time to understand, “If something went wrong at this point what are my options? If I hit a bird at this point, what am I going to do? If someone drives across the runway and drops something on it and blocks the runway, where am I going to go, where will I divert to? If I have a fuel flow problem, have I got the capacity… Well, I don’t want to find that out during the display, do I? I need to prepare for that on the ground so that if something happens I know what I’ll do.” So mastery certainly I feel is relevant. Yeah, I’ll stick with that.

Cameron:         Okay, great stuff – thank you! Coming to more of a wrap-up of this conversation – and thank you again, Matthew, for your time – if we could leave some parting advice to a young aviator, or maybe someone in a different sport or activity, or a musician who is looking to find flow more frequently… In terms of finding flow more frequently in that bubble, what’s one advice that you’d want to impart?

Matthew:          Find out what it is that puts you into that calm state, that you accept your adrenalin is surging, the pressure to perform, but find out… Is it just a couple of deep breaths and a smile, think of your wife or your children? For me it was just take a deep breath, close my eyes… and understand what it is I’m about to do, and aren’t I incredibly fortunate to be in a position to do this, just to… [takes a deep breath and exhales] smile at PK, shake his hand, get up the ladder.

Cameron:         Okay, fantastic – I’d imagine that would help manage the stress and get you to an arousal level that you would probably want to be at for flying.

Matthew:          Definitely.

Cameron:         Fantastic!

Matthew:          Thank you!

Cameron:         And lastly, we always ask people what is their biggest challenge or biggest fear in your life so we get some relativity to someone who has been at the top of their game in very pressured situations. What’s life outside the cockpit for Matthew and what’s your biggest challenge moving forwards?

Matthew:          Life outside the cockpit, my biggest challenge… Hell’s bells! [long pause] I think, interestingly enough, it’s being able to accept that that position of flow, that incredible feeling I’ve had as a display pilot, I’m going to find that elsewhere in life and there will be other things. That can be as being a parent, a husband, or in my new career as a professional coach, certainly. Very recently I’ve had that moment of going, “My goodness, things are happening… having thought about it and rehearsed…” It’s come back in a completely unexpected situation which I wasn’t prepared for if I’m honest! [laughs] It was good, it was a good feeling though, it was… I was going to say it was addictive, but I’m not saying it’s addictive. It’s just a very intoxicating feeling for me when you’re in flow. I know what it’s like, I know how to put myself in it and I’m going to take it across into my new career.

Cameron:         Great stuff – thank you, Matthew! Thank you for listening, we’ve had some fantastic stories there and some advice about how important focus on mastery throughout your training can be, especially when the consequences can be very high, and the feeling of control when you’re in that flow moment and how you can feel so connected and at one with the equipment around you, that that leads to that instant decision-making and perception of control within that bubble. We look forwards to bringing you some more flow sessions, thanks for tuning in and please get in touch if you can relate to any of these stories, we would love to hear your perspective about it. Bye for now!

Flow Training – Maximising Performance in Rock Climbing – Case Study

Flow Training – Maximising Performance in Rock Climbing – Case Study

Flow Sports Tips and Training Videos

We are delighted to announce some great results on a recent study with rock climbers receiving flow training. The climbers received 4 different types of training over a 3 month period and the results far exceeded our expectations.

Below is Camille’s account of what happened. Camille is a budding adventure enthusiast who competes in a multitude of sports and a true inspiration. She runs a great blog for those wanting to see how she quit her job to focus on a life worth living: http://www.farandhigh.co.uk/

Over to Camille and her a piece, she wrote to go on her blog.

I was delighted when Cameron, the training coach from the Flow Centre, offered me to be part of the group of elite climbers selected for a case study on flow training.

Initially, I didn’t know what the flow mindset was and it is thanks to the study that I learnt more about it.

Flow is the optimal mental state that produces performance, creativity, decision-making and innovation.”

Flow is a psychological state we experience during our peak experiences and is behind many of the greatest athletic performances.  It is the state when we perform at our best and feel our best.

As part of the study, the climbers were asked to complete the same indoor climbing route twice a week, time ourselves and then complete a questionnaire straight after each climb including questions on our performance and our flow state.  We were also asked to rate our overall climb.  As weeks progressed, we were provided with training and individual coaching sessions on flow.

camilee2

Throughout this experience, I’ve learnt some great tips on how to train your mind to get into the flow state and how to maintain that state. I thought I’d share the most valuable ones to me.

  1. Motivation to perform

For me, motivation to perform is the biggest contributor to get me into a flow state, i.e. the desire to get to the top of the route.  When the motivation is missing, my performance suffers.  When the motivation is at its best and I truly want to reach the top, I’m enjoying the moment and I give it me all.

  1. Total Focus

Secondly, finding focus is key to get me in the right state of mind.  I need to completely shut down the outside world around me.  For example, I need to ignore other climbers watching or shouting tips during a training session (sorry, I know you’re only trying to help J).  This is especially true during a climbing competition when I find the audience very unnerving and it makes me anxious.  So I need to completely zone out my surroundings and forget about my ego, so I can totally concentrate on the task at hand.

  1. Be in the Present

To reach and maintain flow, I need to be completely focused on the present moment. I can’t be thinking about anything else other than each move as it unfolds.  If I’m already thinking about reaching the top whilst I’m only half way up, my mind is not in the present.

  1. Challenging Route

The climb has to be challenging enough for me to get into the flow state.  If it is during the warm-up or an easy climb, it’s not motivating enough for me to really be in the flow.

  1. Physical Readiness & Self belief

I’ve found that my perception of my physical fitness and readiness to climb a route has an impact on my ability to reach and maintain the flow state. If I feel physically ready and capable, then I feel in control and there are no limits!

  1. Fear of falling

When I have reached the flow state, I am so focused on each move that there is no holding back and I forget about the fear of falling (even in the dreaded overhangs!).

With the help of our coach Cameron, I have come up with my climbing mantra which I now repeat to myself at the start of each climb, and sometimes in the middle:

  1. Focus
  2. Precision
  3. Power
  4. Excel

Repeating the mantra in my mind has been very effective to help me get into the flow when everything seems to come together and I perform to my highest standard.

camille

To conclude, my personal results from the route I climbed during the study are:

  • Route: 14m 6C+ route
  • 1st attempt completed in 9min23s.
  • After having received the training and coaching on flows, I completed the climbing route on my 15thattempt in 2min10s.

