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 ÔÇô 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 ÔÇÿfailureÔÇÖ. 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 ÔÇÿflowÔÇÖ 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 ÔÇô 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 ÔÇô 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 ÔÇô 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
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 youÔÇÖre an unlikely yogi.
Ari: Unlikely yogi yes! I think thatÔÇÖs right. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be in thisÔÇª like having this kind of conversation with you, I would have said, ÔÇ£You must be crazy,ÔÇØ it just wasnÔÇÖt 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, ÔÇ£You should try yoga,ÔÇØ you know, one of those things where your friends say, ÔÇ£You really need something,ÔÇØ 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 rememberÔÇª 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 rememberÔÇª 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, ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm happy. Everything is just working, everything is good,ÔÇØ and I guessÔÇª I donÔÇÖt 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 thereÔÇÖs been lots of different experiences, but thatÔÇÖs 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, ÔÇ£Wow, what just happened?!ÔÇØ like you mention, ÔÇ£I was covered in sweat and the activity was totally finished, but I didnÔÇÖt realise what was going on during the activity,ÔÇØ ?
Ari: Yeah, thatÔÇÖs right, and since then thereÔÇÖs been many different instances, but I think for me itÔÇÖs 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 IÔÇÖm not in a flow; I can put feeling, emotions, words, descriptions, distinctions around it, and I think thatÔÇÖs one of the big tools of yoga.
Elena: Being fully aware and fully present?
Ari: Yes, and being able toÔÇª Flow can be quite conceptual, and it is a concept in a way, but itÔÇÖs 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 itÔÇÖs happening or not, and I think thatÔÇÖs what yoga has given me; whether itÔÇÖs me being with my kids, whether itÔÇÖs me practicing yoga, whether itÔÇÖs teaching yoga, whether itÔÇÖs leading trainings.
Elena: I like what youÔÇÖre 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 whatÔÇÖs 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, itÔÇÖs very simple: the more I come on my mat in a purposeful way and the more I practice the physical practice ÔÇô the more I practice my breath, the more I practice my gaze ÔÇô the more likely it is that I will then enter into a flow. ItÔÇÖs 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 ÔÇ£Am I doing this right?ÔÇØ
Elena: Yeah. ThatÔÇÖs another dimension, when the self-talk or self-consciousness disappears when youÔÇÖre fully present thereÔÇÖs no self-talk anymore, thereÔÇÖs no ÔÇ£Am I doing this right? Am I doing this wrong?ÔÇØ or that type of thought.
Ari: ItÔÇÖs kind ofÔÇª I was thinking, flow is notÔÇª It might feel easy in the moment when IÔÇÖm in it, but to get into it thereÔÇÖs 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 wasnÔÇÖt a flow, that certainly wasnÔÇÖt a flow; I needed to learn and practice and figure out how things work, and thenÔÇª
Elena: Yes, so itÔÇÖs a process and itÔÇÖs also a choice.
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 thinkÔÇª Flow, by definition, itÔÇÖs 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 youÔÇÖre moving towards and consciously creating in your being, in your movement, in your breathing; itÔÇÖs all there. And then thereÔÇÖs maybe a final: there is practice and there is intention, and then thereÔÇÖs 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 butÔÇª
Elena: When you say surrender, you mean acceptance?
Ari: Yes, it is an acceptance, itÔÇÖs aÔÇª ItÔÇÖs 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 isÔÇª 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. DonÔÇÖt 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 youÔÇÖre stressed or youÔÇÖre doing multiple things at the same time? What do you do to calm down or relax?
Ari: Well, for me itÔÇÖs the obvious things: itÔÇÖs getting on my mat, itÔÇÖs practicing, itÔÇÖs breathing and itÔÇÖsmoving. 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 doesnÔÇÖt take long, but justÔÇª That helps me get a grip of the day if you like, itÔÇÖs a moment. The final thing I do a lot of is I walk. I know it might sound obvious, but I walk everywhere and alsoÔÇª 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 IÔÇÖll put something inspirational, I will listen to someone talking to me, giving me something that fills me up and it kind of grounds me inÔÇª ItÔÇÖs kind of inspirational, but itÔÇÖsÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know, it just lifts me up.
Elena: What inspires you?
Ari: IÔÇÖll tell you the main thing that inspires me, and itÔÇÖs being able to make a difference in peopleÔÇÖs lives. Whether itÔÇÖs 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 itÔÇÖs theyÔÇÖre going through something and that 60 minutes gives them a new angle on things or whatever it is, but itÔÇÖs just being able to give back what IÔÇÖve gotten from yoga and share that gift of presence, clarity, intention, and that inspires me. Yeah. ThatÔÇÖs what makes me get up in the morning.
Elena: ThatÔÇÖs 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: IÔÇÖm kind of a reflective type, so that helps me recover, my own space; IÔÇÖll 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 donÔÇÖt know whether youÔÇÖd like to share anything else?
Ari: My teacher is Baron Baptiste and in his book he talks about flow, and thereÔÇÖs a sentence which I wrote down because I thought this was so spot onÔÇª He says, ÔÇ£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,ÔÇØ and I thought, ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs it.ÔÇØ ItÔÇÖs bringing the physical, mental, spiritual, all of usÔÇª When IÔÇÖm in practice or in flow or wherever, bringing it all together and then moving from there towards a new point. ThatÔÇÖs what we talk to in classes, flow, we call it Viny─üsa and itÔÇÖs one of the pillars of the practice.
ThereÔÇÖs a lot of value in just flowing, like physically moving and flowing, without trying to get it right, like justÔÇª and thereÔÇÖs an energy that comes through in that and thereÔÇÖs a release that can happen that way. The word ÔÇ£flowÔÇØ has so many different meanings, but to me thatÔÇÖs how it manifests itself on the mat.
I started to write down the characteristics of flow: thereÔÇÖs presence and thereÔÇÖs direction, thereÔÇÖs purpose, thereÔÇÖs clarity, body and mind integration. And sometimes itÔÇÖs alsoÔÇª At least for me, flow isÔÇª Sometimes itÔÇÖs imperfect, in the sense that I will go in and out of the flow. So itÔÇÖs not necessarily this unique, blissful state thatÔÇÖs 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 itÔÇÖs a choice, so if you also have that intention at the beginning of the day, you will see it more often.
Ari: Yeah. And itÔÇÖs really being awareÔÇª One thing is practicing on the matÔÇª Where IÔÇÖm 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 IÔÇÖm in a flow with that I love that, like having the audience and being able to deliver my message and sensing whatÔÇÖs going on and being in that flow, and itÔÇÖs great to be able to bring tools physically of the practice into that.
ÔÇ£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?ÔÇØ bringing all of those things and being able to see that.
ItÔÇÖs like everything becomes three-dimensional and quite vivid when IÔÇÖm in that state. And then noticing also when I go out of that and I go into the ÔÇ£need to look goodÔÇØ 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 thatÔÇÖs where I always look for a flow state. It was when I taught, two days ago.
Elena: ThatÔÇÖs good. Thank you so much!
Ari: Thank you! Good questions.
Thank you Ari for your time and wisdom, see you on the mat.
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 didnÔÇÖt know what the flow mindset was and it is thanks to the study that I learnt more about it.
ÔÇ£Flow is the optimal mental state that produces performance, creativity, decision-making and innovation.ÔÇØ
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.
Throughout this experience, IÔÇÖve learnt some great tips on how to train your mind to get into the flow state and how to maintain that state. I thought IÔÇÖd share the most valuable ones to me.
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, IÔÇÖm enjoying the moment and I give it me all.
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 youÔÇÖre 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.
Be in the Present
To reach and maintain flow, I need to be completely focused on the present moment. I canÔÇÖt be thinking about anything else other than each move as it unfolds. If IÔÇÖm already thinking about reaching the top whilst IÔÇÖm only half way up, my mind is not in the present.
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, itÔÇÖs not motivating enough for me to really be in the flow.
Physical Readiness & Self belief
IÔÇÖve 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!
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:
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.
