5 Ways To Enter Flow and Why It’s So Damn Important

I’ve lived most of my life in NYC. I grew up here and I went to school here. The city has a life of it’s own and that life is fueled by it’s inhabitants.

A particularly interesting phenomenon happens in Midtown, Monday thru Friday, between 12PM-2PM. Thousands of people leave their offices to have lunch.

They’re walking, they’re breathing, they’re eating and yet very few of them are actually there.

Instead they are completely in their heads. They’re talking to themselves, analyzing the events that had just occurred and the events that must get done. Stressed, anxious and hyper focused they’ve allowed their own intellect to get in the way of the experience of their lives. On the other hand, there is a whole other way of being.

The Other Side of the Coin

Josh Waitzkin has mastered the game of chess – winning his first National Championship at the age of nine – and the strenuous physical challenge of martial arts – earning a world title in Tai Chi Chuan. This is a man who experiences the world in a totally different way than these Midtown lunchers.

In his book, The Art of Learning, he describes a particular incident in Calicut, India when he was sixteen years old. Josh was playing against an opponent in the Under 21 chess championship. He was grinding away for hours on end without any particular inspiration or flow. Somewhere during the process, the thoughts dissipated and he entered an altered state:

“After about ten minutes of thought, I began to lose myself in the variations. It is a strange feeling. First you are a person looking at a chessboard until consciousness of one’s separation from the position ebbs away and what remains is the sensation of being inside the energetic chess flow. Then the mind moves with the speed of an electrical current, complex problems are breezed through with an intuitive clarity, you get deeper and deeper into the soul of the chess position…”

–Josh Waitzken

This is a completely whole form, embodied experience and being there is what allowed Josh to have such great success. To the Midtown lunchers of the world this may seem counterintuitive. The thing that they’re thinking about constantly would turn out much better if they’d just stop thinking about it.

To perform at a peak level you must let go of all thoughts and instead sink into this at best state of flow.

Why This Is So Important and Completely Relevant To You

1) Career

The nineteenth and early twentieth century was defined by the Industrial Age for the Western World. Mass production, machinery and automation arose moving people out of the country and into the factory.

The majority of the twentieth century was defined by the Information Age. Radio, television and the internet has created more data then there ever had been before. This is the age of the accountant, lawyer and computer programmer. People paid for their knowledge and ability to use it.

Now we enter the twenty first century and a whole new age is emerging. Wired Magazine calls it The Conceptual Age. It is characterized by whole form thinking, empathy and creativity. In order to experience these ways of being, you have to know what it means to be in the flow state. To quote from Wired “Logical, linear, analytic thinking remains indispensable. But it’s no longer enough.”

2) Health

When you are in your head, you experience all sorts of not-so-fun states including stress, anger, anxiety and nervousness. These in turn raise your blood pressure, kill brain cells (particularly the ones involved in memory), create stomach ulcers and increase the aging process.

Worst of all, spending too much time in your head limits the experience of your life. Your senses and awareness of your surroundings aren’t as available to you.

On the other hand, having the embodied experience of being alive brings you back to balance. Your immune system improves and so does your overall well being. You flood the system with all sorts of good feelings. Your body is a neurosomatic pleasure ship and it’s time you tapped into it.

3) Sexiness

The phrase animal magnetism exists for a reason. The more you live in your body, the more attractive you become in a really primal way. You’ll be more sensual, more playful and an overall better lover. So, if not for any other reason, do it to be sexy!

Now That You Know The Why, Let Me Give You The How

This flow state has a structure to it. There is a whole form physiological sequence of events that happen in order to access it. Although the specifics are unique to everyone, I’d like to offer a few general features common to all.

Diaphragmatic Breath — If there is one thing I would have you take away and incorporate into your life it would be the practice of breathing deeply and diaphragmatically. The short, quick breaths that most people are accustomed to aren’t natural.

Take a few deep breaths now. Go ahead and do it. Your entire state changes. Situations become more bearable. The more you do this the more it will become stabilized until you fall out of practice of being any other way.

2) Feel Your Feet On The Floor — Spend a day with your awareness completely in your feet. As you walk through the world keep bringing your attention to your feet. Just feel what it feels like to walk or to stand.

3) Soften Your Eyes — Most every painting, sculpture or artwork of the Buddah will have one feature in common. His eyes will be relaxed and his gaze will be softened. Whether or not you consider yourself religious or spiritual you have got to consider, maybe these Buddhists were onto something! For a more in depth video on how to do this, watch my mentor, Devon White, walk you through the process.

4) Relax Your Jaw — The muscles of the jaw are one of the primary places that many people hold stress. For those people it is also the key to unhinging that stress and resetting.  The craziest part of all is that most people don’t realize it.

Can you imagine, that there are 10 million people in the USA suffering from TMJ? These people have spent so much time in a constant state of chewing that they now have a chronic condition effecting their jaw, mouth and neck. A condition that is linked to depression and anxiety. Talk about a vicious cycle.
Now here’s the good news: The entire condition could have been completely avoided if they had only known to notice when they started tensing their jaw and decided to relax it. And it can be released now simply by dedicated time to retraining those muscles into a state of active relaxation. If you have TMJ, it will take a lot of time and effort, but it is doable.

5) The Voices Inside
— The way that you speak to yourself has a massive impact on the way you experience the world. The things you say, the tone you use and the volume of that voice all matter.

For starters, become aware when you’re talking to yourself and notice if the conversation is useful. If not, either slooooooow the voice down and turn it off completely or change the message to support you. Make sure the voice is pleasant and supportive.

How To Incorporate This Into Your Life

Pick one of the actions you can take to increase your flow state and commit to practicing it for the rest of the week. You want to stabilize it. The following week, you can begin to practice another one of the listed exercises.

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