Why Flow?

The sea, source of flow

I owe you an apology, I never really explained clearly why I started this blog or why I speak so much about flow. I didn’t state in a comprehensive way why this altered state of consciousness was so important to me, nor why I’m searching for a way to make you (and others like you) feel it as I had.

Maybe you have googled what flow is and besides hip-hop related posts you have probably found some article written by or taking about Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. There you should have read that those experimenting this state of mind can be immersed on a task for long periods, losing track of time, or that the key to feel it is on the challenge/skills ratio. If you researched a bit more maybe you have read that those experiencing it on a regular basis have higher levels of life satisfaction with their lives as well as a sense of being in control of their lives.

And I’m sure that after reading all of the above you’re thinking: “I want to feel it”. I am a lucky one as I feel it often, but instead of explaining how this state works I’m going to share with you how I get into the zone, what goes through my head while I’m there and what consequences I’ve gotten from it, to help you get it.

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How I get into the zone

In my particular case, I enter into it while surfing. I chose the easy way because this is one of the most straightforward one to experience flow, and I’ve been lucky enough to practice surf often. I started with a cheap bodyboard my mom bought me, and today I slide with anything that floats and makes me fly to another dimension.

In order to be able to be in flow on a constant basis, while surfing, I have to keep the challenge of the activity and my skills balanced (remember the ratio I mentioned above). The more I learn the harder I have to make the experience, for the surf to be the vehicle for this state of mind. I’ve created some systems to facilitate it, but I’ll explain them in another post.

In my head

Flow does not have an ON and OFF switch, I’m not inside or outside but I’m on one of the different stages I have to go through. Each one creates very specific feelings:

  1. Excitement. This is the first thing I experience, it is some sort of controlled happy tension. It resembles the feeling I get when I push the gas pedal all the way down: the heart pumps faster while still being in control of the situation. It’s exciting and I’m in charge of the situation so nothing bad is happening as long as I put my attention into the task at hand.
  2. Calm. After some time on the previous state, calmness comes. On this moment my mind is empty and I stop hearing or feeling my limbs as if I am merged with space. Here I start to act on auto mode, I have to put no intention on what I’m doing while in this state.
  3. Connection. This state is blended with the last one at times and makes me feel a spiritual connection with something bigger than myself. I can’t really tell you what it is, but it’s something beautiful. It is in this stage where clarity happens for me and where I assimilate concepts, link ideas and feel whole: full of life. For me, this is the pretty state everyone should look for on their lives.
  4. Pot. This is the last stage I usually get into. Here the sensations are very similar to those of being a bit stoned. The music feels more intense, I’m carefree, and in general, see everything from a very positive point of view. Some sort of sleepiness is added to the recipe as well.

Consequences

After decades entering into this state, the largest and best consequence has been having a very high index of life satisfaction: I like my life. This might sound bold or even inflated, but it’s the pure truth. Flow has allowed me to disconnect from this reality and plug into others where points of view, emotions, and life lessons are different and compatible with this one. I have been able to consider my life for the outside, put my problems into perspective and find solutions I didn’t know existed.

If you think you haven’t been in flow yet I beg you to find out how to make it happen. A good starting point is reading any book that Steven Kotler has written on the subject, start surfing, climbing or taking some meditation classes.

If you have already felt it, tell me what goes through your head and how you get into it.

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