Of course, once I knew my results, my first question was related to the fact that even without the coaching, my performance would have improved naturally just by the experience gained by every attempt and the increased memorization of the moves.  However, this was minimised by having us only start the training and coaching on flows once our performances had plateaued and we weren’t climbing faster at each attempt.

Finally, being part of the study and learning about applying flows for sporting performance was definitely eye opening and a great opportunity for me in the pursuit of following my passion for the sport and performing the best I can.

These techniques can, of course, be applied to any experiences in life.  I’m also currently working on applying these techniques to my running and learning to find the flow state during a run J  So I’ve now created a mantra for running as well …

Flow Interview Lucy Hare – BBC Symphony Orchestra

Flow Interview Lucy Hare – BBC Symphony Orchestra

Flow Music Tips and Training

 

Lucy Hare is a double bass player, sitting in the world of classical world music. She’s played for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Opera House Orchestra, the Tango Volcano, and the Oxford Concert Party.

She will share with us her group Flow experiences, how she connects with with her instrument and with the energy of the room and some of her tips that help her to get into this amazing state.

 

 

Cameron:  I’m just going to ask you initially just to explain one or two Flow experiences, it can be either in training or performance, where you felt that you’ve hit that zone, you’ve hit that bubble, and you found a bit of freedom in that Flow space. So we’d love to hear where it was, when it was, and some of the characteristics that happened during that Flow experience.

Lucy: Okay. The one that comes to mind, because I’ve done so many different things with my playing obviously over the years, but one really comes to mind, which is a kind of group Flow in a way, but for me it was personal as well. It was at one of the Prom concerts, the London Prom Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, and we were playing Strauss’ Alpine Symphony which is a massive work, it has alpenhorns in it and cowbells and an orchestra of about 120 or something, it’s an incredible piece of music. It’s a great piece, it’s challenging but it’s playable for us, and there was a moment in the middle…

We were playing it with the most incredible conductor, which isn’t always the case, but this was a really wonderful, amazing Russian conductor, and there was a moment where the orchestra kind of felt we turned a corner, we all turned it together and there was this incredible moment of feeling as if the whole orchestra, so it’s 120 people, were on the point of their toes and turned this corner together. For me afterwards, it was just this fantastic point of being completely with the orchestra, with the other people, but also completely one with my instrument and my technique and the room. Everything just came together in that spot, that moment, that sort of sweet spot in a way. So that was a very memorable case of Flow for me.

Cameron: Wow – that sounds really fascinating! I talk a lot about jazz musicians finding Flow because of it being spontaneous and connecting with one another and feeding off one another, but it’s really interesting to hear that you found that collective, group experience where you were almost on a tipping point. Was that something that happened a flip of a coin, or was that something that progressed a processed slowly? Did you feel like you were feeding off others, or was it a case of you were in your Flow and you found other people in a similar space?

Lucy: Yeah, really good questions. I’m not sure what other people were doing, but I think if I had to choose one thing it would depend on really, it would really be the leadership we were getting at that moment, so the conductor, he took the time to let us turn that corner together. But I think it’s not as simple as that actually, I think it came from also the sort of micro details, where everybody being in control of their technique and their ability to manage that moment technically on whatever instrument they were playing, and all kind of taking that point of poise in a way.

(…) And with music things like your tuning of your instrument, so everybody probably was playing really well in tune, there’s a kind of resonance that happens when everyone plays together and well that you don’t get when… It can sound together but it doesn’t have that resonance if people aren’t really hitting that sweet spot in a way.

Cameron: It sounds like as everyone else is hitting their sweet spot and the notes are, dare I say, perfect. You feed off one another, you hear it and it helps you up your game, and you get to that base where performing in that higher state is easier. Is that correct?

Lucy: Yeah. I think… There is something about your antennae, about… You have to obviously take care of your own technique, and that takes years and years and years of work, and hours every day probably, but then there’s also something about your awareness about the person sitting next to you. We play in sections in an orchestra, so the section of eight double basses, then there’ll be the string section which is bigger again, so it kind of fans out, and then there’s the whole orchestra. So you have all these different levels of awareness, and if they all come together, so both intonations – the pitch, the tuning – but also the timing… Timing is such a fine art I think, and there’s no… I was going to say there’s no exact science to it, I bet there is [laughs], it appears a very mathematical thing, but I think it has something that’s much more magical than that actually. So I think all those things coming together. Yeah, so you have to kind of perfect what you’re doing, but it’s a greater thing that perfection I think.

Cameron: So practically speaking, when you’re in let’s say at that moment, the moment you’ve just explained… To me there’s a lot going on there: you got the notes in front of you, you got the conductor, you’ve got your instrument, you’ve got where your fingers are, you’ve got the audience around you, you’ve got colleagues. Where is your focus? What are you focus on and aware on? Is it a case of you are hyperaware of everything and you’re playing effortlessly? Or is it a case of you’re actually highly focused on one thing, which is your notes and your… Where is your focus and your awareness?

Lucy: That’s a really good question. I would be really interested to hear the answer to your question from a sportsperson who plays in a team as well. I think my focus has to be everywhere actually. I don’t know biologically if you can do that, but I think the micro stuff, so your own technique… your main focus has to already have been done on that, with your practice, your personal practice, then the rehearsals in the orchestra. (…). Maybe that’s partly what creates the moment of Flow is that you can lift it. It really feels like a moment of poise to me with the group thing, that you have that time of balance and you can go in any direction, and your concentration is wide as well as being very centred.

Cameron: Yeah. You’re describing the many paradoxes of Flow, where we feel out of control but completely in control, and action and awareness kind of merge, where you’re feeling intricately a part of every second that’s going on, but at the same time it’s almost as if someone else is doing the actions and performing for you. It is very much a paradoxical state, because biologically speaking the prefrontal cortex and the conscious mind is not really in charge of the functioning and the operation at that time, so they’re kind of the logical and critique side of our brains that wants to analyse that experience and understand what’s going on isn’t in the room. It’s the subconscious that’s working that experience. And then when we come back to experience it, we look at it from a conscious brain as we’re talking now and it tries to make sense of these things that would normally happen through the conscious brain. They feel and sound so paradoxical, but in the world of experiencing a moment and performing through the subconscious, it’s a very normal experience to be looking at the minutiae but also taking in the bigger picture.

So, what out of the 9 dimensions to Flow… I know you’ve had a quick look at them. What are the ones that really resonate for you in terms of practically finding Flow?

