Going With The Flow
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Earlier in my life, the place where I felt most free was on the football pitch, and in the state of flow, where it felt like I was at one with the ball, the pitch, and everything around me, with all my senses fully alive.
This state of mind always fascinated me.
It felt fickle though, and would disappear as quickly as it came, and it felt limited to those times where I had a football at my feet.
At times during short career I was anywhere but in a state of flow as my harsh thoughts ran riot, even as I played, and I couldn't shift it, however hard I tried.
Mushin is a Japanese word, that means 'the mind ofno mind', a mental state where the mind is not fixed on or occupied by any thought or emotion; when we are not tied up in our idea of our small selves, and instead glimpse into our Original Mind, our True Self, or our True Nature.
I prefer to call it a state of Aware Presence.
That felt sense of being present and grounded throughout the body.
You feel psychologically safe, connected and flowing with all around you.
A mind that isn't empty, but is present, aware, and free.
Here is a quote from Takuan Soho, from his book The Unfettered Mind - Writings of a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman
The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind .
Scott Ford is a clinician, tennis performance coach and author, who has explored the state of flow, and being in the zone, in a series of books. Here is an extract of his from an interview , that I read:
Your flow state does not cause your higher level of performance, nor does your higher level of performance cause your flow state. They are both by-products of something far deeper in the performance equation, something that lies beneath and affects both your level of performance as well as your behavioral/conscious state. And what lies beneath and affects both performance and consciousness is the direct connection between your operating system and the environment in which it is operating... And there is something else present on these rare days when we enter into this exclusive territory known as the zone. There is also present a different state of consciousness; one in which we sense a total absorption in the game, a total focus, a sense of oneness with the game itself, a sense of fulfillment and completeness. We might even call it a spiritual experience with the game.
Meditation gave me was an insight into how my mind works, the flow of its patterns, and the sense of this state of Aware Presence. The actual content of the mind interested me less, because most of our thoughts throughout the day are gibberish. The space between thoughts interested me more; when we are not bogged down by the mind's trivial activities
You don't need to be pulled here, there and everywhere by each thought you have.
Life for me is about being meditative. This isn't about being perfect. It's about being able to monitor yourself in any given situation and asking to ask yourself honestly, curiously and gently "Am I below, or above the line?"
Am I resisting life, or flowing with it?
Asking yourself what is objectively true in every situation, before the story making machine that is your mind kicks into gear.
Am I reacting consciously in this situation or unconsciously in this moment?
Being yourself should feel effortless. If it feels otherwise, then ask yourself why?
Are you being open, and self-honest?
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author and Holocaust survivor. Here is quote of his:
'Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom'
This isn't about being a saint. Anger could be what is needed in the situation, but are you in charge of that anger, or are you running on autopilot?
I'm all about improving performance, but isn't life about expanding your consciousness at the same time, and sensing into a deeper experience of it?
Is performance just limited to your profession - doesn't it encompass all areas of your life?
Who are you beyond your profession and roles in life anyway?
Or, is your identity solely wrapped around that?
Darryl Bailey has spent several decades exploring awareness and concentration practices. His books offer the simplest, clearest, cleanest, most lucid articulation of the nature of reality that I have ever stumbled across.
This is a quote from his book Essence Revisited - Slipping Past the Shadows of Illusion
'You don't have to learn to let life flow; there is only flow. You don't exist as anything apart from that'
You may find yourself resisting that flow though, and attempting to control everything around you in an attempt to keep uncertainty a safe distance away.
You are not separate from life though, you are part of it.
Unnecessary psychological suffering, stems from resisting reality as it is.
Life is uncertain everyday isn't it?
Do you know with absolute certainty what is going to happen tomorrow? Even five minutes from now?
I'm not immune from the operations of my own mind.
I'll find myself resisting something, and hanging on at times, but then I welcome it, release it, interrupting the patterns, shifting gears.
It just takes practice and understanding, like everything else.
The things you continually resist and try and control, may eventually trap you in it's grasp.
It did for me, for long periods of my life.
Those years of being hard on myself have helped with my self-awareness, it's just that the voice is gentler these days.
You are where you are currently, because that is where you are at. There is no getting away from that. To think any differently is a waste of time and energy.
This doesn't mean then you don't go on trying to change, and develop and learn, do what you need to do. But it is about actively surrendering in the first place.
Don't you have a responsibility to those around you to turn inward, so that you are not taking out all your unprocessed stuff out on them,
You expect others to change...
You demand that circumstances be different..
Yet, do you take the time to understand yourself beneath the stories you tell and the beliefs that shut you off to a different way of being?
You have my full compassion, for you can only be responsible for that which you are aware of, after that though, it's down to you.
Part of you doesn't want to change. There can be comfort in familiarity, even if that way of living doesn't serve you any longer.
Turning inward can be a daunting but ultimately a liberating experience, as long as you approach it with gentleness and curiosity, rather than beating yourself, like I used to do.
I would have been far freer in my football career, and earlier in my life, if I was aware of what I am nowadays. The injuries would have still hit, but I would have dealt with the disappointment far easier.
You can wake up right now, not later.
Start with the first step, then the next.
If you already feel free, then great.
I wish you well.