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 werenÔÇÖt 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. IÔÇÖm also currently working on applying these techniques to my running and learning to find the flow state during a run J So IÔÇÖve now created a mantra for running as well …
Lucy Hare is a double bass player, sitting in the world of classical world music. SheÔÇÖs 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: IÔÇÖm 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 youÔÇÖve hit that zone, youÔÇÖve hit that bubble, and you found a bit of freedom in that Flow space. So weÔÇÖd 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 IÔÇÖve 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 StraussÔÇÖ Alpine Symphony which is a massive work, it has alpenhorns in it and cowbells and an orchestra of about 120 or something, itÔÇÖs an incredible piece of music. ItÔÇÖs a great piece, itÔÇÖs challenging but itÔÇÖs playable for us, and there was a moment in the middleÔÇª
We were playing it with the most incredible conductor, which isnÔÇÖt 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 itÔÇÖs 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 ÔÇô 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 itÔÇÖs 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. IÔÇÖm 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 itÔÇÖs 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, thereÔÇÖs a kind of resonance that happens when everyone plays together and well that you donÔÇÖt get whenÔÇª It can sound together but it doesnÔÇÖt have that resonance if people arenÔÇÖt 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 thinkÔÇª There is something about your antennae, aboutÔÇª 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 thereÔÇÖs 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 thereÔÇÖll be the string section which is bigger again, so it kind of fans out, and then thereÔÇÖs the whole orchestra. So you have all these different levels of awareness, and if they all come together, so both intonations ÔÇô the pitch, the tuning ÔÇô but also the timingÔÇª Timing is such a fine art I think, and thereÔÇÖs noÔÇª I was going to say thereÔÇÖs no exact science to it, I bet there is [laughs], it appears a very mathematical thing, but I think it has something thatÔÇÖs much more magical than that actually. So I think all those things coming together. Yeah, so you have to kind of perfect what youÔÇÖre doing, but itÔÇÖs a greater thing that perfection I think.
Cameron:So practically speaking, when youÔÇÖre in letÔÇÖs say at that moment, the moment youÔÇÖve just explainedÔÇª To me thereÔÇÖs a lot going on there: you got the notes in front of you, you got the conductor, youÔÇÖve got your instrument, youÔÇÖve got where your fingers are, youÔÇÖve got the audience around you, youÔÇÖve 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 youÔÇÖre playing effortlessly? Or is it a case of youÔÇÖre actually highly focused on one thing, which is your notes and yourÔÇª Where is your focus and your awareness?
Lucy:ThatÔÇÖs 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 donÔÇÖt know biologically if you can do that, but I think the micro stuff, so your own techniqueÔÇª your main focus has to already have been done on that, with your practice, your personal practice, then the rehearsals in the orchestra. (…). Maybe thatÔÇÖs 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. YouÔÇÖre describing the many paradoxes of Flow, where we feel out of control but completely in control, and action and awareness kind of merge, where youÔÇÖre feeling intricately a part of every second thatÔÇÖs going on, but at the same time itÔÇÖs 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 theyÔÇÖre kind of the logical and critique side of our brains that wants to analyse that experience and understand whatÔÇÖs going on isnÔÇÖt in the room. ItÔÇÖs the subconscious thatÔÇÖs working that experience. And then when we come back to experience it, we look at it from a conscious brain as weÔÇÖre 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, itÔÇÖs a very normal experience to be looking at the minutiae but also taking in the bigger picture.
So, what out of the 9dimensions to FlowÔÇª I know youÔÇÖve 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 thereÔÇÖs a level of challenge that is strong but not overwhelming, thatÔÇÖs key for me personally. If the challenge is overwhelming, IÔÇÖm kind of in my head, saying, ÔÇ£You need to do this, you need to play it this way, play it this way, youÔÇÖve got to prepare, youÔÇÖve got to get your elbow in the right place, your fingers have got to be strong, youÔÇÖve got to play this faster, you didnÔÇÖt practice this enough!ÔÇØ the little voice on my shoulder is going 100 miles an hour. So if the challenge level is strong but manageable and IÔÇÖve 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 thatÔÇÖs really important.
And also, the other thing is we do repeat performances quite a lot if weÔÇÖre 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 canÔÇÖt because itÔÇÖs 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 ofÔÇª Yeah, very different state to the one I described earlier, a different state of Flow, but itÔÇÖs a kind ofÔÇª It then frees me from the boredom of whatÔÇÖs 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 youÔÇÖve 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 thatÔÇÖs 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 weÔÇÖre not distracted by the nuances of a grip or this, that or the other, as IÔÇÖm 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 youÔÇÖre thinking ofÔÇª YouÔÇÖve mentioned a couple of times youÔÇÖre lifting your mind, almost stepping up a gear into Flow if you like, so youÔÇÖre 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 youÔÇª 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 thatÔÇÖs done, as I said, the day before, the week before, but 30 years before as well. So, with ritualsÔÇª (…) 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 itÔÇÖs strange, it disrupts the bubble in a way thatÔÇª that I inhabit anyway, I just talk about myself.
I think itÔÇÖs probably quite common, but I only know for me, that you kind of inhabit this bubble during concert. And the minute itÔÇÖs over, then itÔÇÖs fine, you can do anything, but before it I needÔÇª In a way itÔÇÖs a quiet space. It might not be quiet orally, but itÔÇÖs a quiet space inside me. And often we put our instruments on the stage before the concert so theyÔÇÖre 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 donÔÇÖt have that luxury because our instruments are big. So itÔÇÖs quite nice to make sure your hands are warm and clean and actually get them activeÔÇª IÔÇÖm sitting here while IÔÇÖm talking to you, squeezing my hands. If you have a juggling ball or something, itÔÇÖs quite nice to have that, or just need something with your hands. So theyÔÇÖre 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 ÔÇô really, really interesting. I know many people believe thatÔÇÖs 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 itÔÇÖs 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. WeÔÇÖre 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 theyÔÇÖre practicing, when theyÔÇÖre spending the hours at home, burning their fingers away, practicing? How could you kind of say, ÔÇ£Maybe try this and that might lead you to more Flow experiences.ÔÇØ?
Lucy:I think one of the things, which we havenÔÇÖt actually talked about, is do something you love, and if that is playing your instrument, then do it; if itÔÇÖs 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 thereÔÇÖs a piece of music, donÔÇÖt 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 youÔÇÖre doing with your fingers and you can lift your concentration to what else is going on. So focus on the bits that you donÔÇÖt 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 IÔÇÖm 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 ÔÇô thank you very much, Lucy! WeÔÇÖve 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 weÔÇÖd love to get your opinions, any musicians out there, on LucyÔÇÖs comments, so please get in touch and we look forwards to speaking to you soon ÔÇô thank you very much!
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:
ItÔÇÖs hard to say. IÔÇÖm usually, like even when I have a good run or when I race I still want ~to be a bit~ better…, because thereÔÇÖs 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 ÔÇ£No way IÔÇÖm going toÔÇªÔÇØ Like, I would never run a 70-foot waterfall, and once youÔÇÖre at the top of it youÔÇÖre like ÔÇ£Okay, letÔÇÖs go!ÔÇØ I donÔÇÖt even have to think about it twice because I feel certainly so confident and good about it thatÔÇª Yeah, and once I did it I look back and IÔÇÖm like ÔÇ£Why did I do that?! ThatÔÇÖs just crazy!”
I was pretty relaxed about it, but in my mind I was like ÔÇ£I should beÔÇª Like, I should be really scared of this!ÔÇØ 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 wasnÔÇÖt really scared, but I was slowly drifting backwards because I wasnÔÇÖt focused at all. He was kind of like a distraction. I wasnÔÇÖt even really aware of it [the waterfall], and then I just had to flow into it.
So do you often plan your route and goals beforehand?
Martina: For me in kayaking I donÔÇÖt really want to set goalsÔÇª because then I can be disappointed if I donÔÇÖt run it, so I just donÔÇÖt think about itÔÇªIÔÇÖm just more focused to get the lines rightÔÇªOf course you always want to do well, but I think for me itÔÇÖs setting really small goals so I know I canÔÇÖt be disappointed, but still trying to push to get that good resultÔÇªI think IÔÇÖm 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 donÔÇÖt really think about all the detail, IÔÇÖm just really focused on where to go. IÔÇÖm like, ÔÇ£Oh, IÔÇÖm not too sure how IÔÇÖm going to get from here to there.ÔÇØ But IÔÇÖm not worried about it, I will just see in the raceÔÇª as long as I focus on where to go…the subconscious will take care of what IÔÇÖm focused on. IÔÇÖm not really focused on, ÔÇÿI have to be there, and do this (etc)ÔÇÖÔÇª 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 didnÔÇÖt even have to ask anymore because I wouldnÔÇÖt say, I would just be like ÔÇ£Oh, I just go and justÔÇª~feel what I feel~.ÔÇØ 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 didnÔÇÖt really want to think about it too much. I just wanted to have fun and be like ÔÇ£Oh yeah, IÔÇÖm just going to see where I go.ÔÇØ 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 canÔÇªitÔÇÖs always fun to win, but I donÔÇÖt 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.
