Is it really that important to stay in ‘the flow’?
You know when you’re in it. Everything seems easy and effortless. You have plenty of time, all the information and resources you need appear at your fingertips and the perfect people just materialize into your life at the perfect moment. Life is magical, meaningful and full of perfectness.
Then you get dumped by the wave and land in the place of no-flow. This is where things get tricky and you find yourself desperately trying to pull yourself back into it.
“Do you know what gets you in the flow and what moves you out of it?” a friend asked me over dinner tonight.
I love having friends that ask questions like this. She wanted to know because she had really enjoyed being in a recent period of flow but hating the experience of coming out of it and things returning to normal.
I know how she feels. Riding the high of flow and being unceremoniously dumped back to earth can feel rather unsettling.
Flow is a wonderful thing. When we’re in it everything seems possible. It is the feeling of being in love, the experience of everyday magic and synchronicity and the effortless wonder at how perfect everything is.
You know you’re in flow because time seems to stop and you find yourself completely immersed in the joy of what you’re doing, whether it be writing a Blog or washing the dishes.
When I’m in flow my fingers write for me. My brain doesn’t really even seem like it’s involved and inspiration just pours through. But when the flow suddenly disappears and we find ourselves feeling stuck, being overwhelmed by negative emotions or frustrated by a lack of progress, then things don’t appear so rosy and magical.
I have started taking note of the things that affect my flow so that I can be in it more of the time. Yoga, dance, writing and healthy eating are some of the most potent things I can do to stay in the flow. But doing these things is not always possible and sometimes the flow looks very different. Today for instance it involved physical inactivity, pizza and a very unhealthy breakfast of fried bananas.
I’d had a bad night’s sleep, woke tired and irritated and the rest of the day was clunky and unproductive. But just when I’d given up on really achieving anything for the day, my body started feeling better and I bumped into the friend that posed the flow question and inspired this article.
Sometimes the flow doesn’t always come in the form we want it to. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like flow at all, it’s so uncomfortable or painful.
I know the things that get me out of the flow. Overthinking, negative stories about myself, hanging out with people that facilitate my limiting beliefs about who I am, chasing things that don’t belong to me, not listening to my body, the list could go on.
But I’ve learnt something far more important than what gets me into and out of the flow. It’s how easy it is to become addicted to it. I’ve noticed that being ‘in the flow’ can feel so pleasurable and addictive that we might want to limit ourselves to what I called the ‘positive flow’, avoiding everything else to our own detriment. This is when we become flow junkies.
Sometimes the flow might be feeling sad, angry or disappointed. The aim of life is not always to be in a constant state of joy but to experience life in whatever state it comes to us.
The irony here is that if we let go of chasing bliss we just might find it – the authentic bliss of being, not the one of superficial pleasures.
Is it possible that sometimes you might actually in flow when you feel out of it?
When you come out a good flow period it can feel like a rude awakening but this is the flow we really ought to pay attention to. The bad feelings or uncomfortable situations often have a lot of gold to offer us.
I have found that doing the things that scare me the most and leaning into what I am resisting can prove to be the pathway to the best flow ever. It often teaches me where I need to place my focus and helps identify the limiting thought patterns that are keeping me trapped from living life to the full.
So next time when you’re feeling out of flow, instead of running towards that activity or thing that will bring you back into it, why not ask the question:
What is this no-flow trying to tell me and why am I tempted to run away from it?