Lucy: I had a look at your list, and one of the main things is about level of challenge actually. Certainly with playing the bass, if there’s a level of challenge that is strong but not overwhelming, that’s key for me personally. If the challenge is overwhelming, I’m kind of in my head, saying, “You need to do this, you need to play it this way, play it this way, you’ve got to prepare, you’ve got to get your elbow in the right place, your fingers have got to be strong, you’ve got to play this faster, you didn’t practice this enough!” the little voice on my shoulder is going 100 miles an hour. So if the challenge level is strong but manageable and I’ve done the pre-work, then that is very likely to lead to a sense of Flow I think for me personally, not necessarily the group thing. So that’s really important.

And also, the other thing is we do repeat performances quite a lot if we’re doing a show or dance work or something, so you might do 30 or 50 performances of exactly the same show and they want it the same every night (…) The danger there is that you get very bored, so then you have to crank up the challenge and obviously technically you can’t because it’s the same music. So I personally do that by imagining the situation to be more alarming or scary  (…)That can sometimes give it a slightly different state of… Yeah, very different state to the one I described earlier, a different state of Flow, but it’s a kind of… It then frees me from the boredom of what’s happening, and the repetition becomes almost like a sort of meditation, focusing in on each part but also then again being able to lift your mind away from it to other things and see the bigger picture. (…)

Cameron: Yeah, absolutely. And the challenge-skill balance that you’ve just discussed is one of the primary dimensions of Flow, and the applied elements to Flow that the Flow Centre has come up with, one of the elements is sufficient challenge. Us as performers need to take responsibility and manage that, whether that’s in our mind or the environment or the context, or playing around with our equipment to make it a little bit more challenging or less challenging, familiarising ourselves with it before a performance so we’re not distracted by the nuances of a grip or this, that or the other, as I’m sure you do when you get a new piece of equipment.

So what leading up to a performance, either these performances or other performances that you’re thinking of… You’ve mentioned a couple of times you’re lifting your mind, almost stepping up a gear into Flow if you like, so you’re playing and the event is happening and then you move on. What, in your experience or opinion, helps that happen? So in terms of preparation leading up to the event, so the morning of, an hour before, and then during, how do you… What do you focus on? What rituals do you use? Any tips that you can share with others that you might have adopted over time?

Lucy: I think the preparation for me is all done in advance really, so the practice and the learning of the skills and the deepening of the skills, and that’s done, as I said, the day before, the week before, but 30 years before as well. So, with rituals… (…) I need to get my head backstage probably half an hour before a performance and keep it there in the interval, because if you come out it’s strange, it disrupts the bubble in a way that… that I inhabit anyway, I just talk about myself.

I think it’s probably quite common, but I only know for me, that you kind of inhabit this bubble during concert. And the minute it’s over, then it’s fine, you can do anything, but before it I need… In a way it’s a quiet space. It might not be quiet orally, but it’s a quiet space inside me. And often we put our instruments on the stage before the concert so they’re already on there, maybe from the rehearsal or something, but a lot of people have their instruments in their hand to warm up with backstage; we don’t have that luxury because our instruments are big. So it’s quite nice to make sure your hands are warm and clean and actually get them active… I’m sitting here while I’m talking to you, squeezing my hands. If you have a juggling ball or something, it’s quite nice to have that, or just need something with your hands. So they’re kind of physical preparations, and the mental one is more about staying in that bubble really.

(…) So I suppose for me physicality brings me into the moment, and then that is more likely to create a sense of flow.

Cameron: Thanks for that – really, really interesting. I know many people believe that’s the whole purpose of the body, to kind of anchor us to the moment. Our mind is always wanting to go into the future and the past, and it’s staying with that breath, or, as you said, feeling your feet on the floor and back against the chair can really kind of bring us back into that moment where we can stretch time, as opposed to running into the future or critiquing the past. We’re coming to an end now, but a little golden nugget for any young musicians out there in terms of what advice you could give to them towards finding Flow, not necessarily as a career but finding Flow in their music when they’re practicing, when they’re spending the hours at home, burning their fingers away, practicing? How could you kind of say, “Maybe try this and that might lead you to more Flow experiences.”?

Lucy: I think one of the things, which we haven’t actually talked about, is do something you love, and if that is playing your instrument, then do it; if it’s not, then maybe look at doing something else, or do it in a way that you can love it. I think really one of the key things is practice, getting the technical challenges really nailed down as soon as you can. To a musician this will make sense: if there’s a piece of music, don’t practice it from beginning to end. Look at the bits that are going to really challenge you and really focus on them, so that when it comes to it you know exactly what you’re doing with your fingers and you can lift your concentration to what else is going on. So focus on the bits that you don’t want to go anywhere near. I suppose that would be my key message.

Cameron: Perfect. Which leads me nicely to our closing question, which is for you what is you going beyond, what is a fear for you, either in your performance world or not in your performance world, where you feel is going beyond?

Lucy: I think for me just passion actually, to do something that I’m passionate about and that stretches me, and actually I love doing those two things usually so my bass playing is that, and a lot of other things I do in life are things that fit those two things. Yeah, so passion and stretch probably.

Cameron: Okay – thank you very much, Lucy! We’ve had a fantastic conversation looking at all sorts of topics, from collective Flow to the challenge-skill balance, to integrating training and ensuring the biology and the muscle memory is all there. Lots of really interesting points, and we’d love to get your opinions, any musicians out there, on Lucy’s comments, so please get in touch and we look forwards to speaking to you soon – thank you very much!

 

Click here to listen to the full interview

 

We would like to thank again Lucy Hare for sharing with us her story and I would recommend to go and see her in action and feel that group flow experience that she talks about.

 

Flow Interview – World Champion Kayaker Martina wegman

Flow Interview – World Champion Kayaker Martina wegman

Performance Skills

 

For those who do not know who Martina Wegman is…well, you are forgiven as freestyle kayaking is taking its time to reach households around the world. However, by the end of this article you won’t forget her.

Martina is taking the kayaking world by storm and in recent years she has become one of the most successful female contenders in freestyle kayaking. She has won the European Freestyle Championships and some of the highest profile whitewater races in the world, including the Teva Outdoor Games and the Sickline Extreme World Championships not one, two, but four times in a row. In recent years, she has sought out new challenges and decided to do what very few kayakers do and switch codes to slalom kayaker.

In one of our sessions at The Flow Centre, Martina gave us a low down of how she has won FOUR world titles and continues to turn heads.

 

When asked about what she focuses on during her greatest moments her reply was:

 

Martina: 
It’s hard to say. I’m usually, like even when I have a good run or when I race I still want ~to be a bit~ better…, because there’s always places to still improve, and I just want to be better and better.