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~ÔÇª I just really donÔÇÖt 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; thatÔÇÖs 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 itÔÇÖs just setting really small goals so I know I canÔÇÖt be disappointed, but still trying to push to get that good result.
Do you focus on winning or being excellent?
Martina: I think IÔÇÖm not super outcome-focused, itÔÇÖs more about having ~a personal good run rather than the races. Like, itÔÇÖs always fun to win, but I donÔÇÖt 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 wasÔÇª ItÔÇÖd 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 boatsÔÇª You see my arm up here? You have to put in work here. ThereÔÇÖs a lot of things you do in creeking which donÔÇÖt 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 IÔÇÖmÔÇª Or still now IÔÇÖm 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.ÔÇª Because a lot of slalom paddlers, they started when they were seven or eight years old, and thereÔÇÖs not many people who cross over from creeking to slalom at my age, or even to cross over from creeking to slalom is kind ofÔÇª Yeah, thereÔÇÖs not many people doing that. And a lot of people who creek, they also think when they cross over to slalom that itÔÇÖs easy to get on the top. So, when theyÔÇÖre really good in creeking you almost think like ÔÇ£Yeah, IÔÇÖll be good in slalom.ÔÇØ which is totally not the fact. I justÔÇª Yeah, just trying still to get as high as IÔÇª Like, get as good as I can in slalom and just really push and train hardÔÇª Yeah, itÔÇÖs hard to see. Really, again, in outcome terms itÔÇÖs 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.
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. ThatÔÇÖs what I think almost every time I start on my 10 mile morning jaunt down the Basingstoke Canal. God, IÔÇÖm unfit. Man, my right leg hurts. What are all these people doing out at this time? Pain, always pain. Why donÔÇÖt 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 IÔÇÖll cook dinner, what good things IÔÇÖll do today, what great adventures IÔÇÖll 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 ÔÇô from a brisk jog to full effort race. It doesnÔÇÖt stay for the whole time ÔÇô running is a journey of emotions ÔÇô but it always appears, stays for a good few miles and then comes back at the end, lasting for about an hour ÔÇô during breakfast and the trip to work. As the saying goes ÔÇô you always feel better after a run ÔÇô and itÔÇÖs true. YouÔÇÖre high as a kite. ThatÔÇÖs the reason most people do it.
A similar sensation, but one much harder to experience, is a sense of running ÔÇÿflow.ÔÇÖ This is something that I think only exists at the higher level of the sport ÔÇô 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 donÔÇÖt 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 doesnÔÇÖt seem hard anymore. You feel like you are floating over the road and that you can keep running forever.
Flow isnÔÇÖt a high, it is more a feeling of levity. IÔÇÖve only had it about six times in my career ÔÇô but every time it has been in the best performances I have ever run. I donÔÇÖt know exactly what it is. ItÔÇÖs as if I have accessed an energy source away from mind or my body ÔÇô a spiritual plain or a deep, internal soul ÔÇô 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, runnersÔÇÖ flow is the real motivator. ThereÔÇÖs 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 ÔÇô something that makes us special, and that if we keep trying we can experience this any time, for the rest of our lives.
It isnÔÇÖt 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:
The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Ben for his time and energy.
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 canÔÇÖt really let the rock guide you too much. ThereÔÇÖs no ÔÇ£Oh, IÔÇÖll reach that hold and IÔÇÖll reach for this hole kind of thingÔÇØ, 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 itÔÇÖs 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. ItÔÇÖs funny, when I was in flow, it was like IÔÇÖll finish that little piece of rock and then I canÔÇÖt remember anything about what I did. Then when you get down, the other climbers will say ÔÇ£How did you do that?ÔÇØ and when IÔÇÖm in those flow moments IÔÇÖm like ÔÇ£Oh, IÔÇÖm really sorry, but I just donÔÇÖt know what I did, I just did somethingÔÇØ.
Cameron: So what was it like in the experience? How did you approach the rock?
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. IÔÇÖve 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 thatÔÇÖs there.
I donÔÇÖt know if IÔÇÖd 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 itÔÇÖs ÔÇ£right foot, right hand, left foot, left handÔÇØ, very specific movements that are all separate. ItÔÇÖs also binary in the sense that you either do it or you donÔÇÖt! But in a flow state, it feels like the movements arenÔÇÖt divided into separate moves anymore. You know what I mean? ItÔÇÖs not like youÔÇÖre moving from one movement to the next movement; itÔÇÖs all just one complete movement in flow.
So, in that corner it was like I was moving up, and it wasnÔÇÖt this awkward ÔÇ£right-leftÔÇØ 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 itÔÇÖs more like what I was saying. The rock doesnÔÇÖt provide the sort of black and white challenge, like ÔÇ£I did that move or I didnÔÇÖtÔÇØ, or ÔÇ£I did that pieceÔÇØ. I suppose itÔÇÖs very much linked to the idea of success-failure, goal and everything. IÔÇÖve always found that when IÔÇÖm in that flow I totally let go of that desire to succeed and to do the route. IÔÇÖm just so focused on the next move and the next bit of climbing.
You know, when I start a route IÔÇÖm like ÔÇ£Okay, come on! You can do it!ÔÇØ ÔÇô You know, all that positive thinking is running through your head. Or if youÔÇÖre having a negative day it might be like ÔÇ£Oh, I feel like sh** – just give it your best shot anywayÔÇØ. Whereas when youÔÇÖre in flow, all of those ideas about yourself versus the rock kind of thing just fall away. So usually if IÔÇÖm in that flow, even if I fall off and I fail, I usually donÔÇÖt care because I know that I was climbing my absolute best because I was in that state. So it just doesnÔÇÖt bother me that I failed, because what more could I have wanted from that experience? Nothing, because I was doing my best. So, thatÔÇÖs why I love it so much!!
I always feel like itÔÇÖs the rock that forces me to be in flow. I never really feel like itÔÇÖs 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. IÔÇÖve accessed flow on really bad days, when my thoughts have been totally negative and IÔÇÖm really unconfident. But then just something about the climb IÔÇÖm doing forces me into it. I can have good days and just access it for some reason, I donÔÇÖt know! I just feel like itÔÇÖs the rock!
I totally agree with this ÔÇ£skill meets challengeÔÇØ 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 itÔÇÖs a bit like when youÔÇÖre driving a car. Often thereÔÇÖll be other thoughts going through your head, so itÔÇÖs not as intense and experience of flow. But itÔÇÖs the sort of thing where IÔÇÖm 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; thatÔÇÖs when the challenge is way below my skill set. IÔÇÖm 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. ThatÔÇÖs something I want to work on.
Cameron: When do you most experience flow?
ItÔÇÖs being on the hard routes, on hard rock climbs. ThatÔÇÖs the thing about climbing on natural rock; no-one made it, no-one designed it. So really itÔÇÖs 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 canÔÇÖt reach the holds, IÔÇÖm not tall enough or strong enough or whatever, then IÔÇÖll just fail. IÔÇÖll snap out of flow; the challenge became too hard for me. So really, I feel like itÔÇÖs 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 itÔÇÖs 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 weÔÇÖre 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. ThatÔÇÖs what makes climbing different.
The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Martina for her time and energy.
Jon Turk has ja heart like a cauliflower, and a zest for flow like no other. Jon was an adventurer finalist for Canadian ÔÇ£National Magazine AwardsÔÇØ (2015 ÔÇô 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 didnÔÇÖt we turn back?
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 ÔÇ£I wantsÔÇØ. 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 ÔÇ£ski the goodsÔÇØ, 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, ÔÇ£Hey, guys. I think we should turn back.ÔÇØ Two distractions steering us away from FLOW ÔÇô internal and external. And the distractions fed on one another. I thought, ÔÇ£We donÔÇÖt need to do this,ÔÇØ 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. ÔÇ£Why canÔÇÖt we just ski from here?ÔÇØ I mumbled, quietly, almost to myself.
Suddenly, my wife, Nina, stopped. I was in line behind her.
ÔÇ£WhatÔÇÖs up?ÔÇØ I asked.
ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm not going up there,ÔÇØ 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 didnÔÇÖt 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.
Fraser Pash gives us the low down of his recent performance.
I sat there sipping on my drink wondering ÔÇÿwhat the hell are we listening to?ÔÇÖ IÔÇÖm up next and I still havenÔÇÖt decided what IÔÇÖm going to play. IÔÇÖve spent weeks practicing a song. Trying out different tunings and transpositions to get the best sound out of my guitar and my voice. But IÔÇÖve 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. IÔÇÖm going to play my own song.
Maybe IÔÇÖm more comfortable playing my own music, maybe I enjoy the higher risk of judgement from letting people hear it. IÔÇÖve 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.
