There is a common experiential state that is present in forms of play, movement, creativity that is sometimes referred to as “flow.” It is a state of “having fun,” “enjoying oneself,” “excitement,” when one is creatively and fully involved, without reservation, or internal judgement, personal reference or analysis of the present moment.
As soon as the analysis starts, the “flow” is interrupted and the “fun” stops. Then questions come to mind, like
- “what am I doing here?”
- “what is the next step?”
- “what does this mean?”
The person in flow does not operate in a dualistic perspective. They don’t ask, judge, analyze. Instead they operate in a excitement of an ecstasy, uninterrupted by evaluation. Yes, awareness is present in that moment of flow, yet, it is not the awareness of self, but rather of the determined instinctual stimulating desire that is continuously emerging in more evolved and updated form.
Easily we see such states of flow in modern dance, or in play, like chess, computer games, or basketball, hockey, and such, that involve a ritualistic behaviors yet call for an evolved participatory update. The awareness of self is dissolved. This is what makes “flow” be comparative with aesthetically pleasing “art-form.”
For the flow to remain artistic, all irrelevant stimuli have to be excluded. Outside concerns about winning, as in competitive sports, games and play for money as in poker, writing novels for money, or painting for commercial purposes, can rarely be artistic, rather than simply skillful.
A samurai swordsman cannot be distracted by an idea of winning, or self-purpose of anger, defense or other, as he could then be immediately defeated.
Alternatively, an artist creating a painting, to reflect an emotion, or resolve an internal conflict using his skill, can create artistic aesthetic result following the flow experience of moving through the emotion of creating and splashing it on canvas.
In a sense, a skillful rock-climber can have a “feeling” for the next step, without necessarily being able to describe it with sensibility or logic, to remain physically safe from the danger that rock-climbing can present, and without knowing.
This kind of knowing without knowing that comes with mastery of a skill, can be the most satisfying flow experience professionally and personally for anyone who is searching for fulfillment.
So how do we find our flow?
Begin by noticing your own experience throughout your day, whether at work, at home or involved in a more specific activity, eating, jogging, conversing with your friends, being with your family, embracing your lover, driving your car. Notice what makes this experience enjoyable for you, and what can make it more enjoyable. Adjust your level of enjoyment by allowing yourself to be immersed in the experience and slowing it down to a moment in time.
Notice what and whether you are aware of this experience in your body. If not, notice that. It will be somewhere in your body, and it is not your head! Most likely you will feel something below your neck. We can only experience something because we are in our body. So notice where do you experience it?
Once you identify the experience as warmth, coolness, dryness, or movement of energy, or something else physical like this, you can move onto noticing that you are not that, or just that.
It is more to you, than the experience of your experience. In other words, you are not the warmth in your chest, or the emotion of love, or the pulsing in your fingertips, or the anger, or helplessness, or compassion.
It is imperative to notice your experience without judging it as “good” or “bad,” without labeling it in our usual way, like, “I am sad,” or “I am frustrated.” I am not that. I FEEL sadness, but it is not ME.
For this to happen it is best to notice as an observer. Be an observer in your own body. Then it will become impossible for you to identify with sadness, or frustration, or anger, or even love. It all becomes an experience you can observe, and choose.
Then you can begin to choose what to do with it.
And then the experience of life becomes one of flow. Uninterrupted flow of experience called your life.