flow

Flow: A popular term right now in the movement/ athletic/ fitness / performance world.  The link between different Flow practices is by taking us so deep into our human nature that we connect with the flow in animals and animal movement.  It’s not our human nature to sit all day inside- we know that.  Flow can take us deeper, more frequently into a state where we connect more with our senses, our bodies, and lay to rest the often overworked mind.  And give more reverence to our innate ability to move, with a new understanding of ourselves, a broader grasp of our full potential.

We prioritize the cerebral cortex over the body; animals will show you the opposite. Who wouldn’t want that kind of free movement break from over thinking?  Natural Movement Training is a movement trend that mimics animals in the wild.  Crawling, climbing, swimming, running, and jumping to engage the body and mind completely.  From MoveNat and Ido Portal to The Flow Genome Project and Buddhism, the trend speaks to corporate minds, weekend warriors and everyone in between with the question of how do we access ‘flow’- how do we engage more of our bodies and minds to tap into our full potential?  And with people who move often in the wild; in the mountains, desert, oceans- we can benefit.  Through flow, we increase our longevity, health and symbiosis with the wild, our depth of understanding.  And learn to coexist more easily in more linear, non-flow environments, by creating internal calm and confidenc, trust.

Flow evolved from Michael Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Flow, The Key to Happiness, 1990.  He discusses how someone can achieve a state of mind only accessible by high-level athletes, musicians, scientists, innovators and artists.  Csikszentmihalyi proposes flow is ‘the positive aspects of human experience- joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life.” (xi , Flow, The Key to Happiness), Through flow, the rewards are: heightened senses, efficient movement, less doubt, fear and self criticism.  From an athletes view, speed, fluidity, ability to connect disparate pieces which results in the ultimate: heightened performance. 

Born an athlete, dancer, musician, artist, I’m familiar with flow terrain.  But how does one coach or enable this?  As a national champion diver and ultra endurance mountain bike racer, backcountry skier, coach, etc., I’ve never searched for flow.  It was the only world I was able to work comfortably in.  Long straight lines never appealed (road biking, swimming laps).  Climbing mountains and moving down them using my senses, did.  I don’t play well with others in cubicles, corporate situations, etc.  The coining of the term ‘flow’, and enabling this experience in others intrigues me.  I believe it’s critical to tap into- for our survival, and for symbiosis in our world. 

Based on Csikszentmihalyi, this flow state is what makes life meaningful.   Move Nat, taught by Erwan LeCorre, is about ‘claiming your nature’, reaching your full range of motion in nature, while retaining equilibrium.  He claims that “ it’s everyone’s universal and biological birthright to be strong, healthy, happy and free” (https://www.movnat.com/)  The Flow Genome Project aims to “map the genome of flow” (http://www.flowgenomeproject.com/about/) , to ‘deconstruct the elusive and mystical flow state…north of happy”.  Flow Genome(rs) use the acronym STER, “Selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and information richness.” Teaching people through mental and physical training, and even altered states, to tap into their personal flow.  Ido Portal approaches movement from a background in circus, marital arts, fitness, dance, and strength flexibility.  He promotes tapping into our human-ness, which is to move effortlessly and fluidly.  His logo is a monkey.  He calls his tribe ‘Movers’.

All of these schools of movement and thought aim to engage more senses, access more neuropathways, relax into letting your body guide, senses direct, mind releasing.  You’ll see images of Ido Portal swinging, hanging and crawling in his animal nature when developing movement sequences.  His audience are people who “wish to understand the body, health, performance, and physical artistic expression”

(http://www.idoportal.com/culture As Erwan LeCorre will run, jump, crawl in the woods, rivers, rocks…..barefoot.  Flow Genome seeks altered states of thought and physical experiences through any safe means. As movers in nature and the wild, we will only move smarter, stay injury free, move more gracefully with less impact by understanding how flow in our bodies and minds are inherently built to deliver.

You’ll find Buddhism never uses the term flow, but flow occurs more often in meditation.  We develop the skill to be unified into one symbiotic being.    

Prometheus stole fire from the gods.  He seized the source.  You have to have that kind of desire, need, and absolute passion for life to want to learn and know flow.

Ultimately, that’s what skiing down a field of fresh snow feels like, or riding down/up a technical section of rock garden, moving and looking through obstacles, not allowing the mind to be held captive by fear.  Or throwing yourself into mid air rotations off a diving platform.  Being completely present, without doubt, is flow.   Being in flow is trusting.

I was on a month long hiking trip in the northern most region of Jasper NP, watching a grizzly barrel down the mountain, extending his legs, muscles contracting, thick late summer golden fur folding.  I remember being paralyzed watching his power, as he moved in slow motion a handful of yards away.  He flew down a mountain so huge it made him look proportionately small, for the northern Canadian Rockies.  FLOW.  In that moment, I trudged up, huge pack back on, but feeling lighter, more connected, alive, fluid.  Never to be erased from my memory, I was eternally grateful, humbled, educated and changed.

Flow is more than just being present.  The noise in your head quiets, you trust your body, trusting that when you go beyond fatigue, there’s flow waiting, a place of release, acceptance, letting go.  It’s a subconscious lack of effort.

And maybe the memory of your dog or cat racing around the house, or a grizzly barreling down a mountain will be the place your body and mind taps into, looking for a reference, a memory deeper than the restrictions and patterns we typically work with.  Our bodies want to move freely with less fear, guilt, and shame. 

We can all benefit by moving with a mind that’s capable of letting go of inhibitions, doubts, and even passion to be so aware and sensitive to the present with engaged senses; and connect with others on that same navigation system for a richer life experience.  To employ a way of thinking that’s flexible; that feels, hears, sees, listens to every vibration, shift- and by absorbing those changes, you’re shocked INTO your body and out of your over thinking head.  You breath into flow with this new vibration, energy and life, and when you’re done, you have no idea what just happened. 

You look up to the sky, take in a breath like you’ve never breathed before, blink your eyes and your face muscles lift as high as possible into a grin that’s not even yours, like it’s been placed there by something larger than you who’s telling you ‘don’t forget that; don’t go back to the mundane rhythm that humans force on you.  Come on over.  You don’t have a choice now’.

So, maybe you’ve been there.  Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about.  Look it up.  Give it a go.  You won’t regret moving that direction more often.