Whilst there is little to no research done to consider the correlation between playing oneÔÇÖs own music and playing someon e elseÔÇÖs, there is plenty done to reveal the relationship between flow and music as a whole (although thereÔÇÖs 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 ÔÇ£flow was predicted by the amount of daily practice and trait emotional intelligenceÔÇØ. 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 elseÔÇÖs 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.
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: ÔÇÿwhen we overclock computer components they degrade faster, is hacking into flow just overclocking our bodies?ÔÇÖ Short answer; no. But letÔÇÖs dig a little deeper.
Normally when someone talks about overclocking their computer, they specifically mean the processor (CPU). (I wonÔÇÖt go into architectural detail of CPUÔÇÖs, as we would be here for weeks, but it is fascinating stuff if youÔÇÖre interested) It carries out all the complex calculations and keeps all the other components running in time with each other. It is essentially the ÔÇÿprocessing brainÔÇÖ of the computer. So the CPU has a standard ÔÇÿbaseÔÇÖ 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 thatÔÇÖs 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.
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 ÔÇÿcomponentsÔÇÖ? Well, no it wonÔÇÖt. 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 doesnÔÇÖt 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 bodyÔÇÖs 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 donÔÇÖt 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.
For those that donÔÇÖt know Sarah Hendrickson, meet one of the most exciting female athletes around.
Sarah Hendrickson is an American ski jumper who won the first ever womenÔÇÖs 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:
ÔÇó 22-time World Cup Medalist (13 Gold, 6 Silver, 3 Bronze)
ÔÇó 13-time Continental Cup Medalist (4 Gold, 4 Silver, 5 Bronze)
ÔÇó 2014, Olympic Winter Games, 21st
ÔÇó 2013, World Cup, Second Place Overall
ÔÇó 2013, World Championships Gold Medalist
ÔÇó 2012, World Cup Overall Champion
ÔÇó 2011, U.S. Normal Hill Champion
ÔÇó 2011, World Championships Normal Hill 16th place
ÔÇó 2009, World Championships Normal Hill 29th place
Anyway, enough intro, letÔÇÖs get on with what Sarah had to say.
So tell me about your flow experiences.
I think that time at the world championships. I remember being at the top and just so nervous. I was like ÔÇ£I canÔÇÖt feel my feet right now! I donÔÇÖt know how IÔÇÖm going to do this!ÔÇØ 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 donÔÇÖt know how I performed to that level with that much pressure, my mind just took over and muscle memory and everything. It was like ÔÇ£Okay, you know what to do subconsciously, and just focusÔÇØ. ItÔÇÖs kind of hard to explain.
Yeah, especially when you remember it. You get all those feelings and tingly sensations, and then youÔÇÖre like ÔÇ£But, butÔÇª How did it happen?!ÔÇØ
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?
I guess effortless is almost the right word. Your body is doing all these things, but itÔÇÖs subconscious, you donÔÇÖt have to think about it right there. ItÔÇÖs hard to explain, I guess effortless and flawless, almost numb. But thatÔÇÖs 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 ÔÇ£My feet are numb!ÔÇØ I was kind of freaking out, thinking ÔÇ£How am I going to pull this off?ÔÇØ then I was just like ÔÇ£Well, nothing to lose now. Just shake it out.ÔÇØ ThatÔÇÖs when the hours of training comes in, the muscle memory, your mind just goes into reserve mode, just donÔÇÖt focus on the pressure, donÔÇÖt focus on the small details; everything will run its course.
What did you do to help you focus and get into that state?
I blocked out the outside world. When IÔÇÖm jumping, IÔÇÖve been jumping for 13 years now, I just focus on one or two really simple things. It doesnÔÇÖt mean anything to the outside world because theyÔÇÖre 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 didnÔÇÖt need to focus on the other stuff because I was in that mind set, the muscle memory or whatever would just take over.
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?
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 donÔÇÖt hear the outside. IÔÇÖll even try and shake my head so that I donÔÇÖt hear. I just donÔÇÖt want to hear that, you canÔÇÖt think about jumping a certain distance, thatÔÇÖs not how it happens. You have to focus on the miniscule things, thatÔÇÖs going to make you jump further. Repetition and even whispering words out loud sometime, or just yelling in my head.
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 youÔÇÖre walking up the steps, preparing, or when youÔÇÖre sitting down, or just before you take off?
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. IÔÇÖm kind of OCD, so those things are just zeroed in. I know exactly what time I need to put on my stuff, when IÔÇÖm 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.
Do you have any other big flow experiences? Maybe one that tops the world championship?
ItÔÇÖs a bit different, because I didnÔÇÖt 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 wasnÔÇÖt 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 wasnÔÇÖt 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 ÔÇ£Oh my God ÔÇô that was a million times better!ÔÇØ He was like ÔÇ£You showed up for game day! Regardless of the pain youÔÇÖre in and everything youÔÇÖve 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!ÔÇØ
I was just in that kind of mindset. I just pushed the pain away, pushed every doubt and piece of junk that IÔÇÖd 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.
What helped you jump that morning?
I donÔÇÖt know! I just thought ÔÇ£DonÔÇÖt have any regrets. YouÔÇÖve trained so hard to be here. Maybe youÔÇÖre not at your strongest but youÔÇÖve worked so hard, now letÔÇÖs prove itÔÇØ. I had to change my warm-up and everything, my knee was so bad I couldnÔÇÖt even run. But I figured IÔÇÖve got three more jumps today, then IÔÇÖm done. After today I can just rest and reassess everything. I had another surgery after that, but it didnÔÇÖt matter at that point, I was just like ÔÇ£Show them what youÔÇÖve got!ÔÇØ IÔÇÖm 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 youÔÇÖre super competitive in ski jumping it just doesnÔÇÖt work. We all say that technically, itÔÇÖs a very simple sport, but itÔÇÖs against everything that your body wants to do, so when you get too focused thereÔÇÖs no flow to it. ItÔÇÖs too choppy; itÔÇÖs 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.
So what do you do to help yourself stay relaxed?
Well, IÔÇÖm friends with a lot of the girls from the other nations, so weÔÇÖll all be talking at the top of the hill, kind of joking around before getting ready to go. Like if itÔÇÖs been a bad day and IÔÇÖm kind of down on myself I think ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm not going to pull of the best jump right now, but look at the view! Think how hard you worked to get here, youÔÇÖre so fortunate to be here.ÔÇØ 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 itÔÇÖs stressful.
Sometimes thatÔÇÖs easy to get down on, then I think ÔÇ£why do I put so much pressure on myself?ÔÇØ I try to step away from all that negativity and just appreciate where I am. You canÔÇÖt have a good day every day and the people that really matter, the ones closest to me, they know that IÔÇÖve worked really hard to get here and are just like ÔÇ£Alright, shrug it off, you canÔÇÖt be on top every single day.ÔÇØ
The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Sarah Hendrickson and the Wasserman Group for their time and energy.
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, itÔÇÖs not going to suddenly start flying backwards, so our brains predict the path of the plane and thatÔÇÖs how we are able to see what is going on in the present. But what happens when something does change in an instant? ThatÔÇÖs 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. LetÔÇÖs take a second or two to pause ÔÇô 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. ThatÔÇÖs 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.
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 itÔÇÖs likely that someone like a fighter pilot has a shorter delay – and so lives less ÔÇÿin the pastÔÇÖ and more ÔÇÿin the nowÔÇÖ. 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?
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 ÔÇô by his own admission.
Although we donÔÇÖt 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 ÔÇô is this living in the present?
ÔÇ£Elementary dear Watson, elementary!ÔÇØ
For years people have called a flow state ÔÇÿbeing in the zoneÔÇÖ, although this is not entirely accurate (I sense a different article coming), would a more accurate term be ÔÇÿbeing in the nowÔÇÖ?
When we went in search of the ultimate base jumper and skydiver, we expected to find someone extraordinary – someone who was used to pushing the limits and had the ability to freeze time. When we finally hooked up with Douggs he was everything we had been looking for and more. Douggs’ wealth of experience is nothing short of outstanding.
Douggs has felt flow frequently, in multiple arenas, and when he is not pretending to be Superman he is a motivational speaker, TV presenter, commentator, author, film maker, and stunt man. Douggs is one of the worldÔÇÖs most experienced BASE jumpers, respected both inside and outside the sport. He is a World Champion, World Record holder, and completed well over 3200 BASE jumps and 7000 skydives across more than 42 countries.