 

Martina is known for dropping long 70ft waterfalls, so I asked whether she is always confident in her preparation. As we talked about one memorable drop she went on to say:

 

Martina: 
At the start it was like “No way I’m going to…” Like, I would never run a 70-foot waterfall, and once you’re at the top of it you’re like “Okay, let’s go!” I don’t even have to think about it twice because I feel certainly so confident and good about it that… Yeah, and once I did it I look back and I’m like “Why did I do that?! That’s just crazy!”

I was pretty relaxed about it, but in my mind I was like “I should be… Like, I should be really scared of this!” Because I was really scared at first when I looked at it, and then ~I saw~ somebody standing under the fall, and I was just signing to him. I was scared but I wasn’t really scared, but I was slowly drifting backwards because I wasn’t focused at all. He was kind of like a distraction. I wasn’t even really aware of it [the waterfall], and then I just had to flow into it.

Martina Wegman Kayaker

Cameron:
So do you often plan your route and goals beforehand?

 

Martina: 
For me in kayaking I don’t really want to set goals… because then I can be disappointed if I don’t run it, so I just don’t think about it…I’m just more focused to get the lines right…Of course you always want to do well, but I think for me it’s setting really small goals so I know I can’t be disappointed, but still trying to push to get that good result…I think I’m not super outcome-focused. My goal is to get better and better. [laughs] Like, today I was focusing on keeping my ~boat flat and trying to get a fast start on the upstreams. I guess every day you just try and do the courses better and better and focus on those little things.

 

Cameron:
So what are you focused on?

 

Martina: 
At the race I often don’t really think about all the detail, I’m just really focused on where to go. I’m like, “Oh, I’m not too sure how I’m going to get from here to there.” But I’m not worried about it, I will just see in the race… as long as I focus on where to go…the subconscious will take care of what I’m focused on. I’m not really focused on, ‘I have to be there, and do this (etc)’… I think less and just trust in my ability.

When I did the freestyle races 10 years ago we had a trainer and he always wanted to know what our plan was in the competition, and he knew from me that he didn’t even have to ask anymore because I wouldn’t say, I would just be like “Oh, I just go and just…~feel what I feel~.” But still I had a little bit of a plan, I knew which tricks I was good in and which I could do, I just didn’t really want to think about it too much. I just wanted to have fun and be like “Oh yeah, I’m just going to see where I go.” and my trainer accepted it because he knew that worked for me. I just needed to have a good time

Well, my goal is to just to get as good as I can…it’s always fun to win, but I don’t really care if somebody else is better, because that just makes you want to go harder and practice more to get on that same level.

 

Cameron:
Did you use any mental skills to prepare?

 

Martina: 
I think looking back at those races, I think I was quite intimidated about the race courses, so I definitely visualised myself more running it ~and wanted to be like~… I just really don’t want to mess up those lines, so I just focused really hard on getting in the right place.

I think just not thinking too much about it and just want to have fun; that’s what my preparation was, not to be too serious about it. Of course, you always want to do well, but I think just for me it’s just setting really small goals so I know I can’t be disappointed, but still trying to push to get that good result.

 

Cameron:
Do you focus on winning or being excellent?

 

Martina:
I think I’m not super outcome-focused, it’s more about having ~a personal good run rather than the races. Like, it’s always fun to win, but I don’t really care if somebody else is better, because that just makes you want to go harder and practice more to get on that same level.

~To get better and better. [laughs] Like, today I was… It’d different every time, but today I was focusing on keeping my ~boat flat~ and trying to get ~a fast start on the upstreams.~ I guess every day you set different courses, you just try and do the courses better and better and focus on those little things.

Like flat boats… You see my arm up here? You have to put in work here. There’s a lot of things you do in creeking which don’t work in slalom, when you tip the boat on top of the water, so jumping over little waves and holes, that again is like a total different technique from creeking. So, at the start I’m… Or still now I’m just trying to things that you have to work a bit different in slalom. Keeping the boat flat is probably one of the bigger things, and stay forward in your boat.

Well, my goal is to just to get as good as I can.… Because a lot of slalom paddlers, they started when they were seven or eight years old, and there’s not many people who cross over from creeking to slalom at my age, or even to cross over from creeking to slalom is kind of… Yeah, there’s not many people doing that. And a lot of people who creek, they also think when they cross over to slalom that it’s easy to get on the top. So, when they’re really good in creeking you almost think like “Yeah, I’ll be good in slalom.” which is totally not the fact. I just… Yeah, just trying still to get as high as I… Like, get as good as I can in slalom and just really push and train hard… Yeah, it’s hard to see. Really, again, in outcome terms it’s more personal, that I just want to do it really well.

 

The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Martina for her time and energy.

 

Runners High, Flow and Marathons – Ben Evans

Runners High, Flow and Marathons – Ben Evans

Articles To Inspire Performance Skills Sports

Ben has an amazing story. In only a few years he went from a pub bet to being one of the most recently elite runners in the UK. Our interview can be heard below, but just as interesting is Ben’s take on the ‘Runners High’ Vs ‘Flow’ debate. Check out the article below, we think you will like it!

 

Flow and Running

Running is hard. That’s what I think almost every time I start on my 10 mile morning jaunt down the Basingstoke Canal. God, I’m unfit. Man, my right leg hurts. What are all these people doing out at this time? Pain, always pain. Why don’t I just go back to bed?

Then something funny happens. It takes a mile or two, normally when I pass the tramp with the yellow raincoat, before my running starts to feel normal. I begin to relax and think about how far I plan to go, how slow the first two miles were and how much I can now push to improve.

Then something really funny happens. I feel delighted. Running on this muddy path, alone, the morning clearing off the river, the sun coming up, feet splashing through puddles – seems like the best thing in the world. What else would I rather be doing right now? I run on, smiling to myself, thinking about what I’ll cook dinner, what good things I’ll do today, what great adventures I’ll plan for the weeks ahead. From a depressive lump I am transformed into a positive being. The world is there for me to run around.

