Category Archives: Flow State

Savor the Moment

Originally posted September 15, 2017

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.— Rumi, from “The Guest House”

Imagine if we were to fully believe this and felt grateful for and loved whoever we’re with at any given moment in time.

Now imagine seeing that person as highly sentient like ourselves, each with his or her own story, knowing that we are interacting with each other now for reasons that may not be obvious in this moment. And then realize that there are undoubtedly layers of additional opportunity in this moment — allowing our interest to swell by being in the moment with this interaction, at this time, fully engaged, fully open and also being a studious observer.

How can we become more engaged in the moment?

Be engaged in this moment

This is much more difficult if our day is packed and we are just trying to manage a sense of constant chaos and distraction.

If our days are filled with scheduled meetings and phone calls, we might be just getting on with a conversation or meeting so we can move on to something we more look forward to doing. We’re checking off our to-do list, which affects the quality of each of our interactions.

A better strategy is to engage in each interaction with our full attention. It helps to schedule time in our calendar for meetings with ourselves, to use as we like best in the moment. It might be to launch into a high-opportunity project that has been waiting. It might be to take a break and a mental vacation, where we may find creative ideas popping of their own volition. It might be to sort out the latest incoming chaos and to calendar it for handling at a future date.

The strategy of pre-planning our days to include these meetings with ourselves at reasonable intervals, and pre-dream the other meetings, calls and other activities (which we can do in the shower or even in bed in the morning or the night before) allows us to arrange things so we can focus 100% on one thing at a time, in the moment — the Now.

As interruptions arise or even fresh thoughts relevant to the conversation or the meeting we are in, it may help to note them on paper or on your tablet so you don’t lose them; this helps to relieve our mind of worrying that we’ll forget them. I create a place for these notes until I can sort them into the appropriate file, which allows me to be more in the moment and not overwhelmed.

If we allow ourselves to remember how much can be accomplished in a few minutes when we are patiently engaged, we can really listen and be more absorbed in the moment — feeling the feelings inherent in the conversation and being grateful for this present opportunity whether we understand its greater meaning right now or not.

Our attention is divided into the Now, the past and the future. All we really have at our grasp is this moment, the Now. The past and future are concepts, abstractions, ways our mind has of organizing experience so it seems to make sense.

What is always real is the Now, this moment.

Best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog contribution, In Terms of ROI at Media Village, Myers new site. Here is the link to my latest post, Identifying the Ethical Limits of Persuasion in Advertising.

Originally posted 2015-09-15 08:49:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Getting to Flow by Living in the Moment

Originally posted August 18, 2015

Rise to this moment

My first experiences of Flow state were at the Brickman Resort when as a young child my parents, Ned and Sandy, put me onstage. The height of stage fright got my attention. I was pulled out of my mind by the sheer challenge of dealing with it. I had no time to dawdle or stay in my head. This seemed as close to a life-threatening experience as I could imagine, although I did not have the time or ability (as a child) to put it into those words. I couldn’t even distract myself by paying attention to my fear! I was totally absorbed in handling the immense challenge of the moment.

This and other experiences when I was young made me keenly aware of the existence of Flow, although I had no name for it then and didn’t think about it consciously. I also noticed there were other incidents in which I was more like Hamlet, overthinking a problem while the time to move had long since passed. Continue reading

Originally posted 2015-08-18 10:56:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Are you balancing activity and stillness?

Originally posted June 16, 2015

If we are always pushing toward our goals, we are inadvertently setting ourselves back from reaching them.

There is a stage in the creative process in which it is wise to turn away from the challenge and do other things, for it is during this turned-away phase that the Aha! moment comes.

not creating may be essential to creativity

Certain batteries get recharged when we take ourselves temporarily off the wheel that is always driving us. This can happen when we are entertained — on our screen devices, reading, watching stage or other performances, spectator sports, vacations, making love, being with family and/or friends.