His list of achievements and highlights include: 2014 World Wingsuit League, China – 2013 World Record for most base jumpers jumping indoors – 2013 First ever BASE jumps in Kuwait from Al Hamra Tower – 2013 1st place in World Extreme Base Championships, Spain – 2013 1st place in Accuracy Competitions in both Turkey & China -2012 World first night human slingshot, Dubai – 2011 World BASE Championships, 2nd place -2008 UK ProBase ÔÇÿBritish OpenÔÇÖ: Overall Champion – 2003/04 BASE jumping World Champion: 1st place Aerobatics, 1st place Team, 1st place overall – Many expeditions throughout remote parts of the world including, Baffin Island, China, Norway, New Zealand & 37 other countries -1998 ÔÇô 2003, 6 time Australian National Skydiving Champion in 4 way and 8 way RW – 2001 ÔÇô 2003 Australian team member for World Championships – 2002 World Record: 300 way skydive – 12 Gold medals in various state events – and much more.
As you can imagine, our interview with Douggs was very insightful.
In skydiving and base jumping itÔÇÖs (flow) called the zone, but IÔÇÖve never heard the actual technical term for it before.
Yeah, yeah. ItÔÇÖs called different things. Jazz musicians call it ‘being in the pocket’. Different people have different names for it, but everyone knows it when you talk about it. You know, itÔÇÖs that moment where weÔÇÖre completely engulfed and everythingÔÇÖs just at one, weÔÇÖre highly connected and time seems to pause, but then you come out of it and then time forwards winds, and youÔÇÖre like ÔÇ£Oh my God, what just happened?ÔÇØ
IÔÇÖve written a number of articles it. ThereÔÇÖs no past, no future, thereÔÇÖs just this present. I call it the now.
ItÔÇÖs an incredible feeling. And once you submit to it, thatÔÇÖsÔÇª Like, when youÔÇÖre shaking on the edge or whatever, and then you commit and submit and take those three deep breaths then everything goes still and quiet, and then that beautiful silence that first second is just incredible…and then off we go, and then thatÔÇÖs when you hit it.
ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇô Chris on starting out ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇö-
Base jumping has been the best thing ever for me because itÔÇÖs allowed me to take everything IÔÇÖve learnt in jumping and take it to ordinary life, which has just given me endless possibilities; thereÔÇÖs no negatives, only positives. ThereÔÇÖs onlyÔÇª You know, the cupÔÇÖs always half full now. I think thatÔÇÖs the right one. [laughs] Do you know what I mean? Like, I was lucky I got into base jumping super early and found it, and it just blew me away. I mean, on my first skydive I still blacked out for over five seconds, you know, so my brain wasnÔÇÖt able to process that information at all.
But then I was intrigued by that, went straight back up and did another one. IÔÇÖve never been able to get that sensation again, except forÔÇöthe closest I ever got was when we did a human slingshot a couple of years ago in Dubai, and long storyÔÇöthereÔÇÖs a video online about it, but we were shooting out so fast that I think we were doing zero to 200 in about a second, about 6-7 Gs, I was able to process the information, but I was almost on my limit of processing it, it was interesting. ItÔÇÖs the only time I got that sensation (complete shut off) back since my first skydive.
I think itÔÇÖs called sensory overload. ItÔÇÖs where your brain is just receiving too much information and it shuts down. But yeah, you never get it back really, so itÔÇÖs interesting. IÔÇÖve always been intrigued from day one about it all.
ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇô Chris on his flow experiences ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇö-
Just when you see IÔÇÖm in a really good state of flow I generally smile [laughs] because itÔÇÖs just…IÔÇÖm actually really relaxed. So, that jump (where I was smiling)ÔÇª It took us five jumps that day to get to that point.
(When in flow) You can just see more, so I see things off in the distance, the cameraman sitting there, and I saw 15 seconds flying past at about 200 Ks/hour, and I smiled at him as I went past super casually. So, thatÔÇÖsÔÇª everythingÔÇÖs sort ofÔÇª Almost happy. [laughs] Like, in this calm trance-like state, but like The Matrix, you know, like ÔÇ£Sh**, itÔÇÖs actually moving fastÔÇØ but youÔÇÖve just made it all stand still. ThatÔÇÖs when I really enjoy it, because everyoneÔÇÖs like ÔÇ£Oh wow, you must get this big adrenaline rush when you do this!ÔÇØ and IÔÇÖm like ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt actually.ÔÇØ [laughs] I get really, really calm and really tranquil.
I was just doing some stuff out of my comfort zone this last week, and sh**ÔÇÖs moving fast still, but when we get comfortable then everything just slows down and itÔÇÖs just poetic almost; itÔÇÖs beautiful.
You almost ~not~ feel invincible, thatÔÇÖs a good word for it. YouÔÇÖre justÔÇª youÔÇÖre on another level to everyone and everything around you. I mean, thatÔÇÖs animal instinct, thatÔÇÖs what animals get. TheyÔÇÖre always in flow [laughs].
Another way to explain it is, when we jump off a waterfall ~and~ jump in snow, you ~hit~ that microsecond of a point where everything stops, and if youÔÇÖre in flow, which I generally am, youÔÇÖd stop for a lot longer than a microsecond. YouÔÇÖre falling at the same speed as the water droplets, or the same speed as the snow, and whilst itÔÇÖs only a microsecond you can make it last for seconds, and then it speeds up really quick! ItÔÇÖs exactly like the movies basically.
I mean, thatÔÇÖs what The Matrix did, The Matrix put flow into cinema, in my opinion. I always use The Matrix as my way to try and explain it best to the layman, because it shows it clearly on cinema how it all works.
ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇô Chris on his flow limits ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇö-
In traffic (driving)…I can ~miss~, I can can ~swirve~ and miss and do whatever, I just process that information really, really f**king quickly. And then ÔÇö one that really stands out, my cousinÔÇÖs a very good motorbike rider, and we did this trail riding ÔÇô super fast, super thin ÔÇô and I couldnÔÇÖt (find flow) ÔÇöit was the first time when I was like ÔÇ£Mother f**ker! I canÔÇÖt keep up with my cousin!ÔÇØ
When heÔÇÖs riding a bike heÔÇÖs in flow for sure, but I couldnÔÇÖt get there ÔÇô IÔÇÖm not good enough on a bike. That was the first time I really understood that I wasnÔÇÖtÔÇª not invincible, and I can’t always find flow. Do you know what I mean? Because you walk around just feelingÔÇª not better than everyone else, justÔÇª like, you f**king own it all the time, you know, and thatÔÇÖs what makes a champion as well; youÔÇÖve got to be able to own it. Confidence and arrogance is a fine line, but youÔÇÖve got to walk that line all the time, you know.
More arrogant when youÔÇÖre younger, more confident when youÔÇÖre older. [laughs]
ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇô Chris on his preparation for flow ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇö-
What prep helps you get into flow?
For me, training and visualisation for sure.
I mean, I jump all the time, and IÔÇÖm doing extreme sports all the time. When IÔÇÖm speed flying, IÔÇÖm absolutely in flow when IÔÇÖm speed flying as well, but not while IÔÇÖm on skis, because IÔÇÖm a sh** skier; as soon as I take off I can do anything. But training for sure. And I think over time being in mountainous environment and an ocean environment so muchÔÇª you adapt.ÔÇª Do you know a guy called Dean Potter?
Very ~advanced~ climber. HeÔÇÖs a good friend of mine now, and watching him in the mountains is justÔÇª He is a mountain man, you know, because he can adapt, heÔÇÖs done so much time in the mountains that itÔÇÖs second nature for him. He doesnÔÇÖt use ropes pretty much ever. He can just climb mountains because heÔÇÖs put himself in that situation. Same as the watermen, your Laird Hamiltons and stuff like that. If I put myself in a situation long enough then the moreÔÇª And also, I do seminars on aerobatics in base, and what I learnt from doing hardcore aerobaticsÔÇª You know, like from 450 feet doing four or five flips or whateverÔÇª Starting from single flips, learning and then pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing, getting to a point whereÔÇª Like, for us itÔÇÖs that we have to, I have to accept my own limitations way earlier than I would like ÔÇô because I donÔÇÖt want to die, you know ÔÇô so I donÔÇÖt run at 100% ever really.
