Mindfulness and Flow

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In all systems of meditation, the goal is to have a CLEAR mind, to be more present in our lives, rather than wrapped up in our head. The “normal” state of the mind always flitting from thought to thought , is compared to a “cage full of wild monkeys” in yoga books. The object of mindfulness is to steady the attention on one thing for a period of time.

Both the yoga tradition of meditation, and the zen tradition of mindfulness, have at their core the training of the mind to produce an effortless absorption in everything that you do. They both emphasize being present in your life, being in the now, as opposed to living in your head and running a commentary on everything you do. For the normal person, this usually requires training, as our mind is constantly in a state of overdrive.The whole world as it is at the moment – internet, TV, games on our computers and mobile phones – almost seems set up to produce the opposite and to bring us into more distraction and proliferation of random thoughts.

However, we may all have in our lives, activities in which we are naturally absorbed. The researcher, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ( pronounced cheeks sent me high) found that people reported being at their happiest, when their total attention was taken up with what they were doing, a state that he named flow. Usually flow occurs when people engage in a task that activates and challenges their skills and strengths. Athletes often call it “being in the zone”.

The experience need not be pleasurable in itself : it could be climbing a mountain, working out a new schedule, solving a difficult problem in our work or hobby, listening to someone’s problem, fixing a motor bike, playing sport or chess, making love, painting a house or a canvas: what matters is that we have deep, effortless involvement in what we are doing, we don’t notice the time passing, we lose consciousness of ourselves. It often produces a feeling of exhilaration .

Mindfulness and Positivity are linked: Research shows that mindfulness increases positivity and it is easier “to be in the now” when you are feeling more positive.

It is interesting to note that being mindful involves “coming out of your head” and focusing on what is around you in a neutral way. This is the opposite of what happens in depression, where the person thinks about how he/ she feels constantly, ruminates about problems and projects their low feelings into the future, which produces feelings of hopelessness and more sadness. The answer may not be to more closely examine their feelings, or talk about them to others, but instead to move out of “living in your head “ and into more flow