The subtlest batteries, however, only get recharged when we are alone with ourselves. This can take the form of sitting meditation but it doesn’t have to. We can be alone in nature, alone at home, alone on an airplane, anywhere. As long as we are not working down the TO DO list, there is a greater chance that we will slip into the Observer state (the precursor to Flow state) effortlessly.

To help bring on Observer state — a mindset in which you are able to simultaneously observe and analyze your emotional reactions to situations somewhat impassively — this works for me:

  • Look more closely at the place from which thoughts/feelings arise.
  • Don’t add to what you observe inwardly/outwardly, i.e. stop interpreting everything.

If we spend too much time doing, our conscious mind will block the functioning of our subconscious mind, and we’ll interfere with the stream of consciousness. If we spend too much time not doing, we will under-actualize our own goals. The movement associated with creative energy is a good thing, but stillness in body and mind is also valuable.

Balancing movement and stillness is optimal for maximizing effectiveness toward all our goals in life for love, creativity, and ultimately spiritual fullness, intuitively knowing and feeling connected with all beings and all things.

Strive to achieve the right balance between times spent doing versus time spent not doing.

L’chaim! (Hebrew toast “to life”)

Best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog contribution, In Terms of ROI at MediaVillage.com. Here is the link to my latest post.

Originally posted 2015-06-16 14:04:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

If You Aren’t Enjoying Your Self, Something’s Wrong

Originally posted February 3, 2015

Assume that if you are in a bad mood or feel a negative physical symptom, this is a direct internal communication to you. Your subconscious is trying to tell you something! This is an autonomic alarm system we all have.

If for example your current activities are not in alignment with your goals, or if you have set a goal that is not in alignment with your core values, parts of your mind will try to bring this to your conscious attention any way they can, and often the signaling will involve feelings of distress or something not quite right.

Maybe it starts out one day as a bad mood you don’t even realize you are in, and then escalate as the signal strength is gradually increased in an attempt to finally get your attention. If this persists long enough it can turn into physical symptoms. It is all about communication — in this case, internal communication.

Act as if you deserve to be happy

The highest priority then is to decode the message and thereby reverse the emotional or physical quandary. Don’t get lost in the suffering and forget to decipher first, ahead of anything else. Act as if you deserve to be happy at all times, whatever the circumstances.

Getting lost in the suffering is what most of us do at most times, and this is a life-threatening waste of time. It also blocks your quality. There’s no point in soldiering on in a bad mood because whatever you do in that state will not be in the range of high quality / high effectiveness. Better to let the work fall even farther behind while you figure out what is bugging you and dispel it by taking the action required.

How can you find your way into Flow State?

One of the primary characteristics of Flow state (aka the Zone) is that the individual is doing something s/he loves to do, fully immersed in the playing of that game as a game, without over-motivation to win or over-concern of failure — and above all that, free of attachment. This mood is a clue that you are in the process of moving into higher effectiveness, you just go with the flow, enjoying it — and if you don’t distract yourself by subtly gloating over it, you go all the way into the Zone.

If something is bringing you down, that is going to block the Zone. Set aside your work, get yourself somewhere where you are uninterruptible, and see inside yourself to detect the source of the bad mood or sick feeling.

Are you attached to something that you fear not getting? Or are you attached to something not happening that some part of you expects will be happening anyway? What could it be?

You might find that taking notes helps, especially if you let the pen just write, without editing, because different neuron clusters become engaged when you go from just pondering to also writing notes. Shifting modalities like this is like sweeping a searchlight around inside your psyche.

Another way to shift modalities and bring different neurons into play is to turn aside from actively thinking about the question and instead just cultivate emptiness inside while paying sharp attention. This is a powerful shift of neurons, known to many writers. For example, adman James Webb Young’s 1960 classic A Technique For Producing Ideas speaks about a need to set aside all thought about a project after studying and thinking deeply about it, and sure enough flashes of inspiration will appear out of nowhere (usually within three days in this writer’s experience, frequently within hours nowadays after decades of practice).

