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Overview of the Little book of Flow

This is chapter 12 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

The happiness that is genuinely satisfying is accompanied by the fullest exercise of our faculties and the fullest realization of the world in which we live. ……Bertrand Russell

There is a huge historical inertia to continue with the way things are now, to perpetuate the ‘human condition’, to maintain the illusion of separateness. One of the ways our ego maintains the status quo is to take simple truths and make them complex, turning them into yet another mental concept. So, in the interest of keeping things simple and having an overview of this little book for those who don’t have the inclination to read the whole thing, this a review of concepts in a few short paragraphs:

Flow experiences
For most of us this 'Flow' state has occurred while when we are doing something we really enjoy. This is because it's while doing something we enjoy that we our minds relax enough to let our true Self have a seat at the table. The natural reaction of anyone - sportsman, scientist, musician  - when they loose their 'flow' is to practice harder, to ‘try’ to get back in flow - but this invariable makes things worse and get deeper in the rut. Paradoxically it's when they give up trying and just go hit a few balls or strum a few chords for the fun of it, that magically the flow and the muse 'mysteriously' return. There's nothing strange or complex about this. It's just that in a relaxed state of mind who we really Are can shine through the fog of judgements, thoughts and beliefs that normally fill our mind.

The ones we think of as true geniuses and masters in their field are simply the ones that have learnt how to relax and get out of our own way. This is not something that is available to a select few through accident of birth or good fortune. It is available to each and every one of us, whenever we want it and in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. It is an attrinute who we Are, and so it is instantly recognized and known once we let go of who we think we are. This takes no effort whatsoever.

Those incredible joyful, transcendent, 'flow' moments where we just know we can accomplish anything and the world is our oyster, always occur when we let slip the normal control our mind tries to maintain over our world, allowing us to relax into the feeling of our own Beingness.  Sometimes it's in a situation, perhaps during a business presentation or a sporting event, when we realize that there's absolutely nothing more we can do and so we decide we might as well just trust and enjoy the moment; for some it's in our youth or amongst friends or loved ones where we feel safe enough to let our mask slip and simple Be, for some it's when we are suddenly shocked into stillness by a fortuitous 'accident' or act of nature, and for others its on the point of death of the physical body when we let go of the struggle for life and suddenly become aware, often for the first time, of our own radiant Presence.

The good news is that these seemingly chance events are simply glimpses into our own, every present, true nature and the only thing that hides it from our awareness is our everyday thinking mind that judges everything, and fights to maintain control over our world. If we accidentally or deliberately let our minds surrender control over 'our world' just for one instant, who we really Are becomes instantly recognizable. Strange as it may seem, most of us spend our lives not knowing who we really Are and many would rather die than let our masks slip and have a moment of self recognition, to let Truth shine true.

Denial of responsibility
Most of us who have been fortunate to experience these incredible joyful, transcendent 'flow' moments tend to get a little delusional. We use an amazing piece of mind trickery to convince ourselves that this didn't come from us. We dismiss the possibility that it is simply our own true nature shining through in those moments when we relaxed and let our mind fall still, by associating the experience with the activity or person we were with. We con ourselves into dismissing the fact that it is us that 'feels' this way.

This delusion causes most of us spend our lives pursuing those activities, those things and those people that we think will bring back these wonderful moments where we felt truly alive, invulnerable and omnipotent. This very seeking then prevents us from every relaxing enough to experience an instant of self-recognition that would show us how backwards our thinking is. Once we recognize that the source of Love is within us then it's a small step to letting it return to our conscious awareness where it can shine upon and transform everything in our lives. This is where our power, our happiness, our safety and our knowing lie.

The myth of the need for effort
One of the big misunderstandings about mastery and genius in anything is that it takes effort. True, we believe it does; but beliefs tend toward self fulfilling prophecies. What I am suggesting here is that it takes no effort at all. In fact it takes the opposite of effort. It's a letting go of all effort, a willingness to relinquish control and allow all things to be exactly as they are, that allows our mind to fall still and create the space to simple Be. And in the state of simply being aware of our own Presence, our ‘genius’ and natural 'flow' show up and shine through as a unavoidable aspect of who we Are. The only thing that's required to learn and master anything is a clear mind - a relaxed, open, trusting awareness of what Is - a felt sense of our own Presence.

In whatever we attempt, concentration and discipline will take us so far, but only because that is our intent. But using concentration, disciple or any other form of effort to wrestle success is a sorry and feeble substitute for the effortless, joyous and often miraculous performance that's ours for the asking when we allow ourselves to get out of our own way and trust the power of our intent to let our own incredible true nature carry the day.

When we do anything with a clear mind, learning and mastery occur spontaneously. It's a state of 'feeling' not thinking. It's thought that creates the doubts and fears, that blocks our natural ability to learn and accomplish. Happiness happens of its own accord in the space between our thoughts, and we always do our best when we are happy. It has got absolutely nothing to do with anything that we do, but it has everything to do with what we don't do. Create a little 'white-space' between our thoughts for our true Self to play and the magic happens.

