We all enter the flow state from time to time in our lives. One phenomena we may not realize is that we can enter this magical state more frequently based on how we decide to live our lives. The word phenomena derived from phainesthai means to shine forth, to appear, unveil itself, and come out of concealment or darkness. Flow appears when we least expect it.
As you pursue those very things in your life that shine forth, you’re being exposed to the flow state whether you’re aware of it or not. Like a game of Quidditch from the Harry Potter universe, there’s two games always being played. The standard game and the game that seekers play chasing the golden snitch. If a seeker captures the snitch, the game is over and often guarantees victory. The symbol behind this little golden ball with wings might be interpreted as an individual finding a new consciousness which is the ultimate aim of anyone regularly experiencing flow.
It’s the following of our curiosity and chasing insight. Curiosity pulls you forward. It’s never random. You’re always pulled to enter the flow state, never pushed. When you understand that you’re not in control of what makes you interested in things; the whole world shifts around on you. Flow becomes readily available.
As you constantly enter the flow state, the more you train your ability for insight. This productive cycle helps you increase your ability while you continue to face more difficult encounters. Once you’ve reached a natural climax of difficulty to the outside world, you start to refocus the difficulty within. Even more symbolism shows in the golden snitch analogy where most associate this with the top of the herald of the god’s staff known as the Caduceus, often used as the symbol of medicine.
The staff is entwined by two serpents which can represent the shedding of one’s skin from one world to the other in perfect balance, a common trope for the messenger of the gods is pointing towards the necessity of the union of complete opposites.
As many forget, Hermes acted as a psychopomp or “soul guide” from the above to the below with help of his winged sandals, helmet, and staff known as the caduceus. Flow acts as the very same soul guide from one reality to your inner world. There’s a never ending process behind this alchemical flow. It’s an infinite series of dissolutions and coagulations where the alchemist is constantly going back to the processes that have come before in circular motion while their ability is perfected and the challenge becomes more difficult. Flow however tends to be the separation and unity between two forces we are quite familiar with today; anxiety and boredom.
You see, flow requires a few components to make it work for you. First, you have to have clarity on what you’re doing. That’s typically an end goal in itself or an outcome you’d like to accomplish. Think of it as the general direction you know you’re headed in. Second, you need to have instantaneous feedback on whether you are progressing or not progressing. Lastly, whenever you make an error, it really matters because it can break you out of flow.
Now when a challenge is too great, we tend to get overloaded with a great sense of anxiety. On the opposite end, if a challenge doesn’t make great use of our natural ability, we get bored. This gets more complex as the world we live in continues to speed up. Our attention continues to be divided between two to three things at a given time. The internet headlines, smartphone notifications, and emails from work to name a few. These fragmented distractions prevent you from ever experiencing flow. We’ve long entered an age of anxiety escaping this previous dissatisfaction of having nothing to do.
To enter flow, one has to unlearn majority of what they’ve learned. You’ll come to realize that multi-tasking is rather useless and mono tasking is the only way to enter it. You’ll see that constant distractions interrupt your flow and those distractions are meaningless anyway. You’ll even have to face one of life’s many paradoxes such as getting out of one’s own way to achieve it.
I find flow to be one of the most addictive feelings in the world. There’s a deeply euphoric state that you enter once you’re in flow. Many runners experience a “runner’s high”, many weightlifters “lock in”, and many basketball players get “hot”. Experiencing too much flow can even warp your reality when you re-enter the mundanity of life. The insight you gain from flow will have you wired into your own world with an intention to ignore the real one.
To end, let’s revisit the Harry Potter example. One prominent part of the story is when Harry is gifted Dumbledore’s prized golden snitch that he caught. Aside: a golden snitch always remembers its first seeker. Inscribed on the front of his snitch is the words “I open at the close”. This symbolizes the same concept we talked about above with the messenger god and the paradox of life. When Harry can accept his fate of his life coming to an end, the golden snitch opens to reveal the fabled resurrection stone with the power to bring back the dead. Used loosely, once one can accept their fate of entering another world, can one conquer flow.