It’s that state you get in when the “I” stops. The ego dies. You lose all sense of self yet are fully connected to your senses, integrated in your body. Your arms and legs move as if on their own, making complex calculations in split seconds. Your body appropriates special depth, time, speed, angles, orientation and velocity, accuracy, and power in ways that even brilliant mathematicians would find challenging. It blends and merges physical and mental acuity to produce moments of hyper awareness and distilled, single-minded focus.
During moments of flow, time slows down for the one who is animated. Rapid decisions are given room to breathe by zooming in on the conscious moment so that it expands enough to act. It’s that magical state where words pour onto the screen, a seamless translation of the liminal into language, without hesitation, arriving character by character in perfect order and succession as the stream of consciousness becomes immortalised in small black letters on a white document background. Flow is the moment where one hand instinctively grabs the wheel, turning it sharply while the other hand reaches accurately to downshift the gear as your foot gently presses the clutch only to milliseconds later wrenching the handbrake up, glancing at the side mirror as the car slides sideways and screeches to a halt, safely avoiding the girl who absent-mindedly stepped out onto the road to pick up her toy. Flow is the moment where the parkour athlete leaps across a roof gap, sailing calmly through the air before the worn rubber of his shoes touches down softly on the railing 16 feet away with the precision of a hawk’s talons swooping in for a kill. People nearby don’t even hear it.
Steven Kotler, the celebrated author of Stealing Fire, surmises there are a few conditions that precipitate flow. Novelty, unpredictability and complexity, which drive focused attention, also create a surge of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, heightening sensation, connectivity to the physical world and produce acute almost supernatural levels of attention-to- detail coupled with hyper-vigilance.
Movies often pay homage to these altered states. It’s been iconised in movies such as The Matrix where Neo in his face-off with an ‘agent’ bends backwards fast enough to dodge bullets yet is shown in slow motion to the viewer in full balletic glory. Flow is seen in full force in the movie, Wanted where James McAvoy’s character is able to undertake huge feats of acrobatic skill and seems to have plenty of ‘time’ to make precise split-second life or death maneuvers. Athletes the world over know this feeling, where the crowd drowns out, everything in the periphery goes out of focus and only the things necessary remain sharp, as if they are highlighted in your awareness.
In moments of flow you go beyond yourself, yet incarnate more fully into yourself. It’s the zenith of states where things stop making sense, yet sense makes it all possible.
Flowing above the rooftops of Santorini
As a man who likes to dabble with these creative zones of conscious streaming myself, I would say the other needed factor other than the novelty, complexity and unpredictability, is fluency of the required skill sets. For example, if you want ‘flow’ to strike as a writer, then it helps if you can type quickly and already know your way around words. If it’s an acrobatic feat, it’s almost indispensable to have pre-acquired and committed to muscle-memory the repertoire of associated motions, even if they come together in all new ways in the moment at hand.
Therefore, to reach flow, one must dissolve the ego, release the fear and tension, have hundreds if not thousands of related hours in the bank already of the chosen creative expression, and be skirting the threshold of comfort so as to breathe entropic value into the edges of ones ability. Then, you will be able to do things that delight, leave in awe, inspire and surprise not only anyone lucky enough to witness, but yourself also.
Editorial team note: Tariq Amawi, MA teaches an online course, Manifestation Mastery, available soon in 2019 through the NewEarth University in association with its School of Consciousness & Spirituality. His digital book, Interview with the Universe: a narrative guide to manifesting a better life is available now as a complimentary resource (with 20 inspiring chapters) and is a suitable spiritual introduction to Tariq’s aforementioned course. You may wish to visit: www.tariqamawi.com