When Did You Stop Being in Flow?

When Did You Stop Being in Flow?

Flow Performance Skills Stories

An artist was once asked in an interview, “when did you start drawing?” He responded: “That’s not really the right question, the real question is, when did you stop drawing?” We all drew pictures as children and expressed ourselves creatively in one way or another. At some point however, many of us stopped. But why?

This sketch is a great analogy to our ability to access flow. Believe it or not, kids are in a small state of flow when they are drawing. They are in the moment, immersed in the task at hand, completely uninhibited and fully expressive of who they are at that particular moment. So when asked, “when did you start accessing flow?”, the real question is, “when did you stop?”

As we grow up and are influenced and shaped by our differing life stories, there is often a common thread. Many people loose the ability to let go and just be in the moment – in flow. What causes this? Underlying most of the obvious answers are a series of mental constructs that end up acting as barriers to flow.

The same reasons that caused you to stop drawing are quite possibly the same barriers stopping you from accessing flow. Perhaps at some point you thought you weren’t good at it. Something or someone projected that being good at something is important. Perhaps it became evident that you could not make a living off drawing. The reasons for your enjoyment might have become tied up in a multitude of factors other than the enjoyment itself. It is different for everyone, but at some stage we create a mental construct (belief/value/mindset) that prevents us from playing for the sake of playing – we tell ourselves to get on with the ‘real world’. play

When we were drawing as kids we were not seeking outcomes, results, or comparing ourselves to others, We were not seeking validation, trying to impress, trying to be good, labelling the action, or assigning value to our work. We drew or played for the sake of playing because we enjoyed the process. This enjoyment of the process and outcome independence is vital in flow.

Being in flow doesn’t magically make you an expert in your arena. Yes we can learn faster in flow, but it’s the rehearsal and work that goes into your practice that ultimately determines our skill level. Being in flow does however, provide the platform for the ultimate expression of your skill or task. The state of mind of the child drawing, where nothing but the experience of the moment matters, is the same for an athlete about to break a world record. The difference is their life experience up until that point, and the practice and training that has gone into their work. Should this child keep exploring drawing in this free, uninhibited way, there is no reason why they couldn’t produce amazing works of art in the future. But what usually happens? External factors get in the way. The child is often forced to question what they do and frame it in the context of what society values: socially defined outcomes, validation, skill, and monetisation.

So what does this mean for your own flow? Try to identify your own mental barriers. Do you still draw? Why not? Answering these questions could give you an indication of some of the barriers that exist for you. Think of the reasons that you are doing something. If you surf, it’s likely you do it for the love of the sport and not much else. It’s just so enjoyable that you just do it for the sake of doing it. It’s this attitude that can help you get into flow. You can do this when giving a presentation at work, or studying for an exam. You just have to remove all the other reasons you might be doing it, which are acting as mental barriers, and focus on the one. Find a reason to enjoy it. There’s always at least one.

 

joos-small  Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

Play and Flow

Flow

When we play we engage the subconscious and react instinctively, our minds and body become seemingly hard wired. We often do things without thinking about them or say things things without thinking about what we are saying, only to find ourselves questioning it afterwards. Our minds are not full of this conscious thought that occurs during post questioning, or when we think about our actions, we simply play.

Playing when we are young is natural, and almost essential, yet when we get older it becomes refreshing and sometimes scary. Our conscious minds become serious and full of control, belittling the act of play as something without purpose or value. How does it help us pay the rent? We should be training instead! How does it help us with our career? and so on. The older we get the more we activate the conscious mind through education, demands of society and the desire to act with the ego to keep us socially safe and of values to others. We become more and more attached to the self image of ourselves, that we project to others, which is generally made up of what we believe others want us to be. We start changing the clothes we wear to meet the projected self image we have made up, and even change our friends, our jobs and our hobbies to keep this self image intact and climbing the social ladder.

During all this time we loose the value of play and connection with our true self. We become obsessed with our self image and become to see this image of ourselves and actually who we are. Meanwhile every minute we spend on this self image we live in the conscious mind and loose connection with the subconscious. We build the ego, a sense of control, and a fear of loosing control as the conscious mind takes controls of our thoughts, our being, and our identity. Before long we are attached to our thoughts as if each thought represents who we are. We spend most of our day on our own heads entertaining the thoughts that fleet in and out. When we train and practise for our performances we order and expect the body to react and perform. We approach our training and performances with this egoic self image we have created, which is full of fear and self doubt, yet we expect our body to perform without nerves or self doubt. When we play well we congratulate the self image for being so good, when we perform badly, we tell ourselves we are rubbish or start blaming external factors.
We all share this pattern to some extent or another, it is part of being human and having an egoic conscious mind. The question that needs asking is, does it help our performances? Although the rational and logic of the conscious brain can help with structurally changes in our training regimes, debating different strategies, or analysing what we could do better, when it comes to the actual performance and we want to be in flow. Learning to use the mind as a tool rather the who we are is critical in obtaining flow more readily. When we learn to value play and prioritise it over our conscious thoughts during training and performances we become very close to being in flow. When we are playing we become attached to being in the moment, we start experiencing life in the here and now, and open up the opportunity for flow. When we play we do not think of the pressures around us, we simply play. When we play we do not focus on our weaknesses and doubts, we just play. When we play we do not demand or expect the body to do anything, the body simply plays willingly. When we play we do not question our motivation or worry about our energy levels, we simply are engulfed in play.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.

