I’ve spent so much time in the Flow State that for a couple of days I couldn’t tell when I was in it and when I wasn’t.
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihaly there are 8 elements of Flow. Here is what you can expect to experience if you are maintaining it correctly:
- Clarity of Goals: The rules of the game or steps needed to take are known. Every moment is clear as is every step of the way to meet the goal.
- Immediate Feedback: Moment by moment you know what you are doing. Your senses are heightened and you are fully aware.
- Balance between Skills and Challenge: What you need to accomplish is equal to the skills you have. You are operating at the right level. If there is too little of a challenge, you can become bored. if there is too much of a challenge, you can become stressed.
- Concentration and Focus: Duality disappears—split attention merges into concentrated, focused attention. You experience harmony through efficiency and effectiveness.
- Operating in the Present: You can’t afford to let your mind wander. There are no worries. You become unaware of the problems of everyday life. You can escape forward and create a new reality.
- In Control of the Experience: You may feel as if you are on an edge with a sense of control of what’s in front of you.
- Loss of Self Consciousness: There is no wondering of what others may think of you. With a loss of ego, you transcend defensiveness and have the feeling of being a part of something larger.
- Sense of Time Transformed: Time adapts itself to how you feel when you are doing something. Hours get condensed into minutes or what takes minutes feels like hours.
At the beginning of the residency and in my studies of Flow, I noticed that when I switched to working with art materials, I could quickly get into flow. But as soon as my phone rang, an email alert came in, or my alarm reminding me to capture my experience I would quickly exit the flow state.
Later I simply shut off or ignored electronic sounds that permeated my creative space. Eventually I was able to maintain a flow state whether I was creating, cooking, conversing, driving. I even found that running errands was rewarding.
Until I dropped my cell phone. That’s when everything came to a halt. I couldn’t call, text, or check email. A sense of fear overcame me pulling me so far out of flow that it kept with me for a few days. Fear about the costs involved, the lost opportunities, and the usual addiction to devices we all suffer from. Not to mention that I dropped it two days before leaving and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the replacement in time for our planned departure. In most cases, this would be an inconvenience. When traveling, logistics are complicated. With changing billing addresses and shifting shipping addresses, it may seem to an outsider that I am committing fraud. But it all worked out, the phone arrived and we are back on track to travel West as planned.
Despite traveling down the highway at speed and thinking about how doing so is a type of time travel in the space-time continuum, I am still able to experience the flow state from time to time. What I have noticed is that if I let my imagination go to a negative place it pulls me out of flow and keeps me in a negative spin cycle until I can pull myself out. Once I catch myself, I quickly focus to gain clarity of the present moment and the goal then I’m back in again.
We create our own realities. I find that when I am in a flow state, it’s blissful.
Integration is key.