How often do you do things without needing a fixed schedule or process; where you are just so engaged in the moment that you lose track of what exactly it is that you are doing? This is the elusive flow state.
Most of us have experienced the flow state at one point or another, but we often underestimate the deep benefits that come from inducing these types of states consciously and consistently.
A lot of the work we do these days is regimented, it has a specific purpose which can help provide some structure and routine to our days. But often these are the only types of activities we are doing, even when we aren’t focused on a task, overthinking our next task.
Getting into the flow state more often can help provide that balance we are missing. In this post I want to explore what the flow state is, why it’s so important how to reach it.
The importance of the flow state
As I said before, we spend a lot of our time in regimented activities – in the work and home environment. Always looking to the next goal or milestone, when we aren’t attached to a schedule, anticipating the weekend or beginning of the next week.
It’s not that we don’t enter the flow state at times but we don’t do it often enough.
When we are in the flow state we move beyond the ego, so engaged with what we are doing that nothing else matters. This resembles a child-like state; one where all of our worries are washed away for a moment.
The flow state has a lot to do with playing, or getting into the mindset of play – which can be seen as a waste of time or juvenile in adulthood. Yet getting into this flow state more often will only benefit our creative output, our outlook on work, how we approach tense situations, and our overall state of being.
Not only are we giving our inner child space to be seen and expressed, we give our adult selves a chance to breathe. We get connected to a deeper sense of creativity, ease and neutrality.
Benefits of the flow state:
- More clarity
- Less anxiety
- More energy
- Access to creativity
There are so many different ways to induce a flow state, a list would be endless, but for now I want to highlight some of the ways that have worked for me.
Ways to induce a flow state
Movement is one of the easiest ways to get into the flow state whether that be dancing, exercize, going for a mindful walk in nature or doing yoga.
Dancing in particular has been one of the most accessible ways into the flow state, with many different types across cultures and traditions. Children naturally start dancing at a young age, people tend to incorporate dance into social gathering.
Types of spiritual dance:
- In yoga there is Natarajasana or the Dance Pose which is named after the Hindu God Shiva.
- Similarly there is Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance that expresses Shaivism (worships Shiva) and Shaktism (worships Shakti).
- There is ecstatic or trance dance in the modern age, which pulls from shamanistic traditions.
- Belly dancing in Middle Eastern cultures which focuses on rhythmic movement of the hips.
- Circle or folk dance from European cultures that emphasize community ritual.
- Plus many more!
There are many types of dance and movement you can get into to achieve flow state, just choose one that aligns with you. I have found that even standard exercize routines bring me into a trance state if done consciously.
Chanting or singing
Along with dance we often have singing, chanting, the beating of a drum, or the playing or some other instrument. Sound is an important part of inducing a trance-like state.
Om (or Aum) is one of the most popular types of chant, the exact meaning varies across different traditions. This is a chant of transcendence, an awareness of consciousness in its purest form.
We can chant this mantra wherever we are but it is most common during meditation. We can elongate each sound within this chant, a long “awe”, “ohhhh” and “mmmm”. It’s important to notice the silence once we have finished each chant, the silence forming part of the sound – part of that awareness.
Once again, it’s about choosing the type of sound you like so that you can get into a flow state easily.
Creating with the hands
Another great way to get into the flow state is to create something with your hands.
When we get into the flow of art a part of our subconscious mind can come forward, we let go some aspect of conscious control and just allow each brush stroke or pencil mark to fall into place.
- Knitting or crochet
- Playing an instrument
Journaling can be quite an active exercize, especially if we are focused on recounting our day (and that day was rather stressful or anxiety-inducing). This is when journaling can become quite stressful in itself, a reliving of whatever it is that caused us tension.
However if we approach journaling as a relaxation or decompression, then it can help us reach the flow state. Simply writing whatever comes to mind and not focusing on each individual word, letting everything flow.
Meditation & mindfulness
Finally we have meditation or mindfulness. All types of meditation can get us into flow state, but some are more suited than others.
There is some debate around what is meditation and what is mindfulness when it comes to these types of practices. Some consider meditation to be focus on no-thing, and mindfulness to be the focus on some-thing.
If we take this definition to be the basis then we can see that some type of meditation incorporate mindfulness, there isn’t necessarily a sharp divide between the two.
A walking meditation is a great way to get into the flow state. Taking a walk in nature, paying attention to each step you take as you breathe deeply. As you are walking try to tune into each individual sound you can hear.
The trance state
Flow states get us into a sort of trance, and out of the usual range of brainwaves we experience day to day in busy environments.
This is usually the alpha brainwave state which is a state of relaxed wakefulness, versus the beta state which involves steady focus on some external activity. We might also drop into theta brainwaves, which are common in deeper meditation or on the threshold of sleep – that focus on no-thing.
We want to practice reaching the alpha and theta states more often in order to expand our consciousness and grow spiritually. In these trance states we are less attached to material things, even just for a moment, and our awareness is elsewhere.
We don’t always want to be in a trance state, but getting there from time to time means we can bring this awareness more easily into everyday life. When we are anxious, overthinking, annoyed or frustrated, we know how to go beyond the mind.
Flow states allow us to just be, something that is often missing from our modern lives. We get to see who we are beyond defined roles and routines, and outside of how other people view us (ego or personality).
What is your experience with the flow state?