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Introduction to 'The little book of Flow'

This is chapter 1 of 12 from 'The little book of Flow'

UPDATE: If you've landed here you might like to know that this has now been re-written and you can read the updated version here: The little book of Flow - revised

“Harry Potter is one boy in a long line of mythical heroes who have reminded the human race that we are so much more than we think we are, so much more powerful than we seem to know. Jesus said that we would someday do even greater works than He; should we not take Him at His word? And should not ‘someday’ be today?”
......Marianne Williamson

The idea of a ‘flow’ state was popularised in the book ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. In that landmark book he describes states of peak experience that are almost transcendental and goes on to present an in depth study of the conditions for these Flow experiences. That book made a big impression on me at the time but I always had an inkling of a idea that what Mihaly was dealing with was something far more profound and accessible than we might imagine and also, could exist independent of the conditions that he described.

Many sports people have told stories about being in ‘the zone’. Sprinters call it ‘tipping’ when they run with only the tips of their toes brushing the track as if they were flying. Basketball players call it ‘going unconscious’. They tell us how everything is experienced in slow motion and there is a sense of total freedom and confidence to do whatever they want when they want. The zone can be so euphoric that it usually becomes the ultimate goal for anyone who has once experienced it. These experiences are not just confined to sports either. Most of us have experienced something like this at least once in our life.

There are many wonderful reports of ordinary people dropping into this flow state, usually by accident rather than design. They describe the most beautiful, sublime, carefree, creative and happy moments in our lives. We often recall them later in life - how we felt more alive and everything seemed more real than anything we had experienced previously or since - almost like tantalizing postcards from a magical kingdom that we never really got to go to.

The one sad thing is that these moments are all too rare.

The premise of this little book is that this need not be. What I'd like to show you is that these illusive moments are in fact glimpses of our true nature and as such have nothing to do with technique or circumstance (although ‘flow’ does often seem to miraculously transform circumstance). If this is true, and what we call ‘flow’ is our original and natural way of being, then accessing this must also be a very simple and easy thing to do.

Bringing science, philosophy, spirituality, myth and everyday life together.
It seems that if you really want to know fundamental truths (What is life? Why am I here? etc.) and keep questioning in the face of confusion and dogma, then it doesn’t really matter what discipline you follow because at their core they all seem to converge and point towards the same thing. Ask a quantum physicist 'what creates the universe’ and they say energy. Ask them to describe energy and they tell you,
'It can never be created or destroyed; it always is, always has been and always will be; it is always moving into form, through form and out of form.’
Now, ask a theologian 'what creates the universe’ and they say God. Ask them to describe God and they tell you,
'It can never be created or destroyed; it always is, always has been and always will be; it is always moving into form, through form and out of form.’
Hmmm, interesting!

I personally think that fundamental truths are best learnt in the school of hard knocks. Listen to your intuition, take what rings true for you and then test it out in real life. That’s what seems to work for me and that’s how I’d advice approaching the information presented here.

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
"The only really valuable thing is intuition."
......both quotes from Albert Einstein

Our Approach
Before we look at how we can make ‘flow’ an integral part of our lives we are going to examine our existing thought system and see how it arises from a self concept that is incredibly limited, one that seems separate and disconnected from everything and everyone outside itself. From the perspective of this limited self concept it appears as if we are at the mercy of a very unstable world and have to work at getting what we want. In looking directly at this self concept we call 'me' it’s possible to see that it is not true at all, that it's a mere sickly shadow of who we really are. In seeing this we can also discover that we are in fact powerful beyond belief, and this wonderful, effortless state we call ‘flow’ is simply our original and natural state of being.

What I'd like to do here is to take us beyond the limits of this existing thought system. The problem in attempting to do this is that reading and considering this stuff as we normally do doesn’t help much. It’s difficult to know unlimitedness from within a mind set that doesn’t really believe in it – and so it will tend to remain just a concept instead of an experience. As the little boy said when asked for directions, “… if I were going there, I wouldn’t start out from here.”

Therefore, instead of trying to understand the concepts as we normally would, it may help to relax and get a feeling for the meaning the words convey. Trust your feelings and intuition more than your thoughts. But most of all actually try the little exercises – it’s the experiences gained from actually doing them that will probably be most meaningful.

One caveat that I'd like to highlight is that I truly do not have any answers. I simply make the assertion that the key to unlocking our genius, 'flow' and everything else our heart desires lies within each of us. My purpose in writing this is simply to point towards the accessing of this key within ourselves.

Clarification of terms
Throughout this little book I'll often refer to both the 'self' that we think we are - the one that sees itself as separate from the world outside itself; and our real Self - that one is mostly unrecognised but that is unlimited. To avoid confusion I've capitalized references to our true Self and left references to our conceptual, limited self in lower case.

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  • ..this blog stems from a recognition that our true nature is far more creative, loving and unlimited than we could possibly imagine... and it transforms everything... a practical, generic solution to all our problems.

    These are just my lesson notes as I try to  be true to that recognition... and  learn to fly.  So it's quite possible that everything here may be wrong.

    Thank you for visiting.  Email (to Nick Smith) is always welcome.

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