Have you ever found yourself so immersed in an activity that you completely lost track of time, and when you did “call it quits for the day”, you found yourself happy, calm and contented? This feeling is an indication of having achieved flow. You can notice when you are in flow, when you are experiencing effortless, automatic, and full engagement in the activity.
Surfers experience flow when out on the water, in the rhythm of the waves, watching for a fresh set to come their way and the perfect conditions to take off and start paddling. Time slows down, you are fully aware of the conditions. Both physically and mentally, you are moving at your maximum skill level. When it’s over, there is joy and elation, a sense of completion and satisfaction.
Do you know the feeling? Do you have some activity that you love, that absorbs you? Where you stay totally immersed in the activity until it is completed. In flow we feel only relevant to the activity, the outside world is put aside, our focus is single-mindedly the task at hand. You have no physical needs, no hunger, no ego, just a sense of serenity and timelessness. Additionally, the activity itself is intrinsically rewarding, we need nothing more than to engage in it. The Nobel prize winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz said: “I love my work more then I love what it produces. I am dedicated to my work regardless of the consequences. For artists the goal is the activity.”
Flow comes about in a variety of activities, workplaces, athletics’ and education. The feeling arises from our focused attention, one that drives you toward further learning and skill development in what ever you love and get lost in. This deeper dive into an activity brings benefits that improve your performance. Educators and scientists know flow when they are researching, writing, observing something that is of deep interest. Educators know flow when they are sharing a deep knowledge of their subject. Artist and crafts people know flow when they are envisioning a new project and working on it.
In yoga movement (asana) when you have full knowledge of the postures and you can practice with a combination of strength and grace we call it Dharana. Dharana is defined as smooth concentration, where there is no past or future, just the unbroken thread of awareness. Runners also experience this via their pace, where all that exists is the repetitive rhythm of their steps. Nature is itself always at flow always in the present moment. If you have never experienced flow it can be developed in a number of ways.
How to improve flow:
- Set a goal to dive deeply into an activity that you love, going so far as to schedule time exclusively devoted to that activity.
- Focus on that one thing that you are doing, single-mindedly.
- If you do not have any activities in your life that takes you toward flow naturally, take a meditation or mindfulness class and you’ll learn to systematically develop the skills that produce the flow experience.*
About the Writer Lura Shopteau
Living the holistic Costa Rican life style and sharing it professionally, Lura is an expert in integrative health as a professional psychotherapist, meditation, yoga teacher and yoga therapist. She has taught and consulted in Mindfulness and Yoga Therapy at Omega Institute, the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Minnesota Medical School. She now educates individuals and teachers at Bienestar, Uvita Yoga Shala (www.bienestarlife.com).