This post will describe what is flow and how to have it in scientific and spiritual forms. When you hear the word flow, you may think in terms of an athlete being “in the zone,” or an author, artist, or musician swept up in the flow of creativity.
That can be true, but flow can be experienced by everyone. When you experience flow, you experience its positive side effect ̶ joy. That’s why I write about the two together. Once you get a taste of flow, you will want to live your life in that place of flow as much as possible! As least I do.
Researchers have described flow in many ways. It is a scientific phenomenon. I’ve read descriptions that it is not magical or mystical. I understand their analysis, but I beg to differ and will explain why.
But first, here is the scientific research. (There is a wonderful book called Flow by Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi that goes into a lot of scientific research on flow.)
What is Flow in Scientific Form – Flow you Can Control
Flow happens usually under the following conditions:
- There is a goal to be met
- Complete focus is required
- A skill is involved
- Feedback is required
How to Have Flow in Normal Activities
If that skill word bothers you, here is an example of a common flow activity:
Gardening – Using an example of planting tomatoes, the goal is to have tomatoes to enjoy.
When you are digging the dirt, you are focused on the task. Most people I know that love gardening consider it a meditation. They are connecting to the earth and creating something with their hands. Their mind is free from demands, to-do lists, and distractions.
The skills required are: to pick a place where the tomatoes can grow, have good soil, make sure there is enough sunlight, water, take care of the weeds, and fertilize.
The feedback comes from the plants growing, thriving, and producing tomatoes. The ultimate feedback is tasting those delicious tomatoes.
Growing tomatoes provides a sense of enjoyment and accomplishment.
What is Flow in Spiritual Form
Flow for me is magical and mystical. The ultimate form of flow I’ve discovered is spiritual flow. It’s something that is much greater than ourselves. It’s something that also expands ourselves and causes the self to grow in deeper ways.
When I talk about self I mean our souls, the true essence of who we are. I write about joy and flow together because joy is found in flow. Life becomes less of an effort.
Flow is an other-worldly experience. What I mean by that is that flow radically opposes the way that our Western culture operates. We are all about stressing and striving to be rewarded. Just work hard and you can accomplish anything you want, is what we are told.
Ultimately, flow is being aligned with our Creator. We have a silent Partner in the flow experience. Flow is allowing God to work on your behalf.
How to Have Flow You Can’t Control by Letting Go
My experience with flow came out of desperation. (That’s how I discovered meditation too.)
Sometimes it takes a point of overwhelm and frustration that you just can’t do things on your own anymore. Life becomes too much to handle. That’s when you simply need to surrender and let go.
The prior scientific steps can be controlled, such as controlling your mind, focus, or the timing of a goal you alone oversee. Spiritual flow can only be controlled so far. That’s why you need to let go. You can’t control outcomes because circumstances may not be in your total control.
When I Experienced Flow by Letting Go
This letting go happened when my mother had a series of four falls in a row at the age of 93. At the time, she was living at home.
With diabetes and congestive heart failure, and now being a fall risk, there was no way that she could live on her own. She needed constant care.
Decisions had to be made immediately. Completely overwhelmed, I took the advice of friend, Jill Farmer, who has what she calls, “God’s To-Do List.” Anything big she puts on that list.
All of the large to do’s I put on God’s List (then and to this day). All requests were answered almost immediately: an elder care lawyer was recommended, the facility we truly wanted for her had an opening (usually the waiting list is years), a renter was found for the house, when the house went on the market, a perfect contract came through, and so many more outcomes handled. It was miraculous!
Through this experience, I discovered four steps to spiritual flow that have become a meditation of sorts. If you are interested in the spiritual aspect of flow, fill in your name and email below, then hit the button to receive The Four Steps to FLOW.
I hope that this post helped you to understand what flow is in scientific and spiritual forms and how you can enjoy flow in your life. Do you have a flow experience to share? Please comment below.