A more common experience we’ve all had is when trying to think of a word or name. It is on the tip of our tongue and we keep trying the same file drawer in our mind, certain that with enough effort we will remember it. But we don’t remember it until we give up and then it easily pops into our head a short while later. Same principle.

You deserve to be happy.

Remain open to the existence of all possibilities where you have not proven — with evidence that would stand up in court and to scientific public scrutiny — that some possibility does not in fact exist. Do not tolerate bad moods or sickly symptoms in oneself without seeking out the root causes and taking effective action to remove those causes.

Banish negativity as ineffective time-wasting! Rechannel your energy into a stimulus to discern the root sources — and then plan and implement effective actions to remove those root causes of the negativity. And remember to respect yourself and everyone and everything else. Disrespect blocks solutions and creates new problems.

Our purpose steadfastly remains to improve the creative effectiveness of our readers thus improving decision making. Test this method over the next week or lifetime and see if it works for you. There is no downside risk in the test — it can only help you, or at the worst change nothing.

Best to all,

Bill

Read my media blog “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com under MediaBizBloggers.  Read my latest media post.

Originally posted 2015-02-03 15:23:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

A More Alert Reaction

Just one of the benefits of Observer and Flow States

Originally posted March 1, 2012

 “A word to the wise is sufficient.” Confucius may have said this. The same conditions causing Acceleritis™ also reward those of us who can spend some time in the two higher states of performance. In the sped-up culture that continues to accelerate, we are more successful if we can extract learning and act on it quickly without delay.

The techniques, which we call psychotechnology, to help us stay in the Observer and Flow states therefore become important to learn and put into practice.

The wise are able to learn from a single experience without repetition because they are counting the cards. In the same sense that Captain Picard would say “more power to the shields”, the wise person has wordlessly said to himself/herself, “more power to observation”. This is why we say the entry into Flow state is through the Observer state.

It’s easier to turn on the Observer state than it is to just decide to turn on the Flow state.

The Flow state is a delicate balance of many variables. Having prepared by practicing being in the moment, not being attached to how well you perform or to anything else, being in the Observer state, having your skills in some degree of close balance with the challenge slope of the moment — these all must click for Flow to engage.

For the Observer state to take you over, there are fewer requirements. You must be single-pointedly focused — intensely following the thread of what is going on in the now, including and especially in your own mind and body, but equally in the “external” world. You must be intellectually honest with yourself, objectively critiquing your own last thought and feeling. You can’t critique what you don’t notice and so you are paying such close attention inwardly and outwardly that you are catching every inner impulse. You are bringing into your conscious awareness some of what would normally pass by subconsciously.

Getting into these “altered” states of consciousness is a “yogic” process — it is exactly the same kind of process one goes through in order to gain control of normally-involuntary muscles in the body, except in this case they are normally-unused “muscles” of the mind.

Some of what the Human Effectiveness Institute has rediscovered can be found in ancient Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga texts. I found it there years later, having discovered Flow state on stage at age 4 in the Catskill mountain resorts (then in their heyday).

An early experience worth sharing is one in which my Flow was so in the moment that I was unable to hear or even later remember the words I had adlibbed that got such huge laughs. Here’s an excerpt from a memoir I wrote for my Dad, bandleader and MC Ned Harvey:

Fat Jack was considered to be the hippest comic in the world by the denizens of the Borscht Belt. Jack E. Leonard was an insult comedian who may have created the genre. Don Rickles was next in the insult comedy lineage.

Speed and cleverness were the two main criteria. Fat Jack could backhand a comeback over the net even before the incoming line had ceased to echo in the air, and his riposte was both unpredictable and used the raw material of the incoming line. This was the stuff of genius.

Later I would think in terms of the terabytes per nanosecond of computing speed that would allow Jack to search his files, put together alternative combinations, and select the optimal response.

We were in our room in the Frat House, under the canteen…

In the room besides Ned, my mother Sandy, me and Fat Jack were a few other musicians and Bernie Klein the stage director. Jack was holding court and the other adults in the room were convulsed in spasmodic laughter. I was silent and missing a lot of the humor. I was maybe 5 years old.

