As I sprinted down the beach, I felt like I was flying. I was on my morning run in the Coromandel region of New Zealand, listening to music by Thomas Bergersen.
My feet barely touched the ground. I was in some other time and space that seemed boundless. Colors around me were drenched and rich. The wind on my cheeks felt like a symphony of air, salt spray, and sun.
In this peak state I was in flow.
You know the feeling: Hours seem like minutes as you play music or make art. You hear snow whiz by as you ski down a steep slope or laugh with your team as you find a breakthrough strategy after weeks of struggle.
How can we be in flow more of the time?
While we know the feeling of flow, it may feel as though it’s fleeting, or unfamiliar, in most instances.
Based on our daily situations, this isn’t surprising. Tackling your taxes or dealing with a difficult employee feels overwhelming. Morning headlines leave you feeling dismayed. Your commute spikes your anxiety.
We naturally resist what doesn’t feel good or make sense. We shut down and stop feeling. We push, judge, and try to fix.
It’s this resistance that blocks what could be a more persistent flow state.
And, the resistance often has an important message for us, offering us clues about what we fear or avoid.
Recently I became aware of some inner resistance to letting go of the status quo in my life. It led me to a decision to leave the northwest after 36 years and move to California. When I saw the resistance as a friend, it revealed the deeper feelings that were hidden under my desire to stay in control of my life.
Recently I read this passage in the book called, Free to Move by Scott Sonnon, a five-time world martial arts champion known as the flow coach:
“The perfect fight involves zero resistance. You exist inextricably intertwined with your opponent. The excellence that the two of you engage betters each other. You cannot improve without him, nor he without you, nor both of you without the event. Loving your opponent enough to give him no quarter and to give him 100% of yourself for your mutual development is the perfect fight.”
The resistance is inside of us, not outside.
When we are willing to listen to the resistance and the emotions underneath it, we can let it go more easily. In the process, we may learn what we need and want, but are afraid to accept.
How do we do that, especially when we are in fight or flight mode?
Recognize that you are in resistance. Then, pause. (You may need to leave the scene, take a walk, or listen to music in order to pause.) Breathe into your lower belly, your heart, and all the way to the top of your head.Inhale any quality that feels good (trust, gratitude) and exhale compassion for yourself.Keep breathing until you can feel your body and your emotions.Notice your inner sensations as if you are an explorer.What are their textures, colors, temperatures, sizes and shapes?Breathe into those sensations until they begin to shift and release. Ask the resistance and underlying emotions what message they have for you? Listen quietly and then write down what you receive.
Let your awareness and breath return you to the present moment. This is where flow lives.
How and when do you find flow in your life and work, especially in the challenges? What have you learned from your resistance?