Know Your Body: A Simple Approach to Finding the Flow State

Everyone knows what it feels like to hit the sweet spot.

When you hit the sweet spot, there is nothing but certainty.

The sweet spot is the correct spot. It’s the place where all parts of a system come together perfectly, allowing for effortless operation.

This magical place exists in every moment of our lives, just waiting for us to discover it.

photo courtesy of The DoAhead Woman

People have talked about the sweet spot. Some refer to it as the “flow state”. Others refer to it as “the zone”. Everyone is talking about the same thing.

It’s that perfect swing of the axe or the hammer wherein you hit the same spot every time without conscious effort. It’s the effortless gait that you achieve in your running after countless hours of grueling clumsiness. It’s the place that you reach while dancing or playing an instrument with your entire being—that awe-inspiring realm where the rhythm actually carries you and it becomes impossible to know whether you are moving or being moved. It’s the state that you reach when you are fully immersed in your work—you are on a sort of auto-pilot. You intuitively know exactly what to do and exactly how to do it—you actually become that which you are participating in.

So, how can we discover and experience this wonderful phenomenon at our most primal level? How can we experience the flow state in a fundamentally visceral way? How do we come to know it intimately, within our own body?

photo by Thiago Rodrigues da Silva

Our bodily existence—that is, our experience in our body—is the fundamental and original medium through which we participate in the world.

If we are interested in participating in life at our fullest potential, we must first learn to participate in the activity of our own body. After all, the body is moving and living and breathing of its own volition. We do not direct our cells to replicate. We do not tell our heart to beat. We do not tell our bowels to move. We do not tell our immune system to fight off pathogens.

The body just moves! It is constantly in the so-called flow state.

It operates spontaneously according to circumstance. There is no conscious thought behind the beating of your heart or the expansion and retraction of your lungs. It just happens! Nature is spontaneous. Nature is the sweet spot. And your body belongs to nature. Just as nature moves with or without our conscious participation, so the body moves with or without our attention.

Our ability to find the flow state depends on how aware we are of the circumstances surrounding a particular occurrence.

For instance, when a child first begins to learn how to ride a bicycle, he is prone to falling. This is because he is still exploring and understanding the situation. Every time he falls, he has a better idea of where the tipping point is. Every time he gains a little momentum, he attains a deeper understanding of how much force he needs to apply in order to keep the bicycle upright. Eventually, all of the elements involved in “riding a bicycle” become so engrained in his psyche that he is able to utilize his body in a way that makes him “one” with the bicycle. He is no longer separate from the bicycle. It moves the way he wants it to move, and all of this movement happens spontaneously. The child does not think about pedaling or steering—he simply acts. In other words, there is no delay between his conceptual understanding of “riding a bicycle” and the actual action of riding a bicycle. From a biological perspective, the neurological synapses required to ride a bicycle have occurred so many times that it is now second nature. All he needs to do now is decide that he wants to ride his bicycle, and the program will run. The child has perfected the process from thought to action. Where there was once a gap, there is now cohesion. He has found the “sweet spot”—and he is extremely joyful.

Let’s take this analogy and apply it at our most fundamental level—at the level of our body. Our body is like a living bicycle. The problem is that most of us do not realize that we are actually “riding our body”. It is moving and living and breathing on its own, and we are just along for the ride. The body is already occurring—we just happen to be in the middle of the situation. Most of us spend our entire lives unaware of the fact that we are actually passengers on a moving vessel. We fail to find that place where our conscious participation complements the circumstances of our bodily existence. We do not learn how to use our bodies correctly. We become masters of our bicycles, our tools, our environment, but we fail miserably in participating with our own body. More often than not, our body is fighting an uphill battle against us. We pay it no mind and leave it to operate on its own. And then, as if that’s not difficult enough, we pollute it with destructive habits—both physical and mental.

So what’s the alternative? What happens when we find the sweet spot in this most primal activity of “riding the body”? More importantly, how do we get to this place?

It is simply a matter of familiarizing ourselves with the nature of our own body. As stated above, the body lives and breathes in the flow state.

It is the epitome of finesse. We just have to decide to study it carefully and learn from it. We have to treat our body as though it were a stranger, because for most of us, that’s exactly what it is.

Here are some simple ways to begin your humble inquiry into your personal miracle machine:

1. While walking down the street, pay close attention to how you feel inside of your body. Does your stride feel awkward and rigid, or it smooth and graceful? How do your feet meet the ground? Are you aware of the moment your feet meet the ground? Is it a soft, mutual meeting, or is it rough and disconnected? Do you feel self-conscious while crossing a busy intersection or approaching a passerby? Keep asking yourself “how can I become lighter, more fluid, more elegant?”

2. While sitting at your desk or driving your car, check in with your body. Are you gripping the steering wheel unnecessarily? Are you clenching your jaw? Are you furrowing your brow? Are your shoulders tense? Keep asking yourself “where am I gripping, and is it necessary?”

3. While standing in a line, check in with your body. Do you feel light while you are standing, or do you feel heavy and lethargic? Shift your weight between your feet to feel how gravity affects your body. Keep asking yourself “are my feet relaxed? Is my butt relaxed? Am I clenching around my groin or pelvic area? Am I breathing fully? Am I comfortable, or am I tense?”

4. Lay on the floor and close your eyes. Scan your entire body and be meticulous in finding areas where you are gripping and clenching. Imagine that your body is dissipating into billions and billions of tiny particles out into the atmosphere. Your body is mostly water. Feel the fluidity of your body. Imagine that you are merging with the space around you. Keep asking yourself “where does my body end, and where does the space around me begin?” As you ask yourself this question, place your awareness on the all of the space inside of your body, and all of the space surrounding your body. Imagine that you are floating in space (BECAUSE YOU ARE!) Try doing this for 10 minutes or longer.

5. Sit quietly and listen to your body. Place your hands over your ears. Can you hear your heart beating? Can you feel your blood flowing? Can you feel your breath breathing? Recognize and acknowledge the millions of processes that are automatically occurring in your body. Imagine that you are an outsider watching something that is happening in front of you—watch your body as it is happening. Try doing this for 10 minutes or longer.

As you continue these simple practices, you will have an inevitable moment of uncertainty. One day, you will feel the ground push back at you as you step into it. You’ll ask yourself: “is my foot applying the force, or is the ground applying the force? Am I moving or am I being moved? Am I watching or am I being watched?” Keep asking yourself these questions. Eventually, the boundaries begin to disappear. Just as the child becomes one with the bicycle and all of the forces surrounding it, so you will become one with the body and its surroundings. Your awareness becomes very acute, and you will be able to walk with elegance and grace. You will be able to stand for long periods of time with great ease. You will be able to open parts of your body that have long been in a state of chronic contraction due to poor habits of mind. The physical burden of carrying your body through this world is literally lifted from you—you actually feel your surrounding environment carrying you and supporting you just as a fish is held by the water. This is a very real, physical experience—your body feels weightless. You are no longer aware of the rigid distinction between your body and your external environment. You become the drop which joins the ocean.

You will be in the sweet spot, you will be whole. This is the greatest gift you can give to yourself, and it is your birthright.

Having found a willing participant, the universe will begin to unfold its infinite abundance and beauty through you and all around you. And you will cheerfully sit back and enjoy the ride, just as you did as a child on your bicycle.

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