Flow, Time, Now
Many athletes describe the experience of flow as if time just stopped, they were out of their mind, and there was no concept of doubt only implicit trust and absolute confidence. Understanding time is key to allowing states of flow to occur.
The reality is time is a human concept that doesn’t exist except in our minds. It is a convention that us humans adhere to in order to make sense of this world, and manage our lives.
The universe has no real concept of time. Astronomical theories even believe black holes hold different parallels of time, a ship could spend one day in a black hole and come back to our galaxy only to find hundreds of years have passed. Clearly time is a matter of perspective, that we barely understand.
Even amongst our race we have measured time differently; for example the Chinese use a different annual calendar from ‘western’ calendars. As an individual our perception of time differs when we are a child when every hour seems endless, to when we are aged and weeks seem to fly by. Time flies by when we are having fun in the moment, but seems to last forever when we are watching the clock utterly bored. So time really only exists in our heads and in the apparatus we have created to measure it. Yet we have become obsessed with it. We plan our days by it, carry it around on our wrists, and get a sense of comfort and order from it.
Our conscious minds revel in the realms of time. Time has become a fuel for conscious thought. Our conscious mind lives in the past and future and struggles to exist in the now. If we take time to examine our thoughts we will find that most strings of thought can be connected to future projections or past experiences. It is very rare that we find ourselves simply enjoying the present, with no attachment to past experiences or future concerns or agendas. This obsession with living in our minds swinging to and from the past/future is one of the main culprits that hinders our states of flow.
Planning, reminiscing, and projecting are all symptoms of conscious thought, taking us away from the now. When we take our awareness into the future or past we create anxiety, doubt, worry, taking us further away from the resolute trust so apparent in flow. The future and past create a place for our fears to exist and survive. It empowers our fears to thrive and become real, taking us ever further away from our flow.
Understanding that the past and future only exist in our minds and time is a man made concept that we invented, helps us to understand that we are actually always living in the present, albeit not in our minds. Our body is a great reminder of this, although we can spend most of our waking hours in our own thoughts, the body lives and deals with what is now.
The subconscious manages and coordinates the body at an incredible speed. Every second the subconscious directs our blood flow, manages our neural messaging, processes our conscious thoughts, and a whole lot more in incredible efficiency and synchronicity. Considering our conscious mind struggles to process a handful of thoughts whilst our subconscious manages hundreds of highly complicated tasks effortlessly, I’m always amazed why we spend so much time letting our conscious minds pre-occupy our being. Although for the majority of our lives we are enslaved by our conscious mind our body is a constant reminder that a greater intelligence and processing already exists inside us, and only deals in the now. The body lives in the now and realises that there is nothing but the now. Our understanding that time is an illusion and is in fact very limiting, allows us to let go of our obsession with time and realise our natural state is actually congruent with flow. Which beckons the question, how come we don’t allow ourselves to be in the now and in flow more often?
Understanding what the now is, is often easier by understanding what it is not. Imagine (or do it) drawing a timeline down on a huge piece of paper, with our birth at one end and our death at the other. Now put a mark down on the time line where we are right now, reading this book, this second. Now as we take our awareness away from this book and in to our day, our week, and our thoughts that go through our brain on any given day. As a thought arises put it down on the timeline. Establish to what time period this thought is associated to. If it is 5 seconds in the past put it down just behind the marker of now. Are we thinking about something we should do later, or something that happened this morning? Keep doing this emptying the mind of your thoughts. When we have no thoughts left or at least 10-20 thoughts down on the paper, lets take a look at where they are on the timeline. If your like most of us humans, we can see very few, if any, of the thoughts we put down are actually in the now, in this second. So the now is not our thoughts, as they are directly or indirectly connected to time. Being in the now is being present with our awareness and senses to what is happening, without mind.
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