My first experiences of Flow state were at the Brickman 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 time or the 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.
The first time I “went with the Flow” rather than insisting on thinking it all out in advance was on the ball field in Brooklyn. Again, this was an immense challenge to me at the time — I had decided that I was not going to wear glasses or contact lenses, even though I needed them. I could not see well, and required extra time to locate and see where the ball was. At the same time, I wanted to prove myself to the other boys as being more than a brainy kid.
On stage, I was frighted into paying attention to only that moment, the Now. The same thing happened when playing ball half-blind. No time for BS, I was forced out of my own little world into the world at large with no time to extensively pre-think each move. This was split-second decision-making. I was paying attention to the subtle inspirations inside and to everything outside at the same time.
Do you know people who seem to be so mentally strong that they almost always seem happy and positive, never saying a bad word about another person? More and more of us are practicing random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty, loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our actions are more aligned with the Sioux proverb, “with all beings and all things we shall be as relatives”.
There is real value in getting ourselves into a good mood. We make better decisions. We think more clearly. And there is no downside. It feels good — we feel good — and we make others feel good. Getting into a more positive frame of mind is not just to pump ourselves up. It manifests more Observer and Flow state in our lives, so we enjoy life more. We are more creative and effective in our work and happier in our life in general, which of course ripples out to all whose lives we touch.
So how do we get ourselves to feel good more often?
A daily vacation is a great start. Taking a break and doing whatever we want to do. Creating a space away from other people (this isn’t always necessary but it usually is in the beginning) and then just doing whatever feels right from second to second. Playing, like a child again. Being who we really are.
When we’re on vacation, we want to be in bliss. So don’t hurry when you’re on your daily vacation. You won’t accomplish the vacation objective fully if you’re thinking about how soon you have to get back to work and thus trying to cram in the fun — still speeding, still in the clutches of Acceleritis. When I take time out, I go back to work not because the “vacation” ended but because it’s what I really want to do. A flood of ideas rushes in so fast I have to write in pseudo-shorthand.
One rainy day I was driving a little too fast plus the cruise control was on. I got onto I-84 East and as I reached the highway itself I must have hit an oily patch for the next thing I knew I was going backwards, staring straight at Eastbound traffic bearing down on me at high speed — a truck passing a car, both coming right at me with many cars and trucks behind them.
Reflexively I righted the car and pulled off on the grassy median just as the honking truck and cars rushed past, missing me. A car pulled off and drove up alongside to see if I was alright. He said he was a Navy fighter pilot and complimented me on my reflexes, then drove off while I sat for a minute breathing deeply.
I bet you know what I was feeling because we have all felt it at one time or another — grateful for being alive. Life was suddenly so sweet. Every second was precious. The average workday that lay ahead was now an exciting prospect filled with interesting possibilities. The rain hitting the windshield was beautiful and I could see rainbows in each drop. The air tasted delicious.
Authentic gratitude is a very healthy emotion that I am sure increases immune response and is conducive to Flow state. As I grow older and hopefully wiser I find myself more often being grateful simply for this life, for life itself and especially for the interesting and fun life I have had so far. But any life is better than the alternative of never having existed. Even a life of pain is more interesting than eternal unconsciousness, never having a sense of self, never having even one experience.
As long as one is alive, there is the chance to fix or accept anything that is disturbing. That’s what creativity is for. Troubles can be overcome in a flash of inspiration. Life is filled with endless possibilities.
Staying happy in every moment is the hardest game worth playing. Maybe a million years from now, or even in a couple of hundred thousand years, it will not be so.
But we can’t wait.
We need to develop methods and tools to advance ourselves mentally and emotionally that far into the future, now. The actual survival of the human race may well be at stake, but more importantly, our own individual happiness — yours and mine, and that of the people we love and those around us — is at stake for sure.
Happiness cannot remain up the trail somewhere, an elusive thing we are working toward. That’s an outdated idea. It’s time for the new idea. Happiness now, in every moment. Now. And now. And now. Happiness all the time, internally controlled, internally generated, by an act of will. Infernally difficult but we cannot abandon this game, believing it’s just too difficult and out of our reach. Now is the time to face it — fight it — and win. And keep winning, because the game is not won once but continuously. That’s what makes it so hard.
As you go through your day, keep coming back to your birthright to be happy, right now, and use your focus, your will, and your creativity to bring about your happiness each moment. Let inner impulses float downstream if they are not conducive to your happiness in this moment. Allow such unhelpful thoughts and feelings to occur, and then watch them float away without holding onto them.
The Great Being, Part 38
Volume 5, Issue 14
We continue our weekly story of The Great Being, the Singular Self that is living through each of us avatars. We are watching how the story unfolds on the planet Earth through the experiences of two Agents of Cosmic Intelligence, Melchizedek and Layla, here on a mission that started in 200,000 BC. They are now in a new life around 40,000 BC.
In the last episode, the inevitable happened: a tribe member, Ja, was kidnapped by “the enemy”. Melchizedek and Layla, as Blu and Ska respectively, immediately set out in search of Ja. Then, suddenly and stealthily, Blu and Ska come upon the three warriors holding Ja. A quick battle ensues, two warriors are felled, and Blu and Ska make their escape, with Ja and one “enemy” warrior on their shoulders and captured weapons in tow.
It was surprisingly easy to move the tribespeople living on the lower plateau back up to the original camp a click uphill, especially when they saw Ja and the fearsome enemy weapons. The tribe’s weapons-makers were already studying their design and most everyone was anxious to move uphill as fast as possible. No organizing was necessary as each family unit moved at its own pace, all of them getting out of Dodge faster than the King and his troops, who stayed at the endangered camp preparing for the enemy.
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.
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.