For some reason Jack singled me out with his gaze and threw me a line. Then something weird happened — something that had never happened before.

I said something back and after an instant’s shocked silence the group broke up in surprised laughter. I was not able to hear my own voice. I had no idea what I’d said.   

Jack smiled too but threw me back a clever counterpunch that I also couldn’t hear — I answered him in the same voice that everyone else but me could hear. Again my line got a big laugh, bigger than the first. This went on for a while.

When it was over and the conversation moved on, I began to be able to hear again. Jack gave me a sweet goodbye, not characteristic for him. I had no idea what had happened.

There are levels in Flow we have written about here before. The level at which one is so sewn into the universe that subject and object merge, and there is no inner rehearsal — this is the level where it’s possible to eject words so effortlessly one cannot later recall what they were. The first words are not checked in any way and are just allowed to flow through motor control without a second thought as to result or risk. This has only happened to me one time since, with the same audience appreciation. The great standups did it almost every night.

Incidentally, “don’t attempt this at home” as they say on TV gator domination and hotdog skateboarding crash shows. Don’t run off at the mouth trusting that it will be Flow. Actions should be in the opposite sequence: first sense that you are in Observer state and then when you are in Flow state. Only then can you loosen the valve on top of your mental stream of consciousness as a firehose without embarrassing consequences.

The standard state of human consciousness in all industrialized cultures has as one of its aspects the psychic spark gap between the thought of what to say next and the act of saying it. That distance is enough to take the average person at the average time out of Flow. However, using Fat Jack as our above-average model, he might have had an inkling of what his foil was going to say next, so Fat Jack might have had a split second to forethink an answer and another split second to do a gut check before he was delivering the line with perfect command of his voice.

Flow neurology will be very interesting to study. There is a significant speedup in the thought process and ability to see one’s own mind (thoughts, feelings, images) clearly.

Let there be no miscommunication: we are not recommending that you say the first thing that pops out of your mouth. Definitely wiser to not interrupt. Wait for the moment and then if you have something significant to say, say it, letting yourself have the added time to refine and challenge whatever it is you think is worth saying next.

You and the people in your team don’t need to get to such levels of Flow in order to vastly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your operation. (And obviously it would not be helpful to have no memory of what you’ve said.) Everyone else being in EOP most of the time, if you can move yourself and your people up to spending a quarter of work time in Observer state, you’ll be in the top percentile of high-performing teams, analogous to a winning sports team and elite paramilitary units.

What you want are sensible procedures for instilling this level of alertness.

Here are a few starter steps:

  1. Share the model of EOP, Observer, Flow. Present it as a model, a construct, a lens, a useful fiction, a stimulant. If it is later scientifically validated, that’s great, but for now the thing is to test and observe results. The only reason we founded the Human Effectiveness Institute is because in our experience the techniques we share are useful in increasing innovation and success.
  2. Create an atmosphere where there is nothing to fear. Support people when they make mistakes, while correcting them in good spirits and being on their side.
  3. Take side notes to keep the mind clear of distractions. Ultrabrief one- or two-word trigger phrases that will remind you of the thought or feeling. Stay observant and connected in the now, with the inner/outer attentional focus described earlier in this post. Share this technique with your team as well.
  4. Reset all beliefs and expectations back to zero, except for agreements and dutiful obligations. Reconsider all possibilities. Erase assumptions. Especially the hidden ones. Root out hidden assumptions and expose and neutralize them.

Here’s to more alert reactions, and to even more anticipatory and effective pro-actions!

Best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog contribution, “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com under MediaBizBloggers. Read my latest post.

Originally posted 2012-03-01 12:08:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Door to Enlightenment Is Always an Inch Away Part 2

Originally posted as the second part of February 9, 2012 blog post

In the prior post, Part 1, we analyzed the concept of Enlightenment and some of its meanings from Kant to SRI VALS to Eastern philosophy, and pointed out that it is not an attainment but a maintainment, as one keeps slipping back out of it, with very few making it a permanent state. In this post we’ll focus on the practical steps one can take to beat the odds of spending more time in that state.

