Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is famous for his theory on flow and as one of the pioneers of the scientific study of happiness. In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), he concluded that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as we learn to achieve flow in our lives. According to Csikszentmihalyi, "The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile."
When we focus our attention on a consciously chosen goal, our psychic energy literally "flows" in the direction of that goal, resulting in a reordering and harmonizing within consciousness. This higher state of consciousness makes what would seem too difficult effortless and allows us to advance into new achievements in sports performance and all the arts.
The flow state is like a moving meditation. Action and awareness merge when the athlete, artist or performer becomes totally absorbed in what they are doing. They have all the skills necessary and are able to stretch their abilities to meet the challenge, while focusing attention on the task at hand. Time seems to fly. It can also feel like there is no time.
An example of this can be seen in the martial arts or watching the Olympics. The competitor seeks to lose all distractions of ego, fear and self-referring thoughts, immersing themselves completely in the activity. This state allows the chi (energy) to flow through the individual and support the movement or task.
The flow state applies to dancers, athletes, writers, teaching, artistic creativity, and just living in a state of inspiration (in spirit) There's no one way, whatever works for an individual and brings the desired results is correct for them. Here are some suggestions that work like a charm for me and the athletes I coach:
1. Relax the eyes and use your breath. While practicing your sport or art. Then feel the body follow, this will clear and calm the mind and body.
2. Power vs. force. Ask to use God's (or Jesus', Buddha's, the universe's, whatever feels right to you) energy and not your own. Feel the power of the entire universe operating through you.
3. Posture. It's extremely important to have good posture so that the energy can flow fully and freely. In yoga it's referred to as your "back body." This will also create better balance, enhance sports performance and may help conserve energy. When I am performing advanced martial art kicks, to help keep my balance and train at peak levels I keep my shoulders are back, chest lifted and feel my heart is open. While the neck and low back are relaxed and using the abdominal muscles to support the back. This helps prevent injuries and is the body language of confidence.
4. Meditation. Program for success. Get out of your own way and merge with your highest visions of yourself. In Shaolin Kung Fu it is believed that the mind controls the body -- mind, body and spirit come together naturally as one reality. Through meditation one may connect to their full creative power. This gives one the ability to shift into an altered state at will. Through consistent training one can program the mind to tune out distractions, whether internal (nervousness, fear of failure) or external (crowd noise, other competitors, weather conditions) without holding on to them or paying any attention to them.
5. Appreciation. Get into the flow of whatever you are doing. This can include cleaning, caring for your pets, plants or at work. Send appreciation to the wonderful things in your life that have shown up and you get to love and nurture. When I do this I notice solutions to situations naturally arise as well as new creative ideas and insights.
When in this state of grace or flow state, you are in your natural state of well-being. One may notice how divine order and harmony carries into all areas of your life by:
* Working in complete harmony and cooperation with everyone you interact with.
*Drawing the highest and best from people.
*The right people, places and things show up.
* Financial abundance flows easily.
* Aches and pains are gone, the body and mind feel balanced.