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Mindful : February 2017
Paradox: When we look for flow, we won’t find it. The harder we look, the more elusive it gets. Here are a few tips to help move in the right direction— finding those perfect ingredients for flow. Finding Flow PRACTICE Drop the goal Forget about achieving or “getting” flow. Instead, focus on the process—finding the ingredients that make the right cake. Calibrate your equipment Your body is your gauge. On one end of the gauge’s spectrum is contraction or constriction (simplistically put, the experiential “me”) and on the other is expansion (boundaries between “me” and the universe are blurred). Now, think of a time recently when you were really afraid or angry. Relive it as best you can. Notice what this feels like in your body. Nex t, think of a time recently when you felt joy. It can be helpful to think of a time when you were sharing a joyful moment with others or felt joyful when something “good” happened to someone else. Notice what this feels like in your body. Go back and for th to make sure you can tell the difference between contraction and expansion. Move toward flow Using your now calibrated gauge, throughout the day, check in with your body to see if, in this moment, you are contracting or expanding. For example, what does it feel like when you want to be in flow? If you notice that you are con- tracting (or have already con- tracted into a tight little ball), simply get curious as much as you can, and notice what this actually feels like in your body. Can you name the sensations and pinpoint where they are strongest (e.g., contraction in your chest)? What happens to the contraction when you get really curious? If you notice that you are expanding, note what this feels like, and what conditions are suppor ting this experience right now. Repeat As you drill down into the con- ditions that create contraction versus expansion, you will find what ingredients make your flow cake. Like a baker, each time you experiment, your cake will get fluffier, lighter, and more delicious. encouraging his athletes to meditate, bringing George Mumford, a sports psychologist and meditation teacher, to Chicago to train his play- ers. A few years later, Jackson had Mumford train Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lak- ers. Soon thereafter, the Lakers also won three championships in a row. Pre-game meditation sessions were aimed at helping the players relax and let go of hopes of winning or fears of losing a game, instead focusing on the conditions of the moment. Jackson wrote in his book, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, “The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.” Use the Force In Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life Csíkszentmihályi wrote, “ In principle any skill or discipline one can master on one’s own will serve: meditation and prayer if one is so inclined.” As part of this, he empha- sized one’s attitude or motivation for partaking in the activity: “The important thing, however, is the attitude toward these disciplines. If one prays in order to be holy, or exercises to develop strong pectoral muscles, or learns to be knowl- edgeable, then a great deal of the benefit is lost. The important thing is to enjoy the activity for its own sake, and to know that what matters is not the result, but the control one is acquiring over one’s attention.” 74 mindful February 2017 insight