Being in a “state of flow” has been hailed as the optimal human experience, and is frequently credited as one of the keys to living our happiest and most meaningful lives. It’s often associated with the simultaneous feelings of joy, clarity, awareness, transcendence, timelessness, and the natural rhythm of creativity that ensues.
So what is this flow thing really about? Is it all it’s cracked up to be, and if so, how can we get more?
Having supported hundreds of people in their journeys of personal and spiritual growth, I can say with certainty that flow is an integral part of living our most joyful and purposeful lives. But…you don’t have to take my word for it. Both science and centuries of spiritual traditions around the world back this claim up, and today’s article gives you a glimpse into the world of flow and how to cultivate more of it in your life.
Flow is a concept that’s gained traction in western culture over the past few decades. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow” in the 1970’s as he began to unravel the “optimal experience” of humans, and how to achieve it. Since then, an incredible body of research has been produced, showing that being in a flow state not only feels good, but has a direct positive correlation with happiness, productivity, creativity and health.
Activities that create a sense of flow are unique to each of us, and can range from dancing, painting, writing, teaching, building, designing, playing music, practicing yoga, rock climbing, surfing, snowboarding, engaging in team sports, having deeply connected conversations, and more. It’s a state where the activity itself becomes the reward, things “just click” and you’re “in the zone.”
While the term “flow” as it describes the concepts discussed so far was created in the 1970’s, the experience of flow has been alive for centuries, and perhaps since human awareness was born. Spiritual traditions around the world teach ways of being in the flow, and describe it in a myriad of ways, such as connecting to oneness, plugging into universal life force, “letting go and letting god,” being “in the now,” achieving nirvana or enlightenment, and many others.
With so many different ways of describing this, what do these schools of thought have in common? They highlight paths to personal freedom and connection to something greater, beyond the mind and ego, and into the spirit or soul.
Where Science and Spirituality Meet
By scientific standards, taking action and “doing” things in a flow state are essential parts of the optimal human experience, whereas many spiritual traditions highlight simply “being” in a state of flow as the ultimate.
So, which is more important? “Being” or “doing” in a state of flow? Where will we derive our greatest happiness and fulfillment? And with all of the definitions floating around, where do we start?
While science and spiritualty may seem at odds, there is a key commonality that lies within, and is the fundamental starting place for cultivating flow.
Wondering what it is?
It’s simple, but not always easy, that’s for sure.
In order to experience flow we must be in the present moment no matter which angle you look at it from. Worrying about the future or lamenting the past will immediately pull you out of the present, out of joy, and out of flow, so harnessing a practice that strengthens in the moment awareness is key.
How you do this is up to you. There are numerous meditation practices that teach ways of being deeply present (both spiritual and not), and interestingly enough, the flow activities listed earlier in this article can help induce states of extreme presentness themselves.
Wondering where to begin, and how to create more flow in your life in a way that fits for you?
If yes, stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I’ll introduce a fun and easy way to be in the flow, in a way that’s aligned with you.
In the meantime, wishing you all the best as you continue to explore and grow!
With love and gratitude,
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Lena D. Meyer is a Transformational Life Coach, Public Speaker, and founder of Gratitude6. She is ranked as one of the top coaches in the Pacific Northwest, and since 2008 has supported hundreds of people in living their most joyful, meaningful, and empowered lives.
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