But, what IÔÇÖve learnt was that coming back from say doing four-five flips on a jump to doing one flip on a jump opens the world up way more. So, you sort of need to push yourself that harder and see with blinkers on, to then pull back and be able to see the world with open eyes. ThatÔÇÖs really interesting, and itÔÇÖs very hard to tell a 20-year old kid to do that because they just want to go crazy. But after coming full circle I donÔÇÖt generally do all the big flips anymore, I just do the slow rotating ones. IÔÇÖd be upside down, waving at people in a restaurant off a building or something, because IÔÇÖm in the flow. But being able to do heaps of flips first has helped me reach that perspective. So, now my brain expects me to do all that stuff, and then when I ~lay it back~ a bit then the brainÔÇÖs like ÔÇ£Oh yeah, this is much cooler!ÔÇØ [laughs] So, I teach people to not fly with blinkers on with everything they doing, to work themselves up to it and not rush into it. Work themselves up to it, and then when you pull back youÔÇÖre good. But on the other spectrum of that, the guysÔÇöI mean, weÔÇÖve just lost a friend last year. They were pushing, pushing, pushing; their 100% performance became a normal percent. My normal performance is 30-50 percent now, just because IÔÇÖve lost so many friends and IÔÇÖm having such a great life. But these guys are pushing so hard, their normal becomes 100%. And you almost need 100% sometimes, because weÔÇÖre not perfect humans, so when these guys need an extra spike they didnÔÇÖt have it and died from it.
So, I try and teach that a lot as well, becauseÔÇª Yeah, running at 100% all the timeÔÇª thatÔÇÖs not good for our sport. ItÔÇÖs not surfing where you can sort of get away with it, or skating where youÔÇÖll break your ankle or something ÔÇô we generally die. So, our sportÔÇª Whilst our sport is actually one of the safest extreme sports out there, when it goes wrong we die ÔÇô itÔÇÖs very simple. ItÔÇÖs not a broken ankle or things like that, so itÔÇÖs a real tricky one for helping others with that.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, itÔÇÖs ~powerful~ what makes the skydiving such an amazing sport for flow, in terms of flow, when you think about it. You know, the consequences are so high when youÔÇÖre pushing it that youÔÇÖre almost forced into a state of flow. Your senses engage, the mind has to shut off because it justÔÇª it canÔÇÖt compute everything thatÔÇÖs going on and make those decisions that you need to make, and youÔÇÖre forced into it. What do you do just before you jump off? You mentioned earlier, you said you take a couple of deep breaths and you kind of sit there.
Yeah. Like, off a cliffÔÇöplanes are different because itÔÇÖs so noisy and youÔÇÖve got to go at the same time, but from a cliff IÔÇÖll gear up. These days IÔÇÖll justÔÇöwell, obviously IÔÇÖve got a lot of jumps, so it definitely has evolved, but IÔÇÖm always scared, thatÔÇÖs one key; IÔÇÖm always making sure I stay scared. ThatÔÇÖs one of the key aspects to getting into flow I reckon as well, donÔÇÖt be overconfident with everything. And thenÔÇª Yeah, so IÔÇÖll gear up and IÔÇÖll prep myself on everything. So, the weather, my skill level, my gut feeling that day, the object that IÔÇÖm jumping off. You know, because sometimes IÔÇÖll walk away as well, and sometimes I wonÔÇÖt jump stuff that my students jump. You know, I have my own littleÔÇª my own path.
But then once IÔÇÖm geared up IÔÇÖll double-check, triple-check everything, make sure IÔÇÖm cool, and then that way when I go to the edge the only thing IÔÇÖm scared of is being scared. ThatÔÇÖs a key for me as well, because then your mind doesnÔÇÖt have to think about anything else, it can channel in and focus. And then when itÔÇÖs time to goÔÇª Yeah, generally IÔÇÖll be freaking out, but thatÔÇÖsÔÇª YouÔÇÖve got to turn that negative fear into a positive fear. ThatÔÇÖs when IÔÇÖll take three (deep breaths)ÔÇöbecause youÔÇÖre going to do it anyway [laughs], so you might as well do it correctly. You know, if it gets too much IÔÇÖd walk away and stuff, but I understand my body and my consciousness.
So yeah, when it is time to go IÔÇÖll takeÔÇª basically calm down, take three deep breaths, and on the third breath or fourth breath or whatever IÔÇÖll generally just head off. And that way just before you go youÔÇÖre completely calm, very tranquil, and about to throw yourself into the unknown. But, I mean, if itÔÇÖs the unknown unknown then thatÔÇÖs another ball gameÔÇª Like, I do know the outcome could be bad, but itÔÇÖs a calculated risk, so itÔÇÖs a very small chance as such, but it could definitely still happen any jump ÔÇô IÔÇÖm no more special than anyone else. But once you put yourself in that position and you go then itÔÇÖs on, and then youÔÇÖre just hyperaware of everything.
IÔÇÖll always put myself in uncomfortable positions. Like, just recently I was doing this seminar in front of 120 legends of the sport, and then putting myself up to do a song actually at the ~talent night~ in front of the same people.
And I wasÔÇöthey saw me physically shaking with the lyrics, you know, and I still put myself there even though it was f**king terrifying.
But, you know, I like doing that. The song was a good one because I was so nervous and my voice was so sh**ful, and then by the end IÔÇÖve got the whole crowd clapping and singing with me because IÔÇÖd entered flow basically in a different environment and just went into rockstar mode sort of thing, without the talent by the way.
And by the end I was good, and then afterwards IÔÇÖm like f**king ~freaking~ out again, but IÔÇÖd hit that for about a minute of that song, I hit the flow basically. And same with the talks as well, you start out nervous. Dean Potter actually helped me, trying toÔÇöI try to do as much motivational speaking as I can now to overcome one of my biggest fears, and he said ÔÇ£Just learn the first two sentences.ÔÇØ [laughs] ÔÇ£Just memorise the first two sentences. YouÔÇÖve got to start ~say~, and the rest will just pick up in your state of flow basically.ÔÇØ
ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇô Chris on his preparation for flow ÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇöÔÇö-
We would like to thank Douggs for his time and insight. We look forwards to following and helping Douggs in his future expeditions.
Dropping down 70ft waterfalls whilst pinned into a kayak is not for the fainthearted. However, for Nick Troutman, this is what he lives for. Most people would hit the panic alarm, but Nick is so used to getting into flow, he even does emergency adjustments as he is dropping vertically.
Nick Troutman is a world champion and five-time national champion kayaker, filmmaker, and philanthropist. He is highly respected in the river-sport community, and in addition to his competitive achievements has established several first descents while on expeditions in Mexico, Newfoundland, Ottawa, Zambia, Quebec, and the Niagara Gorge. His commitment to the river and exceptional kayaking skills are what drove us to track him down and ask him to join The Flow Centre.
To share some of his key insights we have created this blog so you can get to understand this unbelievable athlete.
We are driving around, checking out a whole bunch of different rivers and stuff.
Nice! How long are you there for?
WeÔÇÖre on the road probably for the next 8 to 10 months, I guess probably 8 months ÔÇô until like October, November. So, driving around in different states and countries and stuff like that.
Yeah ÔÇô tough life! (laughs)
Then back to Tennessee. Yeah, itÔÇÖs not too bad. (chuckle)
——————————– Cut to more juicy parts ————————————-
When asked about whether he has experienced flow Nick’s response was:
Yeah, definitely – youÔÇÖve studied it a lot and are very knowledgeable on the whole thing, but what youÔÇÖre describingÔÇª I definitely have experienced that, and itÔÇÖs like ÔÇ£Oh yeah.ÔÇØ
Then thereÔÇÖs the times where…it seems likeÔÇª like an out-of-body experience, or that like youÔÇÖre no longer in control; where youÔÇÖre like ÔÇ£Whoa, how did that happen?!ÔÇØ
I guess the cool part would be to figure out how to get into it more often, being that whenever IÔÇÖm in the flow state I feel like IÔÇÖm just way better.
——————————– Nick explaining his top flow moments ————————————-
I guess one of themÔÇª It happened several times, but one of them thatÔÇÖs has been very memorable for me wasÔÇª Actually, itÔÇÖs in the video I think, the highlight reel, where IÔÇÖm running a waterfall, IÔÇÖm in the green kayak and I slow it down in the video. Running that waterfall, we were there with a photographer and we kind of had to wait at the ~lip~ for like a couple of hours for him to get set up. And so the whole time of trying to just sit there calmly and be like ÔÇ£Okay, IÔÇÖm not even going to think about the waterfall. I scouted it, I know the line and IÔÇÖm going to nail the line.ÔÇØ type of thing, but then I had to really focus on, like zoning out and thinking about something totally different for the next couple of hoursÔÇª Because the longer I scout the waterfall and look at the waterfall, the more IÔÇª what I call getting demons in my head, but the more I think of different possible outcomes, and then maybe after thinking of all the different possible outcomes a bad outcome comes into my mind, and IÔÇÖm like ÔÇ£Well, if IÔÇÖm already imagining bad outcomes then I donÔÇÖt want to run the waterfall anymore.ÔÇØ so I try to only think of the good outcomes.
