Mihály Csíkszentmihályi first described flow as a state of consciousness where we are completely absorbed in an activity, especially that activity involves our creative abilities.
We all know the feeling when we’re in the zone. We lose all awareness of time, space, people and distractions, becoming completely immersed in our own world. Oprah herself could knock on your front door and you wouldn’t stop to answer it. It’s where our best work comes to life, and our greatest feelings of joy are experienced.
However, if you’re human (I’m guessing you are) you’ve probably also had the feeling that flow feels further away than our neighbouring galaxy, and try as you might, you just can’t tap in. Writer’s block, creative stagnation, flat like pancake flat kind of energy. It’s a slump that doesn’t feel good, or pay the bills.
So just how do we cultivate more flow into our lives?
Create space for flow
Straight up if there’s no room for free flow, it just won’t happen. We ’ve got to make room. This often involved taking ourselves out of our routines and routined environments. Putting down the never-ending ‘to do’ list, and daring to exist in the void of no agenda. Typically I spend Monday’s working ON my business. I don’t’ map out what I’m going to do, but rather allow myself the luxurious feeling of freestyling my energy into whatever calls to my soul the strongest. In fact, It’s Monday afternoon at 3.52pm as I’m writing this. Struck by inspiration while making a late Teriyaki chicken lunch. In allowing my mind the space to wander, flow decided to walk straight in the front door.
Show up when inspiration tracks you down
In her incredible book Big Magc, Elizabeth Gilbert describes creativity as a force outside of our bodies. An entity with its own intelligence and free will, that can choose you at any given moment to drop everything you’re doing and allow creativity to move through you. Whether you’re cooking Teriyaki chicken or deep within your financial forecasting, when creativity knocks don’t just open the door. Invite her in for tea, and give her your full and undivided attention while she divulges her deepest darkest secrets to you.
Meditate like a mofo
Creating space isn’t just cleaning your desk and tidying up your desktop. We need to create mental space too, and the fastest way to declutter a wild mind is meditation. Don’t get caught up in thinking that you ‘can’t’ meditate, or you find it difficult to still your busy mind, or any of the other hogwash we tell ourselves. Just sit quietly and allow your mind to do what it needs to do. Similar to my labrador at the end of a long day in the studio your mind probably needs to burn off a little energy, so let it do that for the first few minutes of your meditation. Then, simply choose something to focus on to still your conscious mind (a candle, a mantra) and when you find your mind wandering off, gently bring it back to said candle or mantra.
Personally, I’ve had a long journey with meditation, dappling in my early 20’s and peaking with a 10-day silent Vipassana when I was about 25. Since then I’ve done guided meditations, used apps, attended group sessions, and everything in between. These days I practise Vedic Meditation, a simple, calming practice that I do for 20 minutes twice a day. When I’m diligent, this more than 10X’s my creativity and flow through the releasing of the random thoughts, and the clarity the practice uncovers.
Follow the feeling
If you’re a Byron Bay local like me, you’ll quite frequently see bumper stickers advising you to ‘follow your bliss’. And honestly, it’s as simple as that. If you want to discover or reconnect with your flow, do what feels good! This might lead you directly to flow, or you might be taken on a slightly more scenic route. You might Initially feel called to go for a walk in nature, or head out for a surf – these are both very good starting points. Your body is clever and might need to bring you back into equilibrium before you can tap into flow.
Find your happy place
Hands down the fastest way for me to get in flow is to hike. It can be up a mountain, along a headland, around a reserve, it doesn’t really matter. Being amongst trees, birds, insects and smells of nature is my fast track to spiritual connection where I always find my flow.
Here’s how some of my fav’s get in flow:
- For my good friend Krista Jane it’s movement, walking with friends and meditation – but above all, her ‘beam me up Scotty’ into the flow zone is a massage. The more white towels the better.
