Be like water. Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless like water. If you put water into a cup it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend. ~Bruce Lee.
In the academic world we call it focus. Musicians may call it being in the groove. Athletes refer to the inner game or being in the zone or on the ball. In the positive psychology world, this total immersion in an activity or being lost in the moment is called flow.
Flow is defined as the state of being completely engrossed in the execution of a performance to the exclusion of everything else.
Flow is achieved when body, mind, and spirit are at one, when the present moment is so compelling that everything else disappears. Time slows, ego dissolves, and fear fades. The state of flow is a meditation. It is this state that we hope to achieve during our practice of asana.
How is flow achieved?
According to flow theory, in order for the state of flow to be attained, one needs to be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress, and the task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.
The theory also stresses that in order to achieve a state of flow, there needs to be a balance between skill level and challenge. Too much challenge and not enough ability leads to anxiety. Too much ability and not enough challenge leads to boredom.
Why is flow good for us?
Flow is characterized by complete absorption in a task, intense and focused concentration on the present moment. In a state of flow, emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.
There is a feeling of spontaneous joy or rapture while performing a task. There is a sense of personal control over the situation and the experience of the activity is intrinsically rewarding.
People in a state of flow describe experiencing feelings of serenity, total focus on the present moment, timelessness, focus, personal control, lack of awareness of physical needs, and the absence of worries and concerns.
Enhancing our time in flow makes our lives happier and more successful, leading to a positive disposition and improved performance.