But anyway, it was kind of this weird experience to zone out at the ~lip of this~ waterfall and just think of other stuff. And then when I did run the waterfall, itÔÇÖs almost likeÔÇª hard for me to recall, because itÔÇÖs like I paddled in, and then I knew the line that I wanted to do ÔÇô like, get close to the left ÔÇô but then my boat spun a little bit and I had to do this correction stroke and pull it back while I was dropping down vertical ÔÇô like, a lot of different boat control happening all at once. And I donÔÇÖt necessarily remember doing any of it, I just did it. There was never like an ÔÇ£Oh, sh**! IÔÇÖm not where I want to be, I need to correct this.ÔÇØ or ÔÇ£Oh, it would be better if I did this.ÔÇ£ It was just likeÔÇª I wasnÔÇÖt thinking, I just did it all and it was perfect.
Then afterwards I remember being like ÔÇ£Oh, what just happened? How did I do that?ÔÇØ Like, I did a lot of things in a very short period of time and I donÔÇÖt remember trying to do any of them, I just did it all. It was just one of those experiences that I guess I felt like I wasnÔÇÖt thinking, I was just reacting, but reacting so quickly.
That was one of the ones that was super memorable for me, but that happens quite often to a certain extent, where you just kind of react I guess and youÔÇÖre not necessarilyÔÇª not thinking necessarily like ÔÇ£Oh, IÔÇÖm going to put here and pull myself that way, or IÔÇÖm going to do this and that.ÔÇØ ÔÇô you just kind of do it. I donÔÇÖt know if that has to do with ~just several~ years of paddling, or if itÔÇÖs some other thing in the brain, itÔÇÖs kind of like justÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know. ThereÔÇÖs a lot of things that happen that always made me wonder, like ÔÇ£Oh, I wonder how you do that?ÔÇØ or ÔÇ£I wonder ~whatÔÇÖs actually happening?ÔÇØ Because sometimes it feels like my brain just shuts off and I’m better when it does.
It was a very unique experience where just everything felt all connected and I could do whatever I wanted, it was almost like if I imagined it would work. Everything was happening quicker and better and easier, andÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know….a unique experience for sure. ThatÔÇÖs probably the strongest time that I can really remember, but it happens quite often doing anything thatÔÇÖsÔÇölike, what I consider technical whitewater, where IÔÇÖm nervous about a drop or a rapid or something like that, I frequently find that I kind ofÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know, I justÔÇª I guess you can call it like youÔÇÖre in the zone, or youÔÇÖre just more in-tuned maybe because ofÔÇª Whether itÔÇÖs fear or any of that that kicks in, or adrenaline, but sometimes the harder the whitewater the more I zone out and just react a little bit.
I keep saying reacting, and I donÔÇÖt know if thatÔÇÖs the right term or not, but I guess itÔÇÖs just the word that I use because IÔÇÖm not necessarily thinking like ÔÇ£Oh, I want to drive my boat farther this way or that way, or boof the hole or whatever.ÔÇØ I kind of just do it all, almost as if IÔÇÖm on autopilot and a much better paddler is paddling my boat.
So what about your freestyle experiences?
Yeah, I was going to say that in freestyle itÔÇÖs a bit differentÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know if itÔÇÖs a different experience or what, or maybe just a different level of the same kind of experience, but thereÔÇÖs definitely times whereÔÇª a couple in particular that I can think of where I just had the best rides I could possibly have. I donÔÇÖt know if itÔÇÖsÔÇölike obviously I was training hard for those events and practicing a lot and was in good physical shape and all that stuff, but at the same time itÔÇÖs a little different because you drop into the wave ÔÇô and youÔÇÖve got 60 seconds or 45 seconds, depending on the competition ÔÇô and it was just like bam-bam-bam, like I would just do one move right after another, right after another.
I wasnÔÇÖt wasting time, I wasnÔÇÖt doing anything, but I was very aware of where I was on the wave exactly, just super in-tune with my boat, my edge control, the current, the flows of the wave itself, and it just felt like I was almost invincible, the same kind of thing where whatever I wanted to do I could do and I did it. Being that youÔÇÖre under a time limit for the competition, the more tricks you do and the harder the tricks the more points you get, soÔÇª Yeah, I was able to do essentially everything that I wanted to do.
So what routines or preparation did you have prior to the comp that helped you get into flow?
Going into the competition I had a set routine that I wanted to do, but I hadnÔÇÖt necessarily ever completed it in the time frame before or even in practice. But it was just like I could just drop in and do whatever I wanted, and if I was in the wrong spot of the wave or something like that then I could just re-manoeuvre myself and I could get back into the right spot and continue going way quicker than normal. I guess a lot of it is just youÔÇÖre not wasting time thinking, youÔÇÖre just doing, which is pretty cool.
Both of them I was doing a lot of mental practice, just essentially doing the routine in my head. But a lot of it as well was just really trying to stay positive. In both situations there was a lot of pressure and a lot of peopleÔÇª YouÔÇÖre sitting in agony with all the rest of the people that are in finals, and thereÔÇÖs just this severe amount of stress in the air, you can just feel that everybody is stressed. For me, at the time it was likeÔÇª I had this bubble around me, and I would just be so happy and try to calm everybody else down. IÔÇÖd be like ÔÇ£Hey guys, no need to stress! This is so much fun!ÔÇØ and just really being super positive about the whole experience, and I think that same positivity then, when I would drop into the ~feature~, there was no stress about flushing or missing a trick or anything like that, and justÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know, I just had this feeling like I know IÔÇÖm going to do it (Win World Championships).
Maybe thatÔÇÖs why I was also so positive at the time, or maybe that feeling came because of the positive outlook beforehand. But yeah, thatÔÇÖsÔÇª ItÔÇÖs a very unique experience for sure. ItÔÇÖs a little bit like feeling invincible.
——————————– Nick explaining the disparity between flow and winning ————————————-
The first World Championships I ever did, I had a lot of really good rounds where I was winning the whole time, and then in the finals the wave changed for the very last ride, and I hadÔÇª At the time I was undefeated through the whole round, and I had this routine in my head that I was trying to do and I had never completed it, and then in my final ride of the event I completed it and I was just thinking like ÔÇ£Oh, IÔÇÖm untouchable ÔÇô nobody could touch that!ÔÇØ But, because the wave changed and it was a little foamier, some of the judges didnÔÇÖt like some of the tricks, and so I ended up in third. I guess itÔÇÖs a different thing (flow) to your resultsÔÇª Like, sometimes your results donÔÇÖt show, but the flow state still is there, if that makes any sense. Like, I could still tap into that same mindset, even though the results werenÔÇÖt the exact same.
——————————– Nick explaining why he endures such high risks and continues to love the sport ————————————-
It almost forces you to go into these fight, flight, freeze, or flow situations whereÔÇª Like, I was explaining before, once you peel out of an eddy and youÔÇÖre essentially approaching a rapidÔÇª There is no turning back, youÔÇÖre in the lion den, you have to come out victorious, or something horrible is going to go wrong. IÔÇÖve always explained when people ask why I love kayaking, I would explain that itÔÇÖs either the love of nature, which is definitely a part of it, but a big part of it is the forced decision-making. YouÔÇÖre forced into these situations to make extremely quick decisions. Like, riverÔÇÖs very different than a half-pipe, a half-pipe youÔÇÖve got something solid where youÔÇÖre going to go down and youÔÇÖre going to come back up.
You can run the same rapid 100 times, and because water, the way it flows through a river and stuff like that, itÔÇÖs never constant ÔÇô the only constant is that itÔÇÖs constantly changing. So, even though you can pick a line and youÔÇÖre like ÔÇ£Okay, this is the line IÔÇÖm going to take.ÔÇØ the current might push you a different way, or something might just happen, and definitelyÔÇª A huge part of why I love kayaking is because of that forced quick decision-making, and itÔÇÖs almost like the way you were explaining just the fourÔÇª What IÔÇÖm going to call the four Fs, the fight, flight, freeze, or flow situations. ItÔÇÖs like youÔÇÖre forcing yourself into these situations to be put into, to choose one of the four I guess.
——————————– End of interview ————————————-
We would like to thank Nick for his time and insight. We look forwards to following and helping Nick win Gold in the next championships.
This yearÔÇÖs World Surf League Margaret River Drug Aware Pro 2015 was a truly special event. Not only did I get to spend some time in the Competitors VIP Tent talking with the current best surfers in the world, but I also got to see some insane surfing in some of the best conditions this leg of the tour has seen in years. Some highlights of the event can be seen here.
