Flow – The 3rd Type of Happiness – Part 2
The phenomena of flow utilizes a completely engaged focus. What interferes with the engagement process of flow being possible in day to day life?
1. The habit of using descriptive words that are positive or negative in meaning. Why should this matter? Why even positives? Because descriptors take a person’s mind into imaginary scenarios in their head and away from the minimum requirement of flowing, that is being physically present in the moment.
2. An individual becomes enmeshed in emotional thinking and reactions which not only sustains not being present but also makes the cause of all inner experience externally based. The thinking is like this:
What is outside me gives it to me, does it for me, makes me have my inner experiences, whatever I do. It is this or that in the world that causes me to feel good or bad, to behave the way I do.
In other words, this is a giving away of power to external reality. This way of thinking creates a mindset of being powerless and totally beholding to what happens around people and to them. “Everything is happening to me”, is the way of being a victim. Unfortunately, helplessness unchecked inevitably leads to hopelessness.
The three types of happiness create life in a different way.
The prerequisite for flowing is the capacity for a trained and relatively strong concentration of focus. That is, nothing else comes to mind than what is focussed upon. Nothing distracts from full engagement. This full engagement is the foundation or ground out of which flow grows. You cannot develop the required strength of concentration by attempting to resist the incessant mental chatter that runs through the head, or by bantering with external distractions. Nor can you by focussing upon events in emotionally uncontrolled ways. Instead of resisting or trying to force inner chattering and emotions to stop, one focuses as fully as possible on what is the subject and object of focus in that living moment, making these focuses as interesting as possible. [More on this in a later post.]
Flow, that becomes with practice a way of living, is a sustained way of being in the state of “presence.” This state of presence is greater than being passively mentally present. This state is considered by Buddhists of Chonang Way to be the same as the Buddha nature. There is a subtle feeling of interconnectedness with the surroundings and with what may be thought of as greater. Out of the sustainment of this ground for presence, fearlessness and nonresistance arise. As my friend and native Holy Man Genaro Florres from Oaxaca said: “Living from presence becomes the guide that is not looked for.” It is not looked for because if it were looked for, the mind could not sustain being present which is required in order to be in the guiding way of flow.
I’ll give an example:
When I was quite young I moved to a small town in Texas, not too long after living in Oaxaca. I was smaller than other children, I wore coke-bottle glasses and being from Canada, I spoke “with a damned Yankee accent.” I was picked on a lot. The main bully lived in a house diagonally behind the apartment where I lived. There were no fences…
I was heading for the door on the outside of the apartment to where I lived. Just as I was getting close to the apartment, Johnny the bully turned the corner. He was closer than I was to the front door leading to the stairs up to my apartment. He was with a small group of kids and his dog, an Irish Setter. When he saw me he started yelling and the chase was on. I ran to go around the building. I was a fast runner so I was making good distance away from them. As I reached the far end of the building, Johnny yelled at his dog to “sic em.” All the other kids chimed in. Although I could outrun the kids, I couldn’t outrun the dog. So as I reached the back of the building, the dog was catching up to me.
Here is the interesting part. As a practice, I had learned previously from Genaro during my time in Oaxaca to not react emotionally to what happens. From that practice, I became accustomed to not thinking of people or circumstances in blaming or negative ways, no matter what the circumstances. Why? Because it is a waste of life energy flowing through you and prevents you from being in the awareness of flowing with the Life Force. It is this aspect of personality that keeps those who have Awakening experiences, or even altered states of consciousness during extreme sports, from getting back to that immeasurable state. Many people who enter the state of flow in a doing are not necessarily aware of the Great Sacredness that is within their experiences, but it is still there for them anyway.
I mention the above to illustrate the energy behind what happened next. Had I been preoccupied with judging or labeling the experience of being chased, and emotionally reacting to the situation, I would not have been able to spontaneously be in flow. As the dog was on my heels just about to bite me, with no thoughts or thinking process of my own, out of my mouth I started yelling “sic em” and pointed ahead of me. The dog ran past me about ten feet, looked around and stopped running. As I ran past the dog I reemphasized yelling “sic em” and exaggeratedly pointed ahead. The dog just sat down in confusion. As I was turning the corner of the building I saw Johnny catch up to his dog, yell at him “stupid dog”, and then hit the dog. The dog was so confused and frustrated, it bit him.
Living from flow as a consciously trained practice, begins with the development of non-reactiveness (there is more).
There are two key features this way of thinking is based upon.
1. Not judging emotionally. That is, not extrapolating personal meaning from life experiences. This is accomplished through not taking anything personal for, or against yourself. Instead, put and sustain focus upon doing whatever is at hand to do. (What I learned later was a siddhi form of mindfulness that is used in the midst of daily activities in life).
2. Recognizing that if there is no self as Buddha teaches (and modern research confirms*) there can be no personal doer. An openness to the Infinite takes the place of a personal self and becomes the doer when a person lets go of their personal sense of self. Whether this idea makes sense or not is irrelevant, because it is not the idea or belief you live by that you subconsciously create life with. It is the way of in-seeing (more later) and experiencing life that counts. Many people defend the ideas they believe and often it is these ideas that make them unhappy and that keep them from feeling fulfillment. The idea of not-self as a way of experiencing opens doors to what the average person has no idea even exists. It is also a foundation cornerstone for living from a mind of miraculousness.
Part 3 will discuss deepening practices of flow.
* Google Dr. Benjamin Libet for more on this.