Last summer, my life was in a clogged state/rut, and I knew I could be a better version of myself, but I stuck. Rut defined is a pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change. Clog defined a wooden shoe with a thick wooden sole. Oh, wait. Not that one. It is also defined as a weight attached especially to an animal to hinder motion; something that shackles or impedes; encumbrance sense. Wow, that’s exactly how I felt in general; I was encumbered by a habit that wasn’t serving me well and not in the flow.
I was in the habit of drinking daily, going to bed buzzed most nights, feeling depressed, and gaining unwanted weight. Waking up foggy and groggy most days became the norm for me and, as it turns out, alcohol is a toxin, and when overused, it can make you feel like crap. I focused on the negative aspects of the covid-19 pandemic and worried about the unknown instead of focusing on gratitude and what was going right.
This was definitely not me being in the flow of life but instead fighting, kicking, and screaming because I wanted to know how it was all going to play out. But, we are not designed to see the future. I think it’s because we wouldn’t enjoy the here and now if we constantly want to get to some happy point in the future. Or trying to avoid a hard time in life would prevent you from learning the lesson the experience taught you.
When I found out my friend Tharwat Lovett was presenting information on the topic of flow during one of our monthly lunchtime virtual meetings to the ShiftHer group, I was so excited. It was in perfect alignment with where I choose to focus my energy now, at one year sober! I felt stuck in some old habits of worrying about things I can’t control instead of focusing on all the good around me. As it turns out, you can’t be grateful and worried at the same time! Who knew?!
The following are notes I took during the meeting Tharwat led.
Flow state is losing yourself in the moment. Have you ever found your abilities match so well to an activity that the world around you quietens, and you find yourself achieving things you only dreamed of being possible? Time passes because you are so into what you’re doing, and you have no memory of it? You know, when you’re in the zone.
It all begins with self-awareness and learning more about yourself, along with acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. We must learn to recognize and love our shortcomings and flaws as much as we love our strengths. When you are in the flow, you are in a powerful state. Flow is when our intention is focused on the present moment. We focus intensely on what we want, and we learn to regain control when our attention is distracted by outside forces.
In the book, Presence, Amy Cuddy, who is a Harvard professor, says that “by accessing our personal power, we can achieve ‘presence,’ the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we’re making on others and instead adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves. We need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behavior, and mindset in our day-to-day lives.”
Minimizing distractions and focusing more on thriving than simply surviving is essential. We must direct our intentions because we are, after all, the ones who choose what we pay attention to and how we focus our energy. Tharwat says awareness is light, and not all we pay attention to is energizing; some things are depleting. Flow occurs when we are focused solely on the task at hand and in an energetic state that is intrinsically rewarding. Being in the flow produces invigorating energy.
The average woman, especially a mom, carries an extremely large cognitive load. When we are in the flow, it frees up some mental energy and feels incredible. It is good for our bodies physiologically. There is an increase in the release of chemicals that boost our immune system. When we are in the flow, we are performing at a peak level. Ex. Runner’s high = flow.
Tharwat says we have intensely focused attention and long periods of focused concentration when we are in the flow. It is essential to have a clear goal to move into the flow. When we have clear goals, the immediate feedback tells us how to do it better. She also says that high consequences drive extra hard focus.
It’s easier to get into the flow if you have a rich environment where you experience lots of novelty and unpredictability. For example, you are in observation mode when you travel. There is no auto-pilot because we haven’t been here or done this before. Deep embodiment and serious concentration make it easier to block out distractions when you are in the flow/zone.
Deep embodiment is paying attention to multiple sensory streams at once, such as sight, sound, and touch all at once. We can practice this during mindfulness; when feeling anxious or overwhelmed, recognize it and stop to take a few deep breaths. Focus on each sense, one at a time, and come back to this moment. When seriously concentrating, our maximum attention is on the here and now, making it easier to get in the flow and block out distractions.
When working with others, we must have shared, clear goals. With good communications and open creativity, we can reach our goals faster with others’ input and ideas alongside ours. When in a group, it is important to have equal participation among all members. Remember, those who have more to lose will be more focused.
Our creativity is at its peak when we are in the flow. Tharwat said when she sees clients back to back all day, she is in the flow. Time tends to pass differently, usually faster because when our subconscious mind is in the flow, time doesn’t exist. Also, when time flies, it is an indication that you are in the flow. The subconscious receives data from the energy around us, and the feeling is powerful. If it feels right, then move in that direction. Flow and alignment are interrelated. You must feel first and use intellect second.
Explore and allow yourself to cultivate flow; what is easy for you is your skillset and part of your purpose. Our minds are flowers, and our attention is the hose. We cultivate the flowers and weeds that pop up. If we focus our energy on the weeds, we take the food source away from what we want to what we don’t want. Don’t spend too much time watering the things you don’t like in life. Instead, intentionally feed the flowers!
Failure is Part of the Process
Remember your intention but forget the big picture and get into a state of flow. Permit yourself to embrace imperfection. Perfect is a feeling, so don’t let perfectionism stand in your way. Failure is part of the process! Thomas Edison said, “If you 99 times, then you know 99 things that don’t work, and you can keep moving toward the solution.”
When in flow, we are in a state to say yes; we are not argumentative. The power of adding is more productive than subtracting. Focus on what you are ADDING, not what you are taking away. Adding is more sustainable than always focusing on what you lack. Instead, focus on gratitude and what is going right.
An Experience With Flow vs. Clog
Recently, I was assigned the task of finding a place for an elderly distant relative, Daniel (name changed), to live. He has no other family to help him, and somehow it all fell on me. Daniel was in the hospital in Jonesboro and basically homeless. He is on a low, fixed monthly social security income, and he is not healthy enough to live alone but not sick enough for nursing home care. I had to help him find assisted living and was freaking out because we were leaving for ten days at Disney World, and I had 48 hours to make it happen.
It was time to make a choice; would I fight the process, or would I embrace it and make the most of each step at a time? Someone told me it was possible to find him somewhere to live on short notice, and I believed them. So, I googled and made a list of about ten facilities in the area. Mom helped me by calling them and asking their monthly pricing and if they have any availability. She found one immediately!
I went by that day and signed him up; the next day, a good friend helped me move his furniture, and we left for Disney the next day! It all worked out at the perfect time. I just trusted that God/Universe had my back! Daniel lives there now and loves it. So, instead of fighting the flow, kicking and screaming, and making myself physically ill. In the past, I would get a tension headache so badly it felt like my head may explode. I was definitely fighting the flow. This time, I chose not to worry about the when, why, and how, I decided to go with the flow!
I then decided not to worry about it and trusted God would open doors I didn’t even see. And that is exactly what happened! So, when I CHOSE not to worry and worked to find him a place without stressing, it worked out amazingly! There was minimal physical stress, so no tension-headache or agitation with life in general. I focused on the next right thing (the next decision to make) and trusted it would work out.