I met up with Tom Carroll at the event to chat about flow and understand how it has been instrumental to his life and surfing. For those that don’t know Tom Carroll he has been voted as one of the top 10 greatest surfers of all time and been crowned World Champion twice. Even today, at the age of 53, he continues to push limits, searching the globe to ride the world’s biggest swells for his TV series ‘Storm Surfers’. In fact, when I met up with him, he had just taken a huge beating, injuring his hip, at the intimidating Boat Ramps surf break – a break not for the feint hearted, especially on a day like today with massive swell.
After speaking to Nat Young and Josh Kerr about flow, whose responses echoed the sentiment ‘flow – I’m always in flow, it’s what a I live for’, the legend himself talked about how he sees flow and how he plugs-in.
WhereÔÇÖs the mic on thisÔÇª down here. Maybe you hold it.
How did you feel when youÔÇÖre in it (Flow) and what was your top experiences like?
“Well, I had my first really clear flow movement experience when I was 13 years of age. Obviously IÔÇÖve done a lot of surfing, to that point, IÔÇÖve been already surfing since seven years of age. I was on a board that I absolutely loved, that really fitted into my body at that time. I was surfing a right-hand point-break which I hadnÔÇÖt experienced before, but it was a very comfortable place to surf, or something thatÔÇöI loved surfing a long wave where I got to do a lot of maneuvres on the wave. It was probably for the first time IÔÇÖd actually ridden a wave where I could do that many maneuvres on, so I was pretty excited. You know, just excited to be out there, loved the board, so I was in a very nice environment. And then, towards the end of the sessionÔÇª I never forget, taking a wave a little bit longer and further down the beach and getting drifted down the beach to a whole new wave.”
“There was no one surfing on it, I was by myself so I got into the flow moment, which I recognised as a moment in time where nothing could go wrong. All my timing was absolutely perfectly in harmony with the wave, perfectly in harmony with my body movements and my timing and my understanding of what was happening at that time. I couldnÔÇÖt get, I could not fall off the board even if I tried. That was a really clear moment, and I can feel it now, I can sense it in my body at this point ÔÇô IÔÇÖm 53 now so itÔÇÖs a long time ago! So yeah, youÔÇÖre looking at 40 years ago I can sort of get that real clear emotional response in my body to that.”
“It was a really lovely feeling, and I just wanted to stay out there and keep in that space, but obviously youÔÇÖve got to come in ÔÇô you know, itÔÇÖs getting dark.”
“It couldÔÇÖve lastedÔÇöI canÔÇÖt remember exactly the length of that time, but because of the nature of surfingÔÇª You know, IÔÇÖm paddling out, looking for waves, feeling whatÔÇÖs the best wave to take, feeling the drop, feeling the move on the wave, and feeling totally in sync with how the wave was moving, and the board and how I was moving on the wave. It probably lasted up toÔÇª You know, I probably came in and out of the experience through that hour or two, but it was long, elongated, suspendedÔÇª a suspended feeling of flow.”
Yeah. Describe when you were actually in it and on the wave, ~sort of~ the highest points.
“Yeah, yeah. The highest points was on the wave…
“IÔÇÖd noticed clearly that I couldnÔÇÖt fall off, that I was totally in sync. I could move wherever I wanted to, I knew with a sixth sense that I was able to push it, I was able to push my board to its limit and I could push myself to my limit at that time. There was no separation between me, the board and the wave, it was all connected and it was all kind of one thing, not separated at all; I was linked up”
“The future, drawing way off into the future for my second really clearÔÇª and in competition feeling the flow moment was at the Pipe Masters in 1991, I had two day of getting into the flow moment during competition. IÔÇÖd had a big year of competitive experience that year, I was ~fine-tuned~ emotionally, physically, and youÔÇÖd have to say spiritually at the same time. My wife was having our first child and she was full of little Jenna. SheÔÇÖs 23 now by the way and also a ballerina, so sheÔÇÖs felt the flow.”
“In that time at the Pipe Masters I had several moments where I was just doing and not being, or I guess I was being and not doing; I donÔÇÖt know how to separate that. I was in the flow in the moments where my body, the wave, the boardÔÇª nothing was in the way. Everything was in sync, everything was in clear focus and I wasnÔÇÖt thinking things through, I was just doing it and being it. There was a move that was recorded ÔÇô you know, they call it the snap ~heard~ around the world, there was that move that was done in the preliminary round, in the first day of competition, and then I ended up going on to win that event the next day. In the final I scored a 10-point ride, I got a very, very late drop where I couldnÔÇÖt think about it ÔÇô I was just doing it ÔÇô and I was able to sort myself, sort my body movement, sort everything out without having to think about it.”
“It was all second nature, it was all sixth sense, and most definitely for meÔÇª That day I was probably at the top of my game. So, yeah. That was two really clear examples of where IÔÇÖve been, but thereÔÇÖs probably beenÔÇª hundreds of moments where IÔÇÖve been felt the flow, and even to the point where I felt it the other day [laughs] here at Margaret River just practicing surfing, just for fun. Yeah.”
Obviously the critical elements of surfing, the big wave and the consequences of it hurting when it goes wrong help us to kind of push into that pocket and out of our brain and into that moment where we find flow. Is there anything else that you feel is a big help to kind of plugging into that? Is there anything that you do, maybe not consciously, or maybe preparation that leads up to it the morning of, or just before youÔÇÖre about to paddle, or when youÔÇÖre looking at the waves before you head out?
“I think connecting with the breath is probably the biggest thing for me. Connecting with my breath at the deepest level, like right down into the hip, into the hips and push my breath. Being aware of my breath and doing a number of breaths very, very consciously brings me further into my body, and thatÔÇÖs where I need to be. Quite often my scattered and very short attention span takes me out of my body, so coming back into my bodyÔÇª One particular exercise I used to do whilst competing was a chant, thatÔÇÖs where I used to say the four Ps which was power, precision, performance, perfect. Power, precision, performance, perfect ÔÇô itÔÇÖs like a chant.”
“A mantra yeah – whilst I was paddling, so each paddle IÔÇÖd say ÔÇ£powerÔÇØÔÇöas I was paddling out ÔÇ£power, precision, performance, perfectÔÇØ so my mind would remain focused on what was coming up next for me on the wave. On the wave everything sorted out because IÔÇÖve got to respond, I canÔÇÖt think, the waveÔÇÖs always sort of drawing me to the present, I canÔÇÖtÔÇª I donÔÇÖt have time because mother nature aintÔÇÖ going to wait for me. [laughs] SheÔÇÖs not going to wait, so what IÔÇÖve got to do is respond to her so that everythingÔÇÖs sorted out for me once IÔÇÖm stood up on the wave, as long as IÔÇÖm out of the way. So, getting myself out of the way by creatingÔÇöand IÔÇÖd learnt that working with a mantra helped a lot in bringing myself to the moment and keeping myself focused and not attendingÔÇöyou know, drifting off on to what the other competitorÔÇÖs doing, what the scores wereÔÇª I mean, I need to know what the scores were, but thatÔÇÖs secondary to my performance really.”
“IÔÇÖm the only one on the wave, IÔÇÖm the only one on my board, and I need to be connected to that. I donÔÇÖt sort of seek constantly and consciously to always be in the flow, I wouldnÔÇÖt say thatÔÇÖs my main aim, I wouldnÔÇÖt say thatÔÇÖsÔÇª I do look for it for competitive excellence, but notÔÇª itÔÇÖs not something that I always, always go for. I do allow myself space to beÔÇª you know, just to beÔÇª allowing my brain to move and be elastic so to speak. Because I think thatÔÇÖs absolutely crucial for flow.”
How do you think flow can help other people?
“I think it helps anyone just to be present in what theyÔÇÖre doing, and this is whatÔÇª this is pretty much another kind of meditative state that we get to where our body and mind and attention is really placed upon the most important thing, and that is right now. So, we get to attend to be a lot more present in our basic everyday task, whether itÔÇÖd be doing the washing-up [laughs], whether itÔÇÖd be opening the car door, whether itÔÇÖd beÔÇª Yeah, just being more present in our relationships, being more present in our life in general. I think ~itÔÇÖll~ help us become more able to make clearer decisions and actually help ourselves and others at the same time. It has such a multiple sort of faceted kind of plus to our lives when we get more present. This has been my experience and itÔÇÖs helped me a lot.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Tom Carroll for his time and words on flow and look forward to hearing his experiences and wisdom on flow in the future.