Ah, being “in the flow”…

I never cease to be amazed at how incredibly good it can feel to be “in the flow.”  I spend huge chunks of my time and resources pursuing this sensation, so you’d think I’d know this by now and never forget it, right?  But just as we all play this hide-and-seek game with our own divine nature, I seem to keep forgetting that being in the flow is pretty much as good as it gets.  The good thing about forgetting is, of course, that I get to remember again…

I just came off of a weekend which allowed me to experience flow in multiple guises.  For starters, I helped my friend and fellow Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor Neesha Zollinger teach part of Anusara Immersion 3 – an intensive workshop that delves deeply into asana, anatomy, the Bhagavad Gita, and Tantric philosophy, among other things (yes, it’s a powerful shot in the arm – you should do one if you haven’t already!!).  Neesha and I had never taught together before, although we know each other fairly well, have a lot of mutual respect, and are both very committed to the transmission of the teachings we try to embody.  With very little preparation we jumped into two days of complex curriculum, working together to meet the needs of the students by tag-teaming teaching, augmenting each others’ presentations with commentary, and clarifying points to support each others’ themes.  Teaching at this level takes a substantial amount of focus and “in-tune-ness.”  For starters, you need to be tuned into yourself .  Additionally, you need to sync up with your co-teacher and the participants in the room – and even the teaching material itself.   And if you’re there, the time FLIES by.  The curriculum gets covered.  And the transitions just happen.

After finishing teaching on Sunday, I rode my bike.  Aaaahhh.  Biking always provides a chance to feel flow – that’s why I do it.  I got into a climbing groove and Jackson’s Ferrins Trail was over before I knew it.  The downhill flow was even better.  I had a good song in my head drowning out any background noise, but the reality is that when I am going downhill fast in technical terrain, there is no noise – it is all cleared out by the flame of intense focus.  I am not aware of any process that could be called “thinking” when I am riding downhill.  I know that data is coming in through my senses, and this data is being processed somewhere in order to trigger movements in my body – movements which are essentially keeping me alive as I fly over terrain.  But the part of my mind – the part we call “ahamkara” in yoga – that is constantly narrating the events of my life to attempt to make sense of my individual path – that part shuts down.  Which feels glorious!  I melt into a sense of sensory data coming in and movements going out…and that is it.  And I smile.

To top it off, I went kayaking the next day.  I used to be a pretty good whitewater kayaker, and I traveled internationally in search of new exotic rivers to explore.  Something happened recently that allowed me to forget how much I loved kayaking and river travel in general.  Life got in the way, and I didn’t get in my boat for two years (ouch, I know).  And then I got back in it a couple of days ago.  I took a few strokes, did a few rolls, and one mile downstream hopped in a hole (“Holes,” or “hydraulics” are river features in which water recirculates on itself after flowing over a rock or other obstacle.  They can be incredibly dangerous, or really fun to play in, depending on a number of factors.).  Choosing to put yourself in a hole is an interesting process.  A hole is a very dynamic environment – noisy, bouncy, violent, and white with aerated water.  And yet, if you put yourself in just the right place, and maintain just the right position by reacting to the forces on your boat with just the right hip movements and paddle strokes, you can actually stay calmly in one place.  You can become the stillpoint within the tumult.  And better yet, you can do some tricks in that stillpoint.  You can do a 360 (“flat spin”), glide back and forth (“surf”), and even “cartwheel” – without ever moving from that point of stillness in the middle of the river.  In order to this you need to be – yes — in the flow, literally!  You need to be watching, hearing, and feeling the water’s speed, direction, and quality against the hull of your boat.  You need to be 100% invested in the evaluation of your position and completely committed to letting your muscles react accordingly.  One word from the ahamkara part of the brain (“Wait, what was it I needed to remember to get at the grocery store on the way home?”) and you’re outta there.  You get “flushed” as they say.  You become separated from the flow and wash downstream of the feature – game over.

Which of course is always the case, sooner or later.  You can’t stay on your bike going downhill forever.  You can’t surf the hole forever, and you can’t stare into the eyes of your beloved forever.

But maybe you can learn how to infuse all the activities of your daily life with a little more flowy-ness?  That’s what I’m after, anyway.

“Anusara” means “stepping into the flow of grace.”  Our whole discipline is predicated on the assumption that there is a universal flow out there, and that we CAN get in tune with it.  We do this by lining up our bodies along safe and clear energetic lines, and then waiting to see what happens.  What happens is that grace, which is always out there, comes in, and flows like the current of a river, or like buttery singletrack, within us.  If that happens, then any pose – something easy like tadasana, or something hard like a dropback, or something REALLY hard like maintaining a strong mind and soft heart in conflict – allows you to “be in the flow.”

It’s not easy, not in yoga or teaching or biking or kayaking or life.  Stepping into the flow is a skill, pure and simple.  I work to cultivate it daily, and sometimes it happens.  Plenty of other times it doesn’t, and I just practice to practice, hoping that it returns another day.  And it will – maybe on the mat, maybe on my bike.  When it does, that feeling of timelessness and connection will be so sweet it will be worth every drop of sweat and every twinge of fear because in that moment I will remember that I am part of something greater.

Then I’ll forget again.  And get back on my mat.  Or on my bike.  Or in my kayak.  Thank goodness they are always there, huh?

(I bet this guy was “in the flow,” huh?  WOW!)

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~ by bridgetannlyons on September 7, 2011.

2 Responses to “Ah, being “in the flow”…”

  1. It was so great having teach part of the immersion, Bridget! And it’s lovely to read your words here…thank you!

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