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Going With The Flow

Discussion in 'Meditation Chatter Box' started by Michael David, May 5, 2013.

  1. Michael David

    Michael David Member

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    One of the games I played while walking a mile up and back to elementary school was kicking a rock down the sidewalk. I lived just inside the allowed walking distance. A friend of mine in my same class, Dennis Fromkies lived just over the limit and got to ride up and back in the school bus. I didn't mind the walk, as a kid I just did what I did, and anyway on really bad rainy or extra cold days my mom would drive me.

    Kick the rock was a fun game that did not have a clear cut goal. I would just walk along and kick the rock and then walk to wherever it stopped and then kick it again. It absorbed my attention and I would be at the end of the block before I knew it. There was no right or wrong kick or even a right or wrong result. The game just flowed along and the fun part, the happiness was the actual kicking. For me now, as an adult, in golf it would be the swing.

    The key word above is flow. We have all heard of "go with the flow", "being in the zone" or "riding the wave." I used to think that it is difficult to obtain the state of, being in the flow and that it was only for great athletes or poets and not for routine people who actually have to get something done; often with deadlines and someone looking over their shoulder. Or even worse looking over our own shoulders and continually pushing ourselves to accomplish more and more. Hang in there, turn it around, you can do it. Just start with small steps; maybe even in golf.

    Flow has several primary characteristics. These characteristics are focusing strong attention on a specific activity, meeting a strong challenge balanced by the skill needed for that challenge and having a sense of control and satisfaction in the activity.

    This could be an active sport, reading, shopping, working, listening to music etc. For example when my son Joel was about 7 we would have a catch. We would start a few feet apart and then gradually increase the distance between us. The challenge was to throw a ball up and back 10 times without either of us dropping the ball. Then we would move three steps back and start over. As our skill level increased so would the challenge as the distance was also increased. The interest, attention, sense of control and satisfaction all increased in proportion. The flow of our "game" was a natural development of this concept of developing flow many years before I had even heard of it.

    You might start with a small step. For example brushing your teeth or walking from one room to another.

    For brushing your teeth use your non-dominant hand. If you habitually brush with your right hand you would use your left hand for these exercise. By doing this you will develop attention to the brushing, challenge due to your non-dominant hand feeling "sloppy" in its movement to brush and gradually you will develop skill to match the challenge. You may even feel that your teeth do not feel like they were brushed. After a day or two you will start to feel a sense of control and satisfaction and the feeling of flow will begin.

    After some time you can add more challenge and time the brushing for 15 seconds for each quarter of your mouth and then advance to 30 seconds per quarter. During this process you can occasionally switch back to your dominant hand and notice the immediate sense of flow as your hand glides over your teeth and gums with a familiar feeling of control, satisfaction and flow.

    Walking from room to room at home or at your office is another place to start with something small. Most of the time we are not aware of all the things we pass by while walking. We are so preoccupied with whatever we are doing or planning to do next that we miss what is happening right before us. We also miss the sense of flow that we could learn to cultivate and then live in more often.

    You might try counting your steps as you walk and then creating a challenge to stay focused on your walking for 2 or 10 or 20 steps; or noticing a particular number of things along the way. You might try setting a new record for noticing more and more. Look for other activities where you can practice and cultivate more experience of flow.

    It reminds me of the story of the wise Zen master who told his students "to eat when they eat, walk when they walk and read when then read." One day a student saw the master reading and eating at the same time and questioned him on his seemingly breaking one of his own instructions by doing two things at once. The master simply replied that when he was reading and eating he was simply concentrating on his reading and eating. I guess he had advanced his skill level and challenge to be flowing in that unity too.

    Michael :)
     

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