The forgotten power of our minds
The pervasive thought system of the world is the ego - a thought system built on a belief in a 'me' that is separate from, and therefore has limited influence over, the world it sees outside itself. Such is the power of our mind that because this is what we think, this is what appears to be true in the world the mind perceives. It appears that we are a physical entity separate from everyone and everything around us, and therefore it seems as though 'stuff happens' in our life that is beyond our control. This thought system, or ego, hides and avoids the recognition of what science is now pointing to – that mind is the one creative force.

In this illusory, 'separate' world there appears to be many choices but in fact there is only one real one. The choice is always between continuing to follow the dictates of this everyday limited mind - the one that seems to tell us what to think, and uses judgment as a substitute for awareness in order to maintain the illusion of separation and powerlessness; or, to turn our attention to who we really Are and let this live our life. By changing the cause, the source of our thought, our whole life changes. This is the choice to follow our own free Will, and to escape the constraints of our limited belief system and all the perceived 'laws of this world' that result from this.

What's love got to do with it?
The central premise of this book is that who we think we are is not true, that who we really Are cannot be known through thought but only through direct experience, and that this direct experience is very straight forward and takes no effort.

We are now coming to know that, what we think of as a separate world outside ourselves that seems to be beyond our control, is an illusion. We are in fact continuously affecting the field of possibility to determine what actually comes into being in our lives. [1] Whilst we struggle to understand this intellectually it is neither complex nor difficult to know directly by stepping back from our thoughts and beliefs and learning to trust our true Self – our intuition and our direct awareness of what is really happening here in the present.

When we allow the awareness of who we really Are to shine away our self concepts (who we believe we are - the egos ideas of a limited, separate self) we are replacing the basis of all our thoughts and perceptions. What we think and see then reflects this truth and our Free Will instead of our illusory self concepts. Love replaces all forms of fear and concepts of limitation in our minds, and our world reflects this – as an effect it can do no other.

In recognizing our true Self we see that there is nothing about ourselves that is not constituted wholly of Love - the one thing that endures. By learning how to bring our real Self into our conscious awareness we create, moment by moment, a life and a world that reflects only this Love.

Big issues as distractions
We ask ourselves big questions such as 'how can I find the work I love' or 'what is my purpose in life' without every realizing that to simply step back and allow who we already Are, the Love within us, to shine in our life is the greatest and most practical gift anyone can could ever give. We seek for answers to many problems whilst denying ourselves and the world the one thing that would dissolve all problems. Our true nature is totally compelling and infectious and so we quite literally change the world simply by becoming the change we want to see in the world. So to those of us who despair at ever finding what we love, I'd say congratulations - because this is a great starting point. If we think we'll never find our true niche in life then we have far less resistance to calling off the search and being open to the recognition of the brilliance that has always shone within us. Our purpose in life is simply to let our own light shine, and in this the rest becomes perfectly clear.

Settings ourselves free - one of many way out of the rat trap.
The first step is to see that who we think we are, and the matrix of our thoughts that maintains this self concept, cannot be true. This is simple enough - we did it in chapter 2. Just stepping back from our thoughts, our bodies and the things that these perceive; and simply watching this dance of life both offers us an opportunity for a moment of self recognition - to feel our own Presence, and at the same time see that who we really are (the observer) cannot be who we thought we were (what we are observing), and also give us a welcome respite from our heavy burden of judgement - the habit of selective perception that our ego uses to play us like a puppet and maintain the illusion of separation and limitedness.

We cling so tightly to our self concepts that we are blinded to anything that does not validate them. As Paul Simon wrote, “Man hears what he wants to here and disregards the rest”. The inevitable product is a world of war, greed and competition, driven by fear and paranoia. All problems no matter how seemingly complex or intractable are simply some form of fear made manifest. The one antidote to fear is perfect Love. The one antidote to paranoia is trust. Love is who we Are and in spite of appearances we are learning to trust this.

Once we allow a moment of self recognition to cast doubt on our self concepts and the illusory thought system that maintains them, the second step is to call upon the power of intent to let our true Self, the feeling of Love that’s growing within us, to nourish us and take control. This is the beginning of Self Trust – trust in our true Self. This trust builds as we use it and witness its effects.[2]

This is how we create a 'heaven on earth', but it can never be a solitary endeavour. In surrendering to the truth of ourselves we find ourselves in everyone and everything; and like all experience, as it's shared it grows stronger.  Truly, no one meets and nothing happens by chance, and so every one we meet gives us another opportunity to heal the mind that thought itself separate and limited.

Our everyday logical thinking minds will give us many things to do and paths to follow, in order to avoid recognizing what is closer than our next breath. There will always be another teacher, another book and another good practice, but at the end of the day it can only be us who take the quiet time and give ourselves permission to allow this feeling of Love that comes from within, and longs to get our attention, to totally envelop us and always be with us.

[1] For an excellent introduction to quantum physics and how we create our own reality you might like to watch the film 'What the Bleep do we know'. Here's a little video excerpt.
[2] The process can be summarized as one of self recognition followed by self acceptance leading to self reliance, although the final step tends to follow automatically from the second.

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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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