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In The Flow

Is it possible to enter creative flow states on a consistent basis?

Creative Flow: Is it possible to enjoy flow states consistently?

This article on Creative Flow is in response to a question from a reader called Ananda...

Ananda wrote:

From: Ananda
To: wily[at] wilywalnut.com
Subject: question: creative flow
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2008 01:07:42 +0000

Dear Wily,
Thank you so much for your amazing website and for all the uplifting, fun, and inspiring writings!
I have a question regarding the state of creative flow. Being IN THE FLOW is such a great feeling! I have felt the pure joy of it many times. My question is, can we be in that state CONSISTENTLY? and Can we achieve that state with ease? with a clear system?
It seems to me that the moment of pure bliss only comes after much hard work, and only at unexpected moments! Like the dancer who practices for hundreds of hours to be at one with the music and defy gravity for 5 minutes...

Thank you so much again for everything!!!!!!!!!!

With my best wishes,

Here is my reply:

Dear Ananda,
Thank you so much for your wonderfully warm email. It's very much appreciated.
You are right: being in the flow is such a great feeling!
I believe that we can come to achieve the state of flow with ease and operate there consistently.
And that it does require some kind of system.
Flow: How often can you enter the creative flow?I liken it to long-term meditators who can enter a deeply meditative state very quickly every time they sit down to meditate... or even sustain it through the active day. They build up an energy about them. They are mentally anchored to states of expanded awareness and heightened attention through long practice and familiarity.
Part of the problem with consistently achieving a flow state is that most of us are not emotionally or mentally prepared to experience bliss or joy for longer than a few moments. We are habituated to the idea of brief, peak moments, which stand out so brightly in contrast to the dark, tough, hard times that come before it. We are trained to believe in reward after long hard work. As such, we are very much future orientated, and not really present in the moment.
Flow is a state of forgetting the future and being free to experience the moment fully. We most typically experience it when we get so fully absorbed in what we are doing that we forget about ourselves. In those moments it is as though, 'me', the ego, ceases to exist and becomes invisible.
Flow happens when the self lets go of 'trying' and just does... whatever it is, whether it's dancing, painting a picture, or writing computer code.
It's true that when you are learning skills, there is a great deal of conscious effort involved. You have to go through the confusion stage, where the skill seems hard to do. With repeated practice and efforts to improve, the 'know-how' becomes unconscious and habitual. What used to take lots of effort now becomes second nature. You don't have to think about it any longer. This is the path of mastery. Through repeated experience you become a master of your skill.
Thinking about it some more, we can see that there are at least two different aspects of flow. There is that part of flow that comes through being totally absorbed in the present. And there is the flow that comes from having made knowledge unconscious and second nature through long practice and mastery. There is a great difference between them.
Being present in the moment while you concentrate fully on painting a picture, writing a story, completing a jigsaw puzzle, making love, or watching the antics on a garden bird table, does not take any great skill or effort to achieve. Any child can do it. It's just a matter of choosing something you want to do and focusing upon it. As you become absorbed upon it, you lose yourself in it. And that feels good, if only because for that time your mind isn't thinking and so it isn't negative.
Flow achieved through long effort, practice, and aiming for a target, is often about the experience of relief, resolution, and certainly breakthrough. The greater the effort and tension, the sweeter the experience of flow, when suddenly you forget trying and you are just effortlessly doing...
To experience flow states consistently, you require focus upon a particular skill, subject, or goal. And daily practice, action, and concentration upon that skill, subject, or goal. Over time you become a master in this area. To others your skills seem effortless. When you get beyond trying, you can forget trying, and just go with the flow of doing...
Creative Flow: Can you be in the flow everyday?To me, flow is about trust. Trusting life, trusting yourself, trusting your mind, trusting your ability.
We have incredible powers, and our deep unconscious minds know and can do far more than we think we can. We must learn to trust our deeper minds. The saying, let go and let God, encapsulates this idea perfectly.
On the pragmatic level, it's beneficial to build up our tolerance levels for the experience of bliss or joy. Part of this is resolving any inner issues we have about worthiness, and being lovable.

Also we can redefine our idea of bliss as something we can choose to experience right now, rather than something that we have to pursue.

We can change our perspective from a 'what's wrong' to a 'what's right' attitude of gratitude and appreciation.

We can simulate and create the physiological conditions of joy, thus being free to create joy or bliss whenever we want. All this takes is sitting up, moving one's body, adopting the facial expressions and breathing pattern of someone who is in the experience of massive joy, and re-creating that experience. At first, this feels like quite an artificial exercise to do. Like it is cheating somehow. But this is just a reflex of the belief system that we have been indoctrinated by, which says joy is rare and can only come after much effort.


Joy, bliss, love is available right now, right here. We can choose to experience it frequently, and through this repeated practice, we become joy or bliss masters -- where bliss or joy or flow become second nature and habitual to us.
Thank you again for your warm message, Ananda.
Wishing you the best of the best,

Continues on: Creative Flow 2: Live Forwards, Not Backwards

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