Hello creative souls,
I’ve been pondering on the relationship of states of flow, creativity and meditation.
Flow is a word used often, and I’ve used it myself, to describe a particular feeling or sensation that’s opposite to pushing, struggling.
But it’s not about being comfortable either. Quite the opposite.
It’s more about a willingness to focus your attention on the task at hand and become completely absorbed in what you are doing … and often not knowing where it will lead you.
You may start with a goal in mind.. but the in-between from point ‘a to b’ is goal-less. Being completely absorbed in the activity is where you enter the state of flow. In the flow state you are fully absorbed in the process itself and thinking of results and outcomes disappears during this state. Interestingly, results happen seemingly effortlessly.
So what constitutes being in a state of flow. Because it is a state. A state where the mind switches off and we are absorbed in what could be called a state of ‘no-mind’. It also includes feelings of happiness and exhilaration. Our usual concerns and critical thinking doesn’t exist.
A runner who’s absorbed and focused on running in a race is often pushed out of the comfort zone and feels exhilarated or what’s known as runner’s high, or being in the zone.
Artists absorbed in creating will feel a joy or happiness in the action of creating a new work. There are challenges that often push them out of the comfort zone into trying new things. In that state of experimentation and concentrated attention there is flow, where the critical mind takes a back seat and the concentration and absorption in the act of creating takes over. Time seems to stop and be non-existent.
To relate it to the wisdom of yoga we can look at the yoga sutras of Pantanjali, where there are 8 limbs (astanga) of yoga practice. The last 3 limbs are Dharana, Dyana, and Samadhi. Concentration, Meditation, Enlightenment.
The flow state can be thought of as drawing together all the threads of our meandering attention into one point of focus (Dharana) and when we concentrate into a single focus we experience a coherence or flow where the usual mind chatter ceases.
This focused attention coalesces into absorption and a continuous state of flow or meditation (Dyana).
WAYS OF FLOW STATE
It’s really difficult for many to just sit and focus and meditate. I’ve talked with and taught many people who find seated meditation, sitting still, just too hard to keep up on a regular basis. They can’t switch off the mind of thinking and so they don’t enjoy it and no matter how much they know it benefits, it’s a struggle to do consistently.
The best way to encourage states of flow is to drop the idea that you have to discipline yourself to do something that you struggle with. Instead start by doing something you really LOVE to do. An activity you enjoy that requires you to concentrate and focus your attention and even better if it takes you a little bit out of your comfort zone, as in doing something new.
- Colouring in Books
This is a simple way to focus your attention. For many, this quiets the usual mind chatter and has a relaxing and calming affect on body and mind.
Free writing all your thoughts, frees your mind. Writing in a way of concentrated and focused attention will quiet the mind chatter and empty out all the garbage that’s collected in your head. Get it out.
For those who like to draw (you don’t have to be good at it) this is a wonderful way to switch off. Start a daily journal. Find any old object and draw the contour of the object very, very slowly. You want to slow the movements of your eyes as you follow the contour of the object. The slow eye movement helps slow down the movement of thought activity.
- Conscious breathing
Fully focus your attention on your breath for 10 breaths. Simple. Set your phone timer at intervals throughout the day to remind you.
- Physical Activity
Find what you enjoy that moves your body and requires a certain focus of attention. Walk, run, dance, yoga, pilates. Endeavour to concentrate on what you are doing and be fully present to your body as you enjoy what it is you are doing even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.
LOVE IS KEY
The more you love the activity the easier it is to focus and become absorbed in what you are doing. Think about your life right now and if it includes something that you love doing that uses your focus and attention in a concentrated way. Where you lose track of time and your thinking relaxes or disappears.
One day you may find yourself naturally drawn to sitting quietly, eyes closed, absorbed in witnessing what’s there within you without being distracted, frustrated, or wanting it to be other than it is.
What do you love doing that helps you focus attention, become totally absorbed and into that exquisite state of flow?
Let me know in the comments what other things you discover and share them here so we can help each other.
with love and gratitude,