Finding the flow.
These days, many people are actively seeking more ease and fulfillment in everyday life. We navigate through our life’s ups and downs gravitating to practices like yoga, meditation and other awareness-enhancing tools that help us to see ourselves more clearly and teach us how to relax from the waves of anxiety and angst that rise in us from time to time.
As modern-day seekers, our journeys often don’t allow us to leave our daily lives to practice for lengthy periods of time. Instead, we remain in our day-to-day lives with all of their busyness, demands and complexity. We continue on our unique journeys doing what we can with hopes of arriving at what feels more aligned with the deepest part of ourselves.
During this seeking, it’s not uncommon to feel restless. Restlessness is a natural part of us. It resides in us and likely has been there since the very beginning. When we find that we have arrived at moments to not do and simply be, we often find restlessness lurking in the shadows and waiting to pounce. It pokes and prods us to keep seeking, searching and moving forward in life towards what comes next.
Restlessness is pushy and demanding. It’s nature is to strive and drive us to what comes next. It’s never satisfied nor relaxed in the present moment. At its core is a sense of unease. Even when we complete projects or reach goals and feel momentarily happy and satisfied, restlessness awaits, primed for the next push towards the next thing.
Ironically, we employ restlessness to ultimately arrive at its opposite: flow.
Unlike restlessness, in flow, time stops and all of you is here, completely. Flow is when you are fully absorbed in the moment and attuned to what is happening. In flow, everything in your experience is aligned. There is a feeling of unity, wholeness or oneness between you and what you are doing (or how you are being). Flow feels like ease and openness in the body. It’s expansive, not constrictive. When flow abides, it feels effortless, like being led. It has no past or future. In flow there is only the present: the mind and the body merge in activity with no separation.
With practice, we can shift from restlessness to flow. Flow is always available and we can learn to enter into flow in any moment and in any activity. We simply need to tune into our body signals to feel wants to happen in any moment by noticing what feels most easy, and then go with that.
It’s possible to enter into flow in the most ordinary, mundane life experiences. Last week as I stood in my kitchen putting dishes away after breakfast, I felt led to start cleaning. Filled with a sudden reserve of energy and focused attention, I went all in (which is odd, as cleaning often feels like drudgery and a chore). I cleaned, absorbed in scrubbing, organizing and wiping for as long as it wanted and until it felt finished. Ironically, I cleaned way longer than I usually do without feeling pressure to do more or having thoughts that I didn’t do enough. I remained in the flow of it for as long as it lasted.
Today I paused in the interim between activities and noticed that my body wanted a stretch. I went with it, and stretched in the way my body was guiding me. I went with the flow of it until it was complete. Then I moved on.
How can you find more flow in your life? Below are a few suggestions:
If you find yourself with some time to devote to practice: a simple way to enter into flow is to ask the deepest part of yourself what it wants. First, take some time to notice your body and mind, especially if you’re stressed or have been busy. Allow your body to settle and your mind to attune to its own movement. Then ask yourself: “What wants to happen right now?” Wait and see if an answer arises. Sometimes one will arise immediately (some personal examples: “more play”, “rest”, “space”). Don’t worry if an answer doesn’t come. Just by asking the question you are already opening yourself up to be more receptive.
If you find yourself in a break between activities: similarly, go with the flow and see what wants to happen next. Try not to censor anything, even if it seems ridiculous (“flap your arms!” “jog in place”). Rather, notice where or to what you’re feeling led, and if it’s possible, go with what wants to happen. Again, don’t worry if you can’t, or if you’re unsure. The very act of noticing begins to refine your ability to recognize flow more clearly.
If your life is more filled with planned activity: look for the possibility of subtle shifts. For instance, while driving notice the in-the-moment decisions on your route that feel like “the way” to go. At meals, see what your body wants to eat. Sometimes it may surprise you! Look for options that “feel right” and go along with them.
If you’re feeling time-crunched and have a long list of to-dos: take a moment to pause and feel into the order of what wants to happen. Then, after each activity, feel into what wants to happen next.
Becoming more familiar with sensations in the body that are present during flow (a feeling of openness, energy or expansiveness) is a great first step to entering into flow. See if you can allow what wants to happen right now for as long as it wants to last.