Welcome to runners high. It is a feeling that can come at almost any level of exercise – from a brisk jog to full effort race. It doesn’t stay for the whole time – running is a journey of emotions – but it always appears, stays for a good few miles and then comes back at the end, lasting for about an hour – during breakfast and the trip to work. As the saying goes – you always feel better after a run – and it’s true. You’re high as a kite. That’s the reason most people do it.

ben-square-rectangle-middle

A similar sensation, but one much harder to experience, is a sense of running ‘flow.’ This is something that I think only exists at the higher level of the sport – in competitive races – when the body is being pushed to its absolute limits. It comes at a time in the race when motivation is low and there are many miles still to go – blood has left the brain, fatigue is overwhelming and the only thoughts are work, work; toil, toil; suffer, suffer, suffer. You feel like you cannot go on any longer. There is nothing else to tell you to keep going. You just want to stop. Please stop.

But you don’t stop. You keep going and for some reason you start running even better than before. The voice in your head stops saying bad things and your mind and body relax. Flow takes over and running doesn’t seem hard anymore. You feel like you are floating over the road and that you can keep running forever.

Flow isn’t a high, it is more a feeling of levity. I’ve only had it about six times in my career – but every time it has been in the best performances I have ever run. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s as if I have accessed an energy source away from mind or my body – a spiritual plain or a deep, internal soul – that has transported myself to a place where I am no longer trapped in the limits of physical and mental endurance.

Runners high is great and is the reason you see so many people running nowadays – it makes us happy, it makes us feel good – however for those wanting to take things more seriously, runners’ flow is the real motivator. There’s something in the experience that makes us feel different, above ourselves. For a few minutes we feel a light inside, telling us that there is something wonderful, something beyond the grind of day-to-day, something true and pure – something that makes us special, and that if we keep trying we can experience this any time, for the rest of our lives.

It isn’t true. The moment you start thinking you are in flow, the moment it disappears, but for a while you really believe.

I want to keep believing. I will keep on running towards that light.

 

Want to hear more? Listen to this podcast and interview with Ben Evans:

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The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Ben for his time and energy.

Flow Interview – World Champion Rock Climber Hazel Findlay

Flow Interview – World Champion Rock Climber Hazel Findlay

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Sports Tips and Training

Meet Hazel Findlay. Hazel has won multiple National Championships (UK) and is considered one of, if not the, best female climber worldwide. Hazel became the first woman to climb a British E9 (hard and scary!) with her ascent of Once Upon A Time In The Southwest, near Devon, UK. She has been recovering from injuries this past year but will no doubt be taking the climbing scene by storm when she returns.

 

Hazel is a great friend of The Flow Centre and continues to inspire us month-on-month. In one of our sessions with Hazel we got to ask her about here flow experinces

Cameron:
What was one of your biggest flow experiences?

 

Hazel:
It was actually on one of the smaller cliffs, but right up in the corner where it formed a right angle. I find that sort of climb really interesting because instead of using your hands and feet to find and grip holds, you basically have to push against each side of the opposing walls. Your hands are just flat against the rock, with no reaches to aim for, you basically have to only listen to your body position; you can’t really let the rock guide you too much. There’s no “Oh, I’ll reach that hold and I’ll reach for this hole kind of thing”, you just have to get it exactly right for that next bit of upward movement. So Yeah, this particular moment at the top was just a classic flow experience, where it’s just like, I was in this! You know the descriptions!![laughter]
It was really intense and it was just complete focus on every little movement. I remember the breathing being in time because the climb was really physical as well. I just remember the breathing intensified with each movement, using my whole core to stay in this corner of the rock. It’s funny, when I was in flow, it was like I’ll finish that little piece of rock and then I can’t remember anything about what I did. Then when you get down, the other climbers will say “How did you do that?” and when I’m in those flow moments I’m like “Oh, I’m really sorry, but I just don’t know what I did, I just did something”.

Cameron:
So what was it like in the experience? How did you approach the rock?

 

Hazel:
During the climb, it was like every time I put a foot on the rock I could see all the little features, my foot was exactly where it was supposed to go kind of thing. I think time almost slowed down, if anything. I’ve got vivid memories of my foot in slow motion, because there was so much detail in the moment, you know what I mean? I was just in a little pocket of time and space, me and that little of piece of rock like the only thing that’s there.
I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say I was an extension of the rock. But one thing I think happens when climbing is the movements are kind of binary. Like it’s “right foot, right hand, left foot, left hand”, very specific movements that are all separate. It’s also binary in the sense that you either do it or you don’t! But in a flow state, it feels like the movements aren’t divided into separate moves anymore. You know what I mean? It’s not like you’re moving from one movement to the next movement; it’s all just one complete movement in flow.

 

hazel-findlay-big-sq

So, in that corner it was like I was moving up, and it wasn’t this awkward “right-left” kind of thing, it was all just one fluid motion of the rock kind of thing. Am I an extension of the rock? I think it’s more like what I was saying. The rock doesn’t provide the sort of black and white challenge, like “I did that move or I didn’t”, or “I did that piece”. I suppose it’s very much linked to the idea of success-failure, goal and everything. I’ve always found that when I’m in that flow I totally let go of that desire to succeed and to do the route. I’m just so focused on the next move and the next bit of climbing.
You know, when I start a route I’m like “Okay, come on! You can do it!” – You know, all that positive thinking is running through your head. Or if you’re having a negative day it might be like “Oh, I feel like sh** – just give it your best shot anyway”. Whereas when you’re in flow, all of those ideas about yourself versus the rock kind of thing just fall away. So usually if I’m in that flow, even if I fall off and I fail, I usually don’t care because I know that I was climbing my absolute best because I was in that state. So it just doesn’t bother me that I failed, because what more could I have wanted from that experience? Nothing, because I was doing my best. So, that’s why I love it so much!!

I always feel like it’s the rock that forces me to be in flow. I never really feel like it’s me, but maybe I should take some more ownership of it. There never seems to be a correlation between my thoughts and feeling and how I access flow. I’ve accessed flow on really bad days, when my thoughts have been totally negative and I’m really unconfident. But then just something about the climb I’m doing forces me into it. I can have good days and just access it for some reason, I don’t know! I just feel like it’s the rock!
I totally agree with this “skill meets challenge” idea, because I really think it has to be quite hard for me to access flow. Sometimes I can access flow on easier grounds, but it’s a bit like when you’re driving a car. Often there’ll be other thoughts going through your head, so it’s not as intense and experience of flow. But it’s the sort of thing where I’m just moving up the rock and I might get to the top and not really remember anything about the climb. I was thinking about something completely different; that’s when the challenge is way below my skill set. I’m not as good at harnessing flow during those climbs. I see other people climb much better than me on easier ground, but I tend to let my internal dialogue stop me from reaching flow on easy terrain. That’s something I want to work on.

