The last couple weeks i have been busy preparing for the upcoming teacher training module, Flow: Intelligent vinyasa sequencing. I have also been finishing up some reading and slides for the Advanced Anatomy Module 2: The brain and beyond and today was just one of those days where everything is beginning to FLOW.
So what is “flow” anyway?
One of my favourite books: Flow, the psychology of optimal experience, written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains flow as the state in which a person is so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that you do it for the sheer sake of doing it. In the book Mihaly examines how to achieve happiness through the control over ones inner life.
“The optimal state of inner experience is one in which there is an order to consciousness and this only happens when our attention or psychic energy is invested in realistic goals, and when the skills match the opportunities for action. The pursuit of the goal brings order in awareness because the person must concentrate attention on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else. A person who has achieved control over psychic energy (attention) and has invested it in consciously chosen goals cannot help but to grow into a more complex being. By stretching skills, by reaching towards higher challenges, such a person becomes and increasingly extraordinary individual”
LET GO AND FLOW
The problem arrises when we become so fixated on the goal that we cease to pay attention to the moment; we cease to take in, savour and juice everything we can from our experiences. Because life is a series of moments and ultimately the attention we are investing in the present is what will move us in the direction of our goals, if we are paying attention in the moment we can make intelligent decisions based on the feedback we are receiving; like having your finger on the pulse of the universe. If our consciousness is like a garden, we get to choose what we water and fertilize and also when we are paying attention, we begin to recognize the weeds, the roots of our discontent and obstacles to optional experience and starve them out.
In Rick Hansens Book: Hardwiring Happiness he explains neuro plasticity or neural darwinism, which is basically your brains ability to create new synapses in various locations of your brain, or what he calls hardwiring happiness, through simply paying attention to your responses, actions and reactions. Biologically or brains have been built through evolution to focus on survival, using pleasure and pain as tools for survival. This has worked to preserve our species however it has also hardwired us for struggle.
We use the term “paying attention” for a reason. Your attention is a precious resource, like money and we get to choose how we invest it. If it is true that what ever we “pay” our attention to gets stronger then we should invest and spend more wisely.
Mihaly says “The most important step in emancipating from social programming is the ability to find rewards in the sweetness of each moment. We become empowered when we are no longer regulated by outside forces and as long as we obey the socially conditioned stimulus-response patterns that exploit our biological inclinations, we are controlled from the outside”.
Being controlled by the outside creates the “rat in a wheel” phenomena that we seem to get caught in, constantly seeking, but never satisfied. To the extent that a glamorous ad makes us purchase a product, or not getting enough Facebook or Twitter likes spoils the day, we are not free to determine the content of our experience. Getting back into the flow and out of the wheel means we have to take control of our consciousness.
There is a universal law that what you feed gets bigger and that which you focus on you feed. Since what ever we are experiencing is reality as far as we are concerned, we can transform our reality to the extent that we influence what happens in consciousness and thus free ourselves from the rat race. Often when setting goals we get blind sided by the achievement of success and completely miss out on the process, but the process is the path.
“Don’t aim at success-the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…..as the unintended side effect of ones personal dedication to a course greater than oneself” Viktor Frankl
“Instead of forever straining at the tantalizing prize dangled just out of reach, we can harvest genuine rewards for living” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I love Power Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, martial arts, basically anything with FLOW. Movement is not necessarily flow. Grace has little to do with strength and flexibility and everything to do with attention. When practicing vinyasa yoga we need to keep practising yoga during the transitions instead of focusing on trying to get into the next pose. Often we get so focused on trying to get somewhere that we loose the connection to the experience we are having; we lose the flow. Yoga is not something you do, rather it is the state of mind you keep in anything you do. True power comes from within. I always say what we do on the yoga mat should effect what we do off the mat in our daily life, if it doesn’t then we are not really practicing yoga and our time might be better spent “doing” something else. Power yoga sequences are not just intense physical exercise, but also a method of drawing us deeper into the innate wisdom of the body, you loose yourself, your conditioned way of living and relating with your body and the world, and get lost in the ebb and flow. The mind begins to quiet down and you become fully absorbed in the moment, no past and all the regrets, comparisons, judgments and doubts that have grown from it, no future and all the expectations associated with it. In the moment there is no such thing as success or failure there is just sensation and pure experience and consciousness, nothing to hold you back or to force you forward, inhibitions turn into innate wisdom and “knowing” We cant always control the waves that the universe churns out, but we can learn to surf them. In these sequences we will tap into the unlimited potential that exists at the core of all beings. We are not vinyasa soldiers we are warriors meant to move and celebrate our body in a way that unleashes as opposed to restricts. When you let go of what you think you should be, you become what you could be. Life is a series of transitions, Happiness is not a final destination.