 

 

 

Getting into Trance for Flow

Getting into Trance for Flow

Tips and Training

 

Simply follow the following directions:

Make yourself comfortable either sitting or standing and focus on one small area out in front of you. Pick a spot that is above eye level. Maybe this is a small section on a wall or a tree outside, whatever you choose make sure it doesn’t move. Focus in on this one area, finding new detailed information the longer look. Keep your eyes on this one spot, staying fox all the time gaining as much information as used on the small detail you can see. Over a couple of minutes allow you vision to become very tunnelled as you go smaller and smaller, slowly becoming more and more aware of the detail in this small single point. When you have been transfixed on this one area for a couple of minutes, whilst keeping your eyes transfixed on this one spot, allow your periphery vision to widen. Start to see what is to the left and right of the spot you are staring on and keep widening you periphery vision until you can see the floor in front of you.

This is essentially what happens during our performances when we are focused on the task at hand whether that is looking at a tennis ball or our partners arm as we perform a complex dance move. We maintains fixed focus point, yet our periphery pick sup all the detail the body needs to know to do what it is doing. In examples see on the ball of playing tennis, whilst the focal point is focused on the ball, the periphery is taking in vital information such as how far away the net is, where the opponent is moving, where the line we are aiming for is positioned, and so on. The subconscious is busy digesting and adapting to this new information, so we can make the best shot available to us.

As take in the new visual information in your periphery, start to become aware of your other senses. Maybe, you can feel the wind against your face, the clothes against your skin, or the ground beneath your feet or bottom. Maybe you can hear noises around you both close and far aware. Allow all your senses to become heightened as you become fully connected to the moment. Turn up the senses like you turn up the volume button on a remote control. Become fully engaged as you experience the now, just as it is. Stay in this space for as long as you can, raining your mind to stay connected to the moment experiencing it without the grip of the conscious mind.

You may start to notice thoughts come in and out of your otherwise clear mind. When they do simply acknowledge them and let the flow out, as you would a leaf that floats past you in the wind. Simply be aware of them, and let the leave as quick as it came. Simply focus on connecting your senses to the moment. See if you can feel what is happening behind you, to the sides of you, below you and above you. Allow you presence to be all around you, almost as if I it exists outside of your body.

The above practice normally elicits a slight state of trance, a light state of hypnosis, our gateway to flow. The more we practice getting in and out of these states, the more we become aware of trance states already existing in our day to day lives. These trance states are very similar to the light trance states we experience when driving a car on auto pilot, or loosing time when we are engulfed in surfing the internet. We are doing what may seem a simple task without the conscious interference of stress, fear or other conscious thoughts. We do these task without ego and self image, we simply do them just as we breath, or pump blood round our body.  Trance, like flow, has no identification with the ego, it does not dwell in the realm of the conscious mind, it simply exists and functions effortlessly and incredible efficiently, just as we want all our performances to be.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.

 

 

A Deeper Connection

A Deeper Connection

Flow Sports Stories

 

Great singers connect deeply with their song, great actors connect deeply with their characters, and great surfers truly connect with the wave. Our connection to what we are doing or performing are often defined as the difference between good and great performances. This connection may seem strange as what we are trying to connect to may not exist. For example, a male musician connected with the music of the song he wrote, is connected to the emotions of the song, the sounds of the song, and the meaning of the song. He lives and breathes the song as if his mind and body are the song. He is in a deep trance, connected to abstract concepts such as notes and rhythm, that don’t exist physically, yet he can feel and experience them as if they are physically right in front of him or alive inside him. This musician is connected to the energy of the song, and is free for the song to flow through his mind and body and into his instrument and voice. As an observer we can feel and connect to this same energy of the performance, maybe not in the same intensity, but during that song we share a common experience and connection that may feel very alive.

Great performances may only occur once or twice in our lifetime for some, some may experience them more frequently, and some may have have never felt it. People who experience talk about them as if someone else was performing it, they felt truly connected to the moment as if time did not exist. During all these great performances, regardless of whether we are singing, dancing, or playing tennis, the performer enjoys a magical connection through a whole hearteded commitment to the performance. The performer becomes one with the performance, we don’t hide or hold back, we are completely engulfed in the moment. We are in flow, without conscious interference simply reacting, creating and performing perfectly in flow. What we are connecting to is a complex and much debated topic. Some say that god flows through us during these times, some say we are connected to a flurry of energy that surrounds the performance.

When we look at what the human mind and body essentially is, which is millions of vibrating atoms, brought together through various levels of energy, it is no wonder why connecting with other energies, or our own energy at this level feels so complete. Regardless of what we are connecting to, or what is happening at an energetic level, what is obvious is that we are without ego, without separation and connected as one to the performance. We reach a state that feels so natural and so true. We often feel part of something much bigger yet completely connected to ourselves if never before. We feel fully connected with our subconscious, flowing effortlessly with ease as the performance flows through us. We see the world with new eyes, we experience the moment like never before, our conscious mind simply observes with awe as if it is watching a movie. When the magical performance stops or we become distracted for a small period, we suddenly become a little disconnected. We feel separate and disconnected from ourself, from others and from the energy, that we were at one with. The consious mind has its chance to retake its grip and change from being an observer to the leader. The more this happens, the more we loose our connection.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.