 

Cameron:
When do you most experience flow?

It’s being on the hard routes, on hard rock climbs. That’s the thing about climbing on natural rock; no-one made it, no-one designed it. So really it’s just chance whether that meets your skill set or not. So there might be a particular route where I might be in flow, but then I get to a section where I just can’t reach the holds, I’m not tall enough or strong enough or whatever, then I’ll just fail. I’ll snap out of flow; the challenge became too hard for me. So really, I feel like it’s the rock that forces me into flow, because it just so happens that the rock, the way the holds are, the way my body moves, it just fits the rock.
I think it’s strange; climbing is maybe quite different to other conventional sports. What often happens when you climb is that you get to a point where you can rest and you can think. So you look at the rock ahead and problem solve your way through it even before you do it. I think one of the keys to climbing well is to, in that restful position, consciously have a plan and problem solve, but then as soon as you start climbing try and switch into that unconscious state that we’re talking about. Really let your body take control and use your subconscious mind. But you have to remember what your conscious mind was telling you to do. That’s what makes climbing different.

 

The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Martina for her time and energy.

Skiing Avalanche Terrain – Group factors to Flow – Jon Turk

Skiing Avalanche Terrain – Group factors to Flow – Jon Turk

Articles To Inspire Flow Sports
Jon Turk has ja heart like a cauliflower, and a zest for flow like no other. Jon was an adventurer finalist for Canadian “National Magazine Awards” (2015 – Frozen Iceman), voted top 10 adventure athletes in 2012 by National Geographic, and canoe and kayak: expedition of the year in 2012.

Jon has practiced performance FLOW for decades, and reminds us that there are a multitude of factors that go in to a flow experience, none more so being on the same wavelength as your group.


 

 

I am a back-country skier, and I routinely ski exposed avalanche terrain in the mountains of southern British Columbia.   A few weeks ago, four of us were shredding fresh powder on familiar terrain.  The riding was excellent, friendships warm, and spirits were high.  All day, the snow had been stable, meaning that we experienced no avalanches or even indication of danger.  On the last run, as the short winter day was waning, two of our party led us toward a higher, steeper, more exposed ridge line. As we climbed into this alpine zone, we reached an elevation where the mountain wind had compacted the surface of the snow into hard, rigid, consolidated, potentially deadly chunks.

 

This was no subtle change. As experienced alpinists, we all saw it, felt it, and knew the consequences of a bad decision. So why didn’t we turn back?

jon-turk-square2

The ultimate, overriding, goal of back-country skiing is to come home safe. All too frequently, we tend to forget this goal and create other imaginary goals such as to climb higher, faster, longer, and to ski the steepest line. But compared to safety, these supposed goals are merely dangerous distractions generated by our think-too-much-know-it-all brains. The primary driver of a FLOW experience is to concentrate completely and utterly on the real and ultimate goal and to avoid sidetracks, distractions, ego, and “I wants”. Yet, within a group, distractions can easily arise, fester, and quickly multiply.

 

One person climbed into the dangerous wind-slab, eager to be the leader that brought the group onward toward the best line of the day. We all like to “ski the goods”, so that is always a distraction from the overriding goal of safety. But now, there was social pressure not to be the wimp, the cold blanket who said, “Hey, guys. I think we should turn back.” Two distractions steering us away from FLOW – internal and external. And the distractions fed on one another. I thought, “We don’t need to do this,” but then I threw attention and awareness out the window, and allowed myself to concentrate on what mattered least (A few extra turns. Not to be criticized by the group.) And not what mattered most (Our lives).  So against all reason, I followed the leader toward a dangerous situation. I felt hassled and grumpy. I questioned my own judgment, the judgment of others. “Why can’t we just ski from here?” I mumbled, quietly, almost to myself.

Suddenly, my wife, Nina, stopped. I was in line behind her.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I’m not going up there,” she replied.

 

At first, I was internally annoyed at her. Those guys were going to ski the coolest line, and I wanted to be up there with them. But the physical pause initiated a mental pause which solidified a physical pause. Reason prevailed. We held back.

 

The lead skier started an avalanche and went catapulting down the mountainside in a moving white river.  Amazingly, he didn’t get hurt.  We were lucky.

 

There are always more distractions than FLOW paths. Entropy works like that. A near infinity of ways to do something wrong and only a limited number of ways to do something right. Group dynamics, within a family, at work, or during play are powerful. All the more reason to understand and practice FLOW.

 

 

The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Jon for her time and energy.

Your Soundtrack To Flow – Fraser Pash

Your Soundtrack To Flow – Fraser Pash

Music Performance Skills

Fraser Pash gives us the low down of his recent performance.

 

I sat there sipping on my drink wondering ‘what the hell are we listening to?’ I’m up next and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to play. I’ve spent weeks practicing a song. Trying out different tunings and transpositions to get the best sound out of my guitar and my voice. But I’ve started to doubt; not myself, but my song choice. Everyone else who has gone up to the mic and chortled out some recent pop song has been mediocre at best.

It was at this point that I decided, f*ck it. I’m going to play my own song.

Maybe I’m more comfortable playing my own music, maybe I enjoy the higher risk of judgement from letting people hear it. I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly what it is about playing my own music that triggers flow. But as I sang every note perfectly, ad-libbing to great effect, I felt happy. An almost endless happiness, totally in flow. That was of course until the song finished and I was left standing alone in a room of three hundred people.

 

Immediately afterwards, I answered some questions about the song. As my memory glanced back to the song I had been playing minutes earlier, I started to think about how it felt like it had been weeks ago, not minutes ago. I also realised that I cared a bit more about playing that night than I thought I had. The outcome is not really important, but the performance is.

 

Guitar & Music

Whilst there is little to no research done to consider the correlation between playing one’s own music and playing someon e else’s, there is plenty done to reveal the relationship between flow and music as a whole (although there’s always opportunity for more). We mentioned a study done not too long ago discussing the correlation between length of time playing an instrument and the actual instrument played and flow. Finding that string players and those who have been playing for a longer time, particularly with extensive practice hours, are more likely to reach a state of flow. But it is research from the University of London that is of particular interest to this article.

Their findings revealed “flow was predicted by the amount of daily practice and trait emotional intelligence”. Now the first part of this should really be a given. The more we practice, the greater our myelin production, the better our muscle memory, the more skilled we become, the higher the ability-challenge level we can set for ourselves, and ultimately the greater intensity of flow we can feel. However, emotional intelligence still needs a lot more research before its relationship to flow is fully understood. The aforementioned study also notes a link between the style of music played and flow, with a positive correlation between the romantic styles of Chopin in particular and flow. Now this could be due to increased exposure to a certain composer or style, but equally it could be that the pianists in the study found flow whilst playing music they liked.

