Stop Living In The Past

Stop Living In The Past

Flow Performance Skills Sports

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

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

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

Red Arrows

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

“Practice dear Watson, practice”(Sherlock Holmes)

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

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

“Elementary dear Watson, elementary!”

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

Flow, Time, Now

Flow, Time, Now

Performance Skills


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.


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


Superman, Accidents and Flow

Superman, Accidents and Flow

Flow Stories


I had watched superman as a kid and always wondered what it would be like to fly. I wondered what it would be like to watch the world pass by as I soured through the air high above the ground. Only a few years ago I had undertaken a skydiving course and after several nervy flights I was flying solo across the skies racing trucks on the highways below. After 30 jumps or so I thought i knew what flying felt like, and what it was like to be superman, however, i was wrong.

I was flying through the air, and realised time had suddenly stopped. i was almost frozen in mid air, and i felt like time did not exist. It felt so invigorating that i decided, in mid wire 6ft off the ground, that i had been wrong about skydiving, there was so much more to being superman.
So much was going through my mind; I was examining the car below trying to decide whether it was fresh out of the showroom or maybe a year old, I wondered whether the car suited the driver or whether something more conservative would match his neatly trimmed moustache and perfectly knotted tie, I wondered why he was leaving the car park so quickly? Did he have a bad meeting and couldn’t wait to leave or was he late for his next meeting? Blue was surely not his colour it must be a company car.
I looked ahead and saw my landing, I knew I was going to miss the bonnet beneath me with the speed I was going, my current height, and the angle in which I was falling. I wondered whether I should land with a roll, stick out my hand to break the fall or just see what happens. I could hear my head debating the options whilst simultaneously analysing the man in the car. I was a passenger in my own body and I was aware of everything. I could feel my body tense up, and even hear the messages my brain was sending to my body to brace itself for a big fall. I observed hundreds of thoughts going on in my head as they processed at an incredible speed. I was very much detached from the processing, I was a passenger, and a curious one at that.

Previously I had been riding my bike at speed. I was zooming along the pavement passing a car park exit, when out of nowhere an exiting car collided with my front wheel. Up until then I was riding with only one thought in my conscious mind, and now there seemed to be hundreds of thought processes going on simultaneously. Time did not seem to exist, I detached from my conscious thoughts, simply experiencing what was happening in my subconscious, and I was in awe of how much was happening, everywhere.
I could even see the bricked building in the background and the trimmed grass adjacent to the car park. What would normally take me hours of processing was all happening in only a few seconds, surely I was closer to feeling what is would be like to be superman.

As soon as this thought came into my head, I felt myself identify with it, listen to it, and consciously connect with it. Like the starship enterprise entering warp speed i shot into normal time awareness, and before i knew what hit me i was sprawled out across the pavement. The magical bliss of time stoping had finished, my superman powers were gone. I was back in my head, fully connected with my conscious processing at a fraction of the speed i had just experienced. I was left feeling the pain of my broken wrist, wondering what had just happened, and who was this man in a suit looking down at me, asking me if I was ok.


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