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What Is a Flow State and How Can You Tap Into It?

What Is a Flow State and How Can You Tap Into It?

Many of you may have heard of the term flow state before. It is a term thrown around in business circles, the self development fields and throughout the spiritual communities. A flow state has been coined “being in the zone” or “being fully immersed” with what is at hand. But what really does this mean and how can we more effectively and efficiently tap into it? Is there even such a thing?

Well yes! Your flow state is a state of consciousness where you are fully present with the activity at hand. So often we are driven by our mind patterns or ego and we are hardly without thought let alone grounded in the present moment. When we think of flow state we think of clarity, connection with joy, mindfulness and inspiration. Your flow state is the state at which you are in alignment with your purpose, the present moment and heart. You can even tap into the flow state with mundane circumstances such as cleaning and cooking and yes, in that moment that is aligned with your purpose. Your purpose being joy. 

Now if we have such a capability why is that we find it difficult to tap into this state of consciousness? Why is it that we need guidance on aligning with something that is within our natural  capacity? It is because most human beings are not living in alignment with their joy and they are run by their minds. 

Let’s take a deeper look.

Think about when you were a child. Were there any moments when you were completely lost in joyful creation? When you had no care in the world, no ones opinions to worry about, no demanding responsibilities at hand. Can you think of a time that all that existed was you and whatever you were doing or creating? Can you remember the feeling you had when you had this experience? This feeling—this experience is what you can consider the flow state. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  devised the term Flow in 1975 and is considered one of the co-founders of the positive psychology movement. “(If you’re not sure how to pronounce his name, here’s a phonetic guide: “Me high? Cheeks send me high!”)” According to Csikszentmihalyi Flow occurs when your skill level and the challenge at hand are equal. Now I know what you might be thinking…how are you supposed to grow and learn things if you are just following what you want to do instead of what you have to do to achieve your goals? Well, just because your goals may require new skills, discipline and determination it does not mean that the learning process itself may not be fun and enjoyable. 

Now when we think about finding a flow state within the mundane this is a tad bit different. When you do something over and over again it becomes a energy pattern stored in your body. This means that the more your do something the deeper it is engraved in your body’s memory and the less effort it takes to complete. However when we find ourselves in such a task we typically like to try and multi-task or our mind begins to race with the extra mental energy available. In order to tap into the flow state with mundane or repetitive task you have to practice stilling your mind through mediation and mindfulness practices. Once you establish a grounded practice in these techniques you can apply them to these types of tasks and you will notice that doing the dishes all of the sudden becomes quite the pleasant experience! 

How to know if you are in the Flow State.

Now that we know a little bit about the function of the flow state let’s look at how you can know you have reached this state of consciousness. According to Csikszentmihalyi there are 8 characteristics of a flow state. They are as followed:

  • Complete concentration on the task;
  • Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
  • Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
  • The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
  • Effortlessness and ease;
  • There is a balance between challenge and skills;
  • Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
  • There is a feeling of control over the task.

These characteristics are a general summary and may not be experienced by all people. Take note if you have experienced any of the general flow state qualities and if so what were you doing that put you into that state? Did the task at hand bring you joy? 

Have To’s and Need To’s…

When attempting to enter a flow state one of the most important things to consider is your joy. If you are doing a task because you feel like you have to do it or you need to do it then usually it comes with stress and potentially even dread. How can I possibly find joy in everything that I do? That’s not possible! 

Well, it’s not about finding joy in all things (even though with a lot of inner work this is possible), it’s about finding the joy in the simple things life offers us. For example, how often do you think of how amazing it is to have a refrigerator that can store all of your food or a machine that will wash your clothes for you? When you apply gratitude to a situation like cleaning out the fridge or doing the laundry you bring about a positive energetic imprint in your being and your potential to tap into your flow state becomes a lot easier! That’s right, having gratitude for the simple things in your life removes resistance to the task at hand which can bring you more into presence. Becoming more present or mindful allows for mental clarity, relaxation and endurance which are key factors to obtaining a flow state. 

Remember that you do not have to do anything rather everything is a choice. It may feel like you have to do somethings but if you really think about it you usually always have an option. You probably just do not want to consider the latter option. This is important to remember when you are trying to tap more into joy and further your flow state. Come with appreciation with all things and an expanded awareness is likely to shine through.

Gone with the Flow.

Tapping into the flow state is easier when your not attempting to achieve it. Flow state happens when your ability to tap into your innate being and happiness is at play. From my personal experience flow state naturally happens the more aligned you are with your inner being and when you are following your joy. You all have the ability and capacity to do so. So give yourself the time and space to align—then you can go with the flow.

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