It is here that the research gap exists. If we assume that the music created by an individual is also liked by that individual. Does playing your own music have a positive impact on reaching a state of flow?

If we throw ourselves into a performance situation, suddenly we have high risk, immediate feedback and a rich environment priming us for flow.

So why not try it? Today, instead of practicing someone else’s piece, write your own. Just play what comes out of you and gradually structure it into a composition. You might find you reach flow sooner than you think.

 

Thanks for this Article to Fraser Pash and friend of The Flow Centre.

Overclocking Yourself

Overclocking Yourself

Flow Performance Skills Tips and Training

 

Humans are compared to computers all the time. We both seem to be made up of memory, bandwidth and communication devices all processing at varying of speeds. Most notably, the human brain is often described as the most powerful computer in nature. So imagine the intrigue, when watching a lecture on flow, a question at the end came up: ‘when we overclock computer components they degrade faster, is hacking into flow just overclocking our bodies?’ Short answer; no. But let’s dig a little deeper.

Normally when someone talks about overclocking their computer, they specifically mean the processor (CPU). (I won’t go into architectural detail of CPU’s, as we would be here for weeks, but it is fascinating stuff if you’re interested) It carries out all the complex calculations and keeps all the other components running in time with each other. It is essentially the ‘processing brain’ of the computer. So the CPU has a standard ‘base’ clock speed that it runs at, but with some computer witchcraft, you can make it run at a faster speed e.g. 3.6Ghz to 4.4Ghz, improving and potentially hitting its peak performance.

You might be thinking that’s no big deal, if it can cope with the higher speed, just run it at that. But this is the issue, and where our flow comparison comes in. In order to run at that higher clock speed, the component is stressed beyond what is the standard level and so degrades faster than if it was processing at the lower speed. This is how basically all man-made objects perform, if you push it further, it degrades quicker.

Digital Brain

So with all the similarities between humans and computers, does this mean that when we hack into flow, achieve a flow state more often than a normal person, peaking for longer periods, our body will decay faster due to the extra stress on its ‘components’? Well, no it won’t. Your body is not man-made, so to speak. When you train your body, it improves the quality of its components. Think of a tennis player. By training, they improve the condition of their body, allowing them to reach a flow state during their performance. This doesn’t mean they have a shorter life or lose the ability to walk sooner than anyone else. If anything it gives them a longer and better standard of life into a late age as they are constantly improving the body’s capacity.

However, one of the downsides of being human, and being very conscious beings, is that we cannot be in flow all of the time. So we are unlikely to ever really test this question to its entirety. So don’t be scared to overclock yourself through flow. You will find that you are simply unlocking the potential you have always had; growing in strength and resilience, allowing you to go further than you ever thought you could.

Flow Interview – Sarah Hendrickson – World Champion Ski Jumper

Flow Interview – Sarah Hendrickson – World Champion Ski Jumper

Articles To Inspire Flow Performance Skills Quotes Stories

For those that don’t know Sarah Hendrickson, meet one of the most exciting female athletes around.
Sarah Hendrickson is an American ski jumper who won the first ever women’s World Cup season in 2012. She is a 22-time World Cup medalist and 13-time Continental Cup medalist. It goes without saying, but we were delighted to catch up with here and even more delighted to have her on board The Flow Centre.

Her career highlights include:
• 22-time World Cup Medalist (13 Gold, 6 Silver, 3 Bronze)
• 13-time Continental Cup Medalist (4 Gold, 4 Silver, 5 Bronze)
• 2014, Olympic Winter Games, 21st
• 2013, World Cup, Second Place Overall
• 2013, World Championships Gold Medalist
• 2012, World Cup Overall Champion
• 2011, U.S. Normal Hill Champion
• 2011, World Championships Normal Hill 16th place
• 2009, World Championships Normal Hill 29th place

Anyway, enough intro, let’s get on with what Sarah had to say.

Cameron:
So tell me about your flow experiences.

Sarah:
I think that time at the world championships. I remember being at the top and just so nervous. I was like “I can’t feel my feet right now! I don’t know how I’m going to do this!” and then I got to the bottom after my second jump, and obviously had won, and it was like something else took over my body, because there was so much pressure and everything. I don’t know how I performed to that level with that much pressure, my mind just took over and muscle memory and everything. It was like “Okay, you know what to do subconsciously, and just focus”. It’s kind of hard to explain.

Cameron:
Yeah, especially when you remember it. You get all those feelings and tingly sensations, and then you’re like “But, but… How did it happen?!”

Sarah:
Yeah, exactly!

Cameron:
So, describe some of the characteristics that you might have felt during it? You said everything felt amazing. Can you go into a little bit more about how that felt, or what you feel you experienced?

Sarah:
I guess effortless is almost the right word. Your body is doing all these things, but it’s subconscious, you don’t have to think about it right there. It’s hard to explain, I guess effortless and flawless, almost numb. But that’s the first experience I think of when you describe flow, the world championships in Italy in 2013.

We have two jumps and I was winning after the first jump, then we jump in reverse order, so I was going last on the second jump. The girl before me was within a small margin of me; she jumped and I could hear the crowd cheering. I was just trying to block everything out and focus on myself. I remember thinking “My feet are numb!” I was kind of freaking out, thinking “How am I going to pull this off?” then I was just like “Well, nothing to lose now. Just shake it out.” That’s when the hours of training comes in, the muscle memory, your mind just goes into reserve mode, just don’t focus on the pressure, don’t focus on the small details; everything will run its course.

Sochiskijump

Cameron:
What did you do to help you focus and get into that state?

Sarah:
I blocked out the outside world. When I’m jumping, I’ve been jumping for 13 years now, I just focus on one or two really simple things. It doesn’t mean anything to the outside world because they’re technical terms for ski jumping, but I relax my arms, balance and timing. Timing is so important in ski jumping, timing and rhythm. So, I just pick those two things that I had been focusing on and just zero in on that, everything else will just come. I didn’t need to focus on the other stuff because I was in that mind set, the muscle memory or whatever would just take over.

Cameron:
When you focus on it, do you repeat the words, like relax your arms? Or, do you almost use the words to brainwash yourself? How do you focus on it?

