“He who flows as life flows, knows he needs no other force.”
— Lao Tsu
There is a ton of scientific research going into flow, but there is nothing new about it. We have been experiencing and benefiting from flow states since the very beginning of humanity. That first woolly mammoth to be slain was most certainly a victim of group flow, the collective state of resonance that a bunch of hungry humans tuned into as they focused on their goal.
As humanity progressed, the wisest of humans tuned into flow state potential. Ancient philosophers, Samurai warriors and monks of the east integrated it into their spiritual, creative and martial practice to achieve peak performance and continual improvement.
Flow in the East
The Japanese martial & creative arts use the word mushin to describe an unusually heightened state of awareness where there are no thoughts or emotions to block you from accessing the zone of peak human performance. It comes from “mushin no shin” which is a Zen term for “mind of no mind.”
This concept is very much at the core of all the Japanese martial arts, as well as creative arts such as tea ceremony and flower arranging.
In the Chinese internal arts, a philosophy of flow is referred to as wu wei, sometimes translated as effortless action, non-forcing or effortless doing. Both wu wei and mushin describe entering a state in which it feels as though nature (rather than our thinking mind) is guiding us.
In the Vedic tradition of ancient India, there is the concept of samyama (perfect control of the mind) which can be likened to mushin and wu wei.
These legends of the past did not need any brain scanning devices or a psychologist to tell that that flow was the state of optimal performance. Being in tune with the rhythms of nature, and achieving balance and harmony in life is the aim of all spiritual practices of the east.
The philosophy of flow is to transform your life from a chaotic race to a sublime dance. It is to live consciously, with mindful awareness..
In this state of heightened awareness, actions flow spontaneously and intuitively from the core of your being.
The Flowstate Path
The Flowstate path is not one laid down by us. The philosophers of the East have done the work by living and describing the philosophy of mindfulness and awareness.
At Flowstate Performance, we translate this wisdom and give it modern relevancy and application. We exist at the intersection of science, ancient philosophy and direct action. We believe that this is the razor edge of human experience and wisdom. But wisdom and knowledge means nothing without being applied.
Putting the Philosophy of Flow into Action
Understanding the ancient roots of flow, allows us to see that the flow state does not have to be all about “hacking”, and using technology or textbooks to understand what happens in our brains. This is a very organic and simple concept.
To achieve more flow in your life try these 5 steps:
- Practice becoming more aware of what is going on around you.
When you are waiting for anything focus your awareness on what is happening in this moment, by being aware of your senses. What do you smell, see, hear, feel? Become aware of the urge to reach for your phone or to distract yourself away from the moment.
This is a very powerful practice, and when you learn to use your mind as a tool to unlock the puzzles of life, you stop being controlled by random thought and you gain a profound level of freedom.
- Train your power of attention, through willpower and discipline.
Set yourself focus targets, such as 10 pages of a book, or 1 hour of work with no distraction. Begin to stretch these out. Try a mindfulness shower, where you challenge yourself to keep your attention on the sensations you feel, smell, hear and see. Every time your mind wanders into thought, bring it back to a sensation. This works really well, as the sensation of warm water on skin is a pleasant and very interesting one.
- Remove clutter and distractions from your life.
The more distraction you remove, the less will-power required to attain a focused state of mind. The Zen philosophy of minimalism is designed to maximise flow, which is really about removing the obstacles. Avoid multi-tasking, which is just the inefficient way of single-tasking like a headless chicken. Do things one at a time, with total absorption in the thing you are doing. Avoid clutter whether it is in your house, social life or your calendar.
- Gamify your life to turn ordinary and mundane tasks into fascinating flow experiences.
How smoothly can you drive your car? How efficiently can you wash dishes? How silently can you make breakfast? How much writing can I achieve in 1 hour? These are all games I play with myself to increase my immersion in action, which leads to flow while doing the everyday stuff.
- Practice mindful listening.
When in conversation with someone, try and listen as intently as you can. Notice if you are waiting to talk. If you are, you are not really listening. Notice how much more you take in when you really listen with your full attention.
Use the force!
As you can see from this short list of exercises that flow has a lot to do with our mind and our attention. Make sure you sign up to receive our articles and podcasts to your email, as will be giving away many tips and practices to beef up your mental powers and unlock your full potential and we will explore more deeply this idea of flow philosophy.