The Flow State.
he phone rings and shakes me out of my state. I let it ring out as my eyes come back into focus, noting with surprise that it is dark outside. As the silence falls again, I step back and look at the painting. All of a sudden, all the various elements of the canvas fuse back into one, as if I have suddenly put on my glasses and can see it as a completed piece for the first time.
I cannot take my eyes away.
I have been painting for hours. It has poured from me in a flow of color, with very little thought or consideration of time. I realize I am parched and haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. I have been so completely in it that the rest of my existence has been put on pause. This beautiful painting has just flowed through me.
There are many names for this place. Yogis might term it “union” or “grace” - the flow of the divine through us. Athletes describe the state of being “in the zone”. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmalyi coined the term “flow state”, described as a peak state of consciousness, where effectiveness and productivity explodes and a state of ecstasy, or alternate reality, is perceived. Ordinarily, the human brain cuts out all extra information from the huge onslaught of sensory input available to us in every moment. In the flow state, however, a shift happens within the brain that effectively causes all of our available attention to be focused on the task, causing our needs, our external awareness and even our identity to disappear from our consciousness.
In terms of brain activity, the “flow” points to a deeply relaxed and connected state of existence that opens us up to divine creativity. Psychologist Maximilan Gotzler says that in contrast to our everyday beta-wave brain state, the flow state is found somewhere between alpha (awake but relaxed) and theta (dreaming or visualizing) waves, often shot through by spikes of longer, slower gamma waves - usually associated with deep meditation or revelatory states.
The work of Steven Kotler describes triggers to bring us into the flow state, such as constant, uninterrupted attention - one of the reasons why meditation can be such a powerful tool for creativity. By clearing the mess of the mind and unrelated tasks, we create a clear channel between ourselves and the task at hand. One of the keys here is to balance the challenge at hand with the skill level present, slipping between the lines of boredom and anxiety and into the sweet spot where our skills are pushed just enough by our task for us to stay inspired and engaged.
The tool I most draw on and recommend for tuning in is simply to follow our greatest excitement. Passion has the power to propel us into a higher vibration, almost as if we are a radio, tuned up to a particular frequency that makes people and messages pop out at us, opening up a world of synchronicity and sparkle. Our work pours in a channel through us, divinely inspired, magical, effortless. Spawned from something much bigger than us, and carrying a magnetism for abundance. It is through the artful mixture of clear intentions to direct the focus, and a sense of abandon to divine inspiration, that we make enough space for creativity to exist.
Creativity triggers flow and flow triggers creativity. So what blocks our flow?
Essential to creative flow is vulnerability - the courage to be seen. We often block ourselves through fear of failure, or through striving and struggling towards something that doesn’t fit. To stay in a place of flow asks for an underlying trust, and a surrender to the surge that drives us into our personal harmony. We keep it all going with momentum driven by passion and fulfillment.
Flow depends on a combination of alertness, receptivity and inspiration - listening to what is there and responding from a place of connection and openness. When we get bored or distracted, we slip out of the flow and into effort and indecision. When we are overwhelmed, the same thing happens. Striving towards an idea or forcing a situation against resistance shifts us from ease into stress.
We also tend to cancel the process of creativity too early, putting an end to seeds of ideas before they have even had a chance to show themselves fully. Overthinking can stump our growth; if you’re too much in your head, use your tools to come back into a place of connectedness and go from there.
When I started this painting, I began from the present moment. I painted what I felt and what I saw - myself, sitting on the floor, in a state of connection - and from there I let myself expand. Sometimes, all we need is to unkink the hose of our creativity to let the juices run. The truth is, the flow of creativity from the human spirit is unlimited, and the work is in finding tools that tap us into that well. The trick is to find the end of the thread of creation… and when you find it, unravel it all the way to the root.
What if we could exist in this ecstatic state frequently? What would we do if we were suddenly that much more alive? How could we put this extra creative energy into feeding our dreams and making them into our reality?
Jiya is a deeply connected leader who roots her teaching in the healing energy of nature. Her teaching invites students to explore their own, unique unfolding, through profound awareness and trust in the wisdom of the Self. Through her studies with teachers and shamans across the world, Jiya has developed a powerful sense of energetic connection and a strong set of philosophical and intuitive teachings, which she shares through creative hatha and yin yoga, sacred fire and medicine ceremonies, and healing therapies. Jiya is also a talented musician and sound healer, who seeks out native chants and medicine songs from around the world to complement her work.
Jiya is YA-certified at the ERYT-300 level and has facilitated both intensive and module-format teacher trainings at RYT-200 and RYT-300 levels for several years, through Kula Collective, Holistic Yoga School, International and SchoolYoga Institute. Following her degree in Physics at Imperial College, London, Julia worked as an Energy Consultant and part time writer in London, UK, before moving to Central America in 2009 to pursue a life centered on yoga and holistic health. British by birth, Jiya is now based in Guatemala and teaches in Thailand, Australia, Mexico, Greece, USA, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Peru.