The Flow State Is the New Black
You do your utmost to create a tolerable world around you, but life punishes the ones who entreat her not to manifest blindly. Your attempts to change things, events, people, feelings and emotions have the sole purpose of forcing all of them to fit your narrative. Arranging, moving, shuffling, buying, swapping, trading all day, incessantly. You are slaves to a “Truman Show” in which you naively believe you are important.
You are the only one who thinks you are significant while all the others are busy thinking the same thing about themselves.
Since ancient times, illuminated human beings such as philosophers, yogis, awakened individuals have revealed that by practicing mindfulness, concentrating your attention and meditating for at least 10,000 hours you may get a state of selfless detachment and deautomatization (Meditation can reduce habitual responding, Heidi Wenk-Sormaz, Ph.D. in Alternative Therapies, April 2005, Vol. 2.)
However, much suffering ensues when you don’t achieve detachment and still engage in pitiful struggles with your limitations. And only so few obstinate ones reach a state of absolute bliss and integration. I have not encountered an enlightened human yet.
A relationship with people or events of any kind requires a certain collection of attributes common to the observer and the perceived situation. Idiosyncrasy shortages generate scissions between the parties aiming to liaise with one another. A set of bad habits maintains humans anchored in reality, otherwise, the enlightened ones become impervious, dispensable and consequently disappear. Thus, to live the best life, many of us need something more palpable and immediate than thousands of hours of silent retreats and transcendental meditation. That is “the zone.”
From Wu Wei to the zone
Self-help advice about achieving a high spiritual state is abundant. The classic methods above are all recommended. The old Chinese Taoist concept of Wu Wei is the first “zoning” technique ever known. It cultivates a mental state in which your actions are in alignment with the flow of life without difficulty. Athletes, teachers and business people are embracing the new approach of “being in the zone.” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines “being in the zone” as “flow”?—?a state of enhanced concentration and total immersion. In a Ted Talk he describes the experience:
“There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other. Sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”
Here is an article that explains further the zone and the related theory of “flow”: Being In The Zone: Is It Real Or Just A Cliché?
5 simple steps to access the zone
1. Smile, straighten your back, stretch and see the excitement
2. With slow moves prepare the tools you need, clean up the place, turn off devices
3. For at least 20 minutes, focus solely on the activity, not on the outcome or method
4. Gently let go of residual expectations
5. Thank yourself and the group for the work.
My passion is my career; I am in the zone when I teach.
I have been teaching for 30 years, at least 6 hours a day. For starters, entering the teaching zone helps me have only great days. I cannot recall a boring study session even if I tried.
What exactly happens when my students and I are in the zone?
1. We focus solely on the activity, be it observing, talking or explaining
2. We zone in together in a safe space where all of us are open to listening without prejudice, learning and having fun
3. Time flies; the class is a syncope between the beginning and the end of the session
4. The atmosphere is exhilarating; participants smile, feel comfortable and respect each other effortlessly
5. Classes have a healing effect; energies circulate in a natural flow.
· Meditation helps clear the mind, become compassionate and reduces habitual responding.
· You access the zone by either working hard to achieve it, or by chance (mostly when you are so passionate about what you do that you stop paying attention to the performance itself.) Concentration, skill, motivation and positivity help to reach the “zone.” You get into the zone by immersing into the creative process without focusing on the technical details required for the action.
· Being in the zone, or applying sustained productive mindfulness helps ease boredom in any activity.
Do you get into the zone? Would you like to share your experience? Please leave a comment. Let’s connect!
Vivi has been writing about the process of self-realization since the age of six. She has dedicated her last years to helping people know themselves and live their best life. She has been teaching since 1990. She also posts/blogs about the role of cooking at the intersection of food and self-mastery.