- Tess Robinson, Founder and Creative Director of Smack Bang Designs says all the usual things, music, meditation, sunshine and the beach, but then…it’s actually putting pen to paper and letting it channel through. For Tess, the process of flow always starts with butchers paper and messy mindmaps AND being disciplined enough to stick with it even when she’s not feeling it. Pushing through the mud is where she finds her flow.
- Social Media royalty Stevie Dillon of Stevie Says Social says that routine sets her free. She plans and schedules her promotions and launches for the year and prepares content around it. She then sets aside Fridays to create content in line with the schedule and has workflows for things like preparing podcast show notes that she then batches together. She finds her flow in cafes over a coffee, so it never really feels like ‘work’.
- For creative beauty Tess Guinery who has twin 1 year old twins and a very engaged 5 years old, the shower is her place of flow – pretty simply, it’s the only time she has time alone!
- Jess Ruhfus of Collabosaurus is constantly keeping her eyes open for inspiration in different industry spaces and often saves posts as a little bank of inspiration. She then gets dead serious about blocking time (meetings are a creative flow killer) and typically sets aside Fridays to work from home, allowing her brain to breath and get into flow. Then, she starts writing. Knowing that even if the first draft is terrible (and often is) the process of just starting hets her on a roll and it flows from there.
- For Branding + Social Media Whizz and all-round Community Building Badass, Zoë Weldon of Seekerloverdreamer flow starts by rolling out a giant roll of butchers paper + thick sharpies (fresh, new ones) and then does a giant brain mapping. She dives deep into a stack of her favourite books and skims through the juicy underlined paragraphs to find something that really speaks to her. She describes this process as a beam of good vibes that hits her and she knows it’s the one. She types it on a blank piece of paper and then just riffs with it. She added that she’s seriously inspired reading a few people’s real talk posts that flow with big-hearted openness, currently Elizabeth Gilbert is blowing her away, inspiring her to feel inspired to say whatever she wants in exactly her own voice.
- PR Powerhouse Odette Barry of Odette and Co took my question next level, and basically wrote a blog on it herself declaring that she’d learnt that flow is often out of her control and to resist the urge to fight with her energy when she finds herself ‘out of flow’. To maintain flow she moves erry damn day (her choice: run), goes to the beach and cuddle doggos. When out of flow…she step the f*ck away from the computer and makes time to get into her body instead of her brain. For Odette, the key lies in less thinking and more doing. She’s realised that she needs time in the mud – the icky and sticky stuff to do the good work, and has reframed this to be part of the process. According to Odette, this is the marinating, the recharging and just the natural part of life. She recognises that she cannot be 100% all the time, despite what the other half of her brain says. Allowing for pause moments away from her business allows her to stop thinking and let her mind flow. Within these moments she allows her body to move and be useful and in these moments her flow slowly replenishes.
In a nutshell, explore and discover your most powerful connection place, and visit it regularly.
Allow your logical mind to take a vay-cay
For most of us, flow doesn’t happen inside a spreadsheet (Accountants and Bookeepers you’re exempt here, because it really does happen there for you). Flow is a connection to something larger than ourselves, something otherworldly, something moving throguh us to land on this earthly world. You can’t think yourself into flow any more than my dog can open his weekly tin of dog food on a Friday night. Flow is a being state, not a thinking exercise.
Sitting has become the new smoking, and in addition to the hideous physical effects it has on us, it also blocks our energy channels faster than a chunk of banana stuck in your paper smoothie straw. Move your body however it feels good. Dance, hike, swim, make out, whatever takes your fancy. Shifting stuck energy will open up your channels to free flow.
Tapping into our flow state uncovers the most precious pearls of creativity. Time and space seem to stand still when we allow ourselves to fall deeply into our most passionately creative processes. Cultivating the right space for flow is crucial to getting in the zone, and this looks different for each of us. Be willing to explore, uncover, and follow the things that feel good for you, as it will lead you to for it’s the greatest expression of our soul.
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