Sarah:
Yeah, exactly! Part of me is hearing the announcers and people calling scores or whatever of the girls in front of me. So, I try to speak to myself as loudly as I can in my head so that I don’t hear the outside. I’ll even try and shake my head so that I don’t hear. I just don’t want to hear that, you can’t think about jumping a certain distance, that’s not how it happens. You have to focus on the miniscule things, that’s going to make you jump further. Repetition and even whispering words out loud sometime, or just yelling in my head.

Cameron:
What else do you think helps you get into that zone? Is there preparation that you might do leading up to it the morning of, the evening of? Or anything else that you do as you’re walking up the steps, preparing, or when you’re sitting down, or just before you take off?

Sarah:
Yeah, repetition actually, and not just in words. I have the same warm-up routine that I do a certain time before a jump. How I put my equipment on and stuff. I’m kind of OCD, so those things are just zeroed in. I know exactly what time I need to put on my stuff, when I’m waiting at the top, 10 jumpers before my tie my boots a little tighter the step out and start putting my skis on. Repetition is really, really important for me, just doing the same thing over and over, and I do it the same for training. You need to compete like you train and train like you compete. Have that same physical repetition and the mental preparation the same every single day.

Cameron:
Do you have any other big flow experiences? Maybe one that tops the world championship?

Sarah:
It’s a bit different, because I didn’t have a good result, but I guess doing the Olympics. I had some serious surgery about five and a half months before Sochi. I managed to get through rehab, but I just wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be, but my coaches felt like I deserved to be there.
The training days leading up, my knee was in so much pain and I knew I wasn’t mentally strong enough and prepared to be there, then on competition day I got unlucky with the wind. But, my practice jump that morning, we always get one practice jump, my coach just looked at me and was like “Oh my God – that was a million times better!” He was like “You showed up for game day! Regardless of the pain you’re in and everything you’ve been through these past six months, you just put it all aside, and your body knew exactly what to do, and you had an awesome jump!”
I was just in that kind of mindset. I just pushed the pain away, pushed every doubt and piece of junk that I’d gone through out of me and just had a normal jump. And my coaches saw it. The coaches from the other nations saw it too, it was kind of crazy. It was like even though it had been a while my body still knew what to do.

Cameron:
What helped you jump that morning?

Sarah:
I don’t know! I just thought “Don’t have any regrets. You’ve Sarah1trained so hard to be here. Maybe you’re not at your strongest but you’ve worked so hard, now let’s prove it”. I had to change my warm-up and everything, my knee was so bad I couldn’t even run. But I figured I’ve got three more jumps today, then I’m done. After today I can just rest and reassess everything. I had another surgery after that, but it didn’t matter at that point, I was just like “Show them what you’ve got!” I’m ultra-competitive obviously, which makes it easier to get into that mindset.
You have to find a balance between focused and almost not too serious, though. If you try to hard when you’re super competitive in ski jumping it just doesn’t work. We all say that technically, it’s a very simple sport, but it’s against everything that your body wants to do, so when you get too focused there’s no flow to it. It’s too choppy; it’s not smooth and out of rhythm. So when you stay relaxed and just focus on a couple of things everything is much smoother, develops the power better and it all just comes together much better than trying to force it.

Cameron:
So what do you do to help yourself stay relaxed?

Sarah:
Well, I’m friends with a lot of the girls from the other nations, so we’ll all be talking at the top of the hill, kind of joking around before getting ready to go. Like if it’s been a bad day and I’m kind of down on myself I think “I’m not going to pull of the best jump right now, but look at the view! Think how hard you worked to get here, you’re so fortunate to be here.” I just kind of step back and make the most of the situation, because competing is really stressful. This is the best job in the world, but it’s stressful.
Sometimes that’s easy to get down on, then I think “why do I put so much pressure on myself?” I try to step away from all that negativity and just appreciate where I am. You can’t have a good day every day and the people that really matter, the ones closest to me, they know that I’ve worked really hard to get here and are just like “Alright, shrug it off, you can’t be on top every single day.”

The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Sarah Hendrickson and the Wasserman Group for their time and energy.

Stop Living In The Past

Stop Living In The Past

Flow Performance Skills Sports

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California have discovered that our minds are lying to us. There is a limit to how fast our brain can digest information. To make things easier on itself, it predicts what will happen next.

Think of a plane flying overhead, it’s not going to suddenly start flying backwards, so our brains predict the path of the plane and that’s how we are able to see what is going on in the present. But what happens when something does change in an instant? That’s where the flash lag effect comes in (to test this out try a simple Google search). The research in this area has revealed a delay of, on average, 80 milliseconds between something happening and the mind being able to process it. Meaning that we spend our life living in what has actually just happened, not what is actually happening. Let’s take a second or two to pause – we are never actually present in real time! Really?!

Thinking of planes again, this time at night when the lights on it are flashing, the flash of light often appears to be behind the plane. That’s because your mind has predicted, correctly, where the plane will be, but the sudden flash of light was an unknown. The 80 millisecond delay in processing means that you see the light flashing behind the plane, where it was 80 milliseconds ago.

Red Arrows

The intriguing thing for us, as flow seekers, is what if we can reduce that 80 millisecond delay? This article from Salk specifically says that the time delay is an average and it’s likely that someone like a fighter pilot has a shorter delay – and so lives less ‘in the past’ and more ‘in the now’. This comes as no surprise that a fighter pilot is likely to be in a state of flow most of the time when pulling off incredible manoeuvers, whilst flying at mach 3. However, how can we reduce this delay in our everyday experiences and performances?

“Practice dear Watson, practice!” (Sherlock Holmes)

Our visual awareness seems to change in flow, as we become highly aware of all the small detail that gives us the much needed feedback we require for perfect decision making. We know that we get a feeling of time standing still during flow, does this state actually reduce the lag of our experience? In our interview with Nick Troutman(Kayaker), he talks about a run where he starts turning the wrong way down a waterfall and had to correct himself mid-air. If he made this adjustment any later than he did, or not at all, the result could have been catastrophic for him. Nick is able to make these important changes with millisecond precision as a result of being in flow – by his own admission.

Although we don’t know exactly what the millisecond delay may be during flow, we know that the experience is a lot closer to a 0 millisecond delay than our everyday experiences. In flow we become aware of everything instantly, process information instantly and are able to react to what happens immediately – is this living in the present?

“Elementary dear Watson, elementary!”

For years people have called a flow state ‘being in the zone’, although this is not entirely accurate (I sense a different article coming), would a more accurate term be ‘being in the now’?