Flow is integration within the whole of life. Perfect flow is possible but not how you might think it is. If you use the “flow as a state” definition, then perfect flow is actually impossible because we cannot sustain any state under effort indefinitely. If Flow is integration, then there can only be perfect flow. To the degree that all the microcosms of our life are being consciously integrated to the universal macrocosm, to the same degree we are conscious of flow. By now you have taken the FLOW BIAS QUIZ and your present, temporary bias has been associated with an aquatic animal (Barnacle, Jellyfish, Fish, Dolphin). This animal represents your bias (at the time of the quiz) toward viewing reality as integrated or as dis-integrated. We are not defined by or locked into a bias. Each of us is constantly gaining and losing an integrated experience. Your bias only represents a snapshot in time, not an enduring personality trait.
Drift on the other hand is perfect disintegration which is NOT the opposite of integration (Confused? This will make more sense later). Our inability to connect seemingly unrelated things is dis-integration and brings with it a commensurate inability to be present with, and receive life on its terms. This shows up as frustration, disappointment, pain, etc… The more we are focused on undesirable things and view them as derailments, obstacles to our freedom, or problems, the more dis-integrated we become and thus drift in a perfectly predictable manner.
Remember, flow is not a static, fixed or focused state. Flow is dynamism, movement, change, ambiguity, flux. Remember how everything in the known universe moves in wave-forms or flow? Think of your life experience as a wave-form. Common wisdom gets at this when we hear people say: “Life is full of ups and downs.” or “Make hay while the sun shines.” or “Life is about give and take.” When someone says, “You have to go with the flow.” they are scratching the surface of a power which can be further understood and developed.
For today’s lesson, I want us to begin connecting the dots of YOUR life experience. We will start small and expand our capacity. This is really all there is and ever will be to FLOW. At first this seems a bit anti-climactic, but soon, as more and more pieces begin to integrate, healing takes place, and we begin to experience our lives with wonder, awe, and satisfaction. If you’ve ever taken an IQ test, then you know that it’s not based on knowledge, but one’s ability to connect what appear to be random patterns. Those with greater ability to integrate (higher IQ) tend to be more successful in life, but flow goes far beyond IQ pattern identification though it contains it at our formative level. As we mature and experience greater flow, pattern identification gives way to experiential metaphor.
Let’s start with the metaphor of breath. The Greek word for breath is Pneuma. Pneuma is used synonymously with breath, wind, or spirit. As a metaphor it allows us to see beyond our present frame of reality. Inspiration (breathing in) is not breathing, it’s one aspect of it. Inspiration is only part of the wave-form of breathing which also includes the equally important aspect of expiration (breathing out). What is happening when we expire the oxygen out of our lungs and then pause to take in a fresh breath? Within 10-15 seconds we begin to get uncomfortable. If we do not inspire a new breath, within a minute we begin to struggle, and within a few more minutes we lose our consciousness and before long we could die without inhalation.
Returning to the question, “What is happening when we exhale?” the answer is we are dying. Roughly sixteen times per minute the average person is facing death. Sit with this for a minute. We are oblivious to this sobering reality because of the opposite effect of the other half of the wave-form, inspiration. Taking in wind, breath and spirit feeds, heals and restores or bodies. We do this without thinking because our autonomic nervous system operates in a dimension that is not regulated by thinking or conscious engagement. This “other” dimension of experience sustains our life from our first breath to our last. Life for us exists first from another dimension.
In every spiritual practice on the globe, humanity is first reminded to become conscious of our breathing. Considering the function of the spirit, breath or wind which sustains us all is the essence of spirituality. No one escapes this, flow is not about whether any of us have a spiritual life, flow is first recognizing as Rob Bell says, “we ARE a spiritual life.“ The first step is connecting your very existence to your breath or spirit.
Many of you are well beyond this stage, but since many of you will forward this program to others, I want to start there. Next, now that we are aware of the wave-form of spirit, life and death, we need to begin exploring the world to become aware of other wave-forms. Here are some for you to consider:
I’m a mountain biker so here’s a wonderful video that allows us to see the wave-form of mountain biking. Below are many others…
- Blood flow
- The life cycle
- Cerebral Fluid
- Construction and Engineering
- The Arts
- Quantum Science
The lists go on and on. While this exercise seems obvious, that is only because you are already aware of these most obvious wave forms. The exercise only begins with our ability to perceive them. Mastering any single one of them is a lifelong endeavor and yet its the same endeavor for each. If you have already got this far, my question for you is, which wave-forms are you still failing to see? I know that’s kind of like asking you to tell me about your blindspots, but there is a way for you answer this:
What is one area of your life that brings you a large amount of pain, frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, or boredom? It may be something you don’t want to talk about. It may be something that you’d rather avoid. That ambivalence, avoidance or cognitive dissonance is called drift. Drift is when we try and live life on half the wave-form. Are you trying to do too much on one breath? Are you trying to do anything without the infusion of spirit? Are you expecting the world to open up to you when you are stuck like a barnacle? What have you mastered so far (10 years+)? How did our finances get so out of control? How did we get so out of shape? How did we get so exhausted? Why are we so impatient? Why can’t we resist our temptations? How did we become so fearful and complacent? All of this is drift. Drift is not out of flow. Drift is the barnacle or jellyfish who is constantly sustained and fed by flow, invited into flow, but who lacks any motor (skill or will/ inspiration) to do anything about the situation.
So step one in understanding Flow is an honest appraisal of our pain points. These allow us to become aware of those areas where flow has been disrupted or limited to only one aspect of it’s wave-form. When we avoid pain or displace it, we cease to be with the whole aspect of flow and cut off part of the wave-form. Before we can learn how to progress beyond drift, we have to first see it in our lives and see it for what it is.
Behold, bad experiences become our spiritual teachers. The bad thing we avoided becomes a benevolent force inviting us into a New Life.