It’s okay to be a saint, in other words. It doesn’t mean you are NOT Enlightened. It simply depends on why you are acting saintlike. If there is any trace of ego motivation, you are merely in the highest attachment area before Enlightenment, which is not bad at all. Especially today when Acceleritis™ has us on the brink of our own mass destruction and already practicing it actively against other species of fauna and flora. If you count insecticides that have caused awful cancers and brain diseases, we are already practicing mass destruction against our own species, so caught up in Acceleritis are we.

So if you want to be a world saver, or caregiver, or an otherwise unselfish actor, consider that a degree of Enlightenment already; go ahead and give in to it. We need more of it anyway. It will lead you all the way.

And so as to technique: what techniques can be engaged in order to have these brief epiphanies of Enlightenment?

Why would a saint be taken out of Enlightenment if primarily motivated by the desire to please God?

Because this takes one out of the moment — doing the moment for something outside of the moment — something that exists in the future. Flow, which contains Enlightenment at its top end, does not work that way. If one is doing something for any outcome, one is out of Flow.

One is even out of Flow if one is grading one’s own performance. This is one of the biggest blocks to Flow. This is part of the herd mentality. You are only worth what others think of you. Each moment you have to be attached to what they think of you. This is drilled into us with reward/punishment (“Good Billy! Bad Billy!”).

This goes deep and starts at the first moment of dissociation, the first descent from Flow singularity/pointedness into a divided sheaf of self — the moment Freud referred to in Civilization and its Discontents when the Ego (manager-intermediary) first forms. Freud saw the id (the self that one is born with) as being a primitive, animal-like tabula rasa (a blank state) rather than being the single Consciousness of the Universe — the pure state of Selfness — the singularity of experiencing  — the Observer.

Whatever the parts of consciousness that exist when one is divided, as has become the endemic (and to Freud, natural) state of our race — the point is that a divided mind is the opposite of Flow. Our hypothesis is that our race could have existed mostly in Flow at some point far back enough in time, before Acceleritis set in.

Not being divided inside manifests as there being no distinction between your self and the moment. It is all one piece. You are not observing it from outside. You are experiencing it from inside while being totally immersively aware of the moment. You are not rating your own performance. You are not focused on success. You are not trying to remember technique. You are not narrating your own life novel. You are not making smart alecky comments although they may occur to you wordlessly. Feelings and ideas are happening quickly without being seized upon by the muscle of the mind. They do not take away attention from Flowing with the moment. You are not trying to figure out why you are doing this, or what techniques you are using — you are just doing what comes naturally.

When in Emergency OversimiplificationProcedure (EOP), we are living as though watching a rear view mirror, facing backward all our lives, with breaks to look forward. Only once in a while are we lucky enough to see/be the moment as it happens, not seeing ourselves and the moment as different things. This is to be cultivated.

The looking backward is all about slave mentality — judging your own performance in sublimated attachment to what others think of you. Such attachment is a form of dilemma perception — seeing everything to always be in a world of permanent dilemma, imperfection, hence the need to strive for something outside of the moment.

The word dilemma is all about being divided — “two postulates” is the Latin root meaning. Of course if there is more than one postulate there is the potential for a conflict between them, hence the uneasiness of having a dilemma. Dilemma, dissatisfaction, striving, attachment, all of these are the same thing — EOP. The state the great majority of us are in virtually all of the time. Our leverage to get out of that state and into Flow state is through these little windows that are only an inch away.

Here’s a recap:

  • If one is doing something for any outcome, one is out of Flow.
  • Grading one’s own performance is one of the biggest blocks to Flow.
  • A divided mind is the opposite of Flow.
  • In Flow, there is no distinction between your self and the moment. It is all one piece.
  • In Flow, you are not trying to figure out why you are doing this, or what techniques you are using — you are just doing what comes naturally, in the moment.

Jump through!

Best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog contribution, “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com under MediaBizBloggers. Read my latest post.