Flow is But One Stage in a Creative Cycle
This is me at the Gum Wall in Seattle. Magic!
“Imagination,” says futurist and philosopher Jason Silva, “allows us to conceive of delightful future possibilities, pick the most amazing one, and pull the present forward to meet it.” ― Steven Kotler, The Rise of Superman, Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
Studies have shown that flow is one stage in a Flow Cycle. Steven Kotler is a researcher and author who has given us some words for what happens in the flow cycle, and how to do things to jump-start and trigger the flow step.
Struggle: Loading with new information. Trying new things with lots of room for falling down and failure. (As a writer, I consider this the research phase. I may be reading books, going back and reading my personal journals, and writing blog posts. I am loading data with experiences like film, music, art, writing, using some of the information to prime the pump of inspiration.)
Release or Relaxation: Take your mind off the problem. This may be a nap or doing something social with friends, walking in nature, or cleaning the house.
Flow: You are in the flow state (in the zone) Things are happening!
Recovery: Go into a low feeling. The energy and inspiration go silent.
The power in the cycle is to learn how to move through Struggle and Recovery better. To see each step as part of the process, and not to make anything out as wrong. I believe ‘writer’s block,’ doesn’t exist. At least, not in the way it is described by many people. When you don’t have words, look at the other steps. Do you need information or to try something new? Do you need to disrupt a pattern in your life and relax? Do you need to rest? Maybe, there is something you need to experience before you can write your book. Don’t let that stop you from writing anything. Write as a daily practice, even when you write things like, “I don’t know what I want to write. I don’t have anything to say.” Write down what you ate for breakfast, who you saw that day, or something that caught your attention.
I love being in flow when there is action. I am in the zone. I am the queen of doing and activity. I like the rapids where all of the ideas are rushing out and I get to take action. I love clarity and forward movement. I feel so alive when I am in this zone of activity. I love to produce tangible results.
So, when I talk with people about the power of pause and periods of stillness in relation to being in flow, I understand why they roll their eyes or get a glazed look! I know! You want to move and go, go, go, right?
If we don’t slow down, life has a way of setting up roadblocks. An accident, an illness, an unexpected circumstance that puts on the brakes and disrupts the do, do, do and the go, go, go. Our subconscious knows we need all four stages. We need preparation time and we need rest and we need play.
The key to flow is to follow the rhythm, the cycle, the next inspiration, the connection to where you are in this moment. Stillness, Rest, Inspiration, Excitement, Planning, Waiting, Action. We live in a fast food world where we have constant availability, quick service, 24-hour movement. We have things to explore and ideas to express! We also experience adrenal fatigue, stress, heart attacks, and other physical ailments. So, slow down!
Stop. Wait. Listen. Either for a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year. I also notice that flow stops when I put too many things on a to-do list. Even when I put too many spiritual practices to empty out and release. Watch out for that one! It’s tricky!
When exploring more of an awareness around flow, I began to see that recovery, resting, relaxing, play, are all connected to productivity. So, lying in bed and reading all day is one of the steps that is preparing me for the go, go, go. It is productive. It helps to re-frame what I see as productivity when I see that each step is necessary to write from inspiration, to follow my heart, to connect to the steps that will help me manifest my dreams.
And, just to add in another flavor, flow does not always come with an adrenaline rush. Sometimes it is noticing how my thoughts and desires have manifested in physical form by allowing things to happen.
For example, I completed a three-month summer house sit in Seattle this week. I cleaned the house, packed my bags, and drove to another friend’s house to prepare for a six-week house sit at her home. The next day, I had been invited to lunch with the owners of the summer house. We pushed pause on our lives to debrief about their trip to Europe, and all of the fun activities I had done in Seattle while they were gone. When I arrived at their home, they said they were going to take me to Café Flora, a vegetarian restaurant in Seattle. I clapped my hands with joy and enthusiastically said, “I was just thinking about Café Flora two days ago and how it was the one restaurant I didn’t go to this summer. I love it there!” To me, that is flow. When my thoughts, feelings and desires, come into physical form with ease and grace. Sometimes it is a rush of feeling flow and sometimes an idea happens, like a magic wand has created it. Poof!
So, how do we experience more of the flow state when we are actually in the Step of Flow? How do we prepare for and trigger the activation of flow?
Some of the keys for me:
- Practices that make me stop. Empty out. Release. Examples: Meditation. Dance. Walks in nature. Silence. Clearing the clutter from my mind. Sleep.
- Cultivating Desire. Listening to dreams, visions, yearning. All of these are driving forces in my life.
- Asking Questions with room for reflection:
*What am I excited about?
*What are my dreams showing me?
*What skills and talents do I have that I am not using?
*What intuitive clues, signs, and people are crossing my path?
*What topics are my clients most interested in learning about from me?
*What skills and talents are my unique expression and how can I use them more?
As I spend time noticing, listening and meditating, I daydream about the possibilities. Then, I take inspired action and assess the feelings and notice the impact. It helps me to stay in touch with this desire, to feel it in my body, to cultivate the longing and yearning and live in the flow of being in this space…waiting…ready…able…
To hear the inner guidance, one of the keys for me is also being in touch with what turns me on. It is a feeling. Other words and questions for the feeling of turn on are: What lights you up? Passion, excitement. What gets your attention? Where do you feel connected? When do you feel alive? When do you feel a sensation in your body that connects you to an idea, a passion, and guidance to follow the inspiration?
Here are some things I notice that turn me on:
*Learning new things
*Learning new things about old things.
*Feeling other people feeling
*Sharing resources and time
*Creativity and artistry in the world
*Witnessing another person’s passion
*Heart centered. Real Authentic moments.
How about you? What turns you on? Write it down and make room for the magic to happen!