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Mindfulness And Flow: 8 Pillars of Flow State Training

Flow state training involves creating the structure, routines and accountability you need to develop the laser-like clarity and focus necessary to consistently get into flow.

So much of our time, energy and attention today is drained by easily accessible digital dopamine available at any time with the smartphones in our pockets.

The result of compulsively checking our smartphones when we’re struggling with feelings of anxiety and discomfort is we often end up in a constantly distracted state, which psychologists are calling a state of continuous partial attention.

To get into the flow state consistently, we need to break this cycle of instant gratification and digital distraction by mindfully staying present with this discomfort and maintaining a single-pointed focus long enough to get into flow.

Mindfulness And Flow State Training

The 4-Step Flow Cycle

The key to consistently getting into the flow state is developing mastery in the art of the 4-part Flow Cycle.

Here’s a quick overview of how the Flow Cycle works:

1. Struggle

This is where we need to build mindful habits that help us strike at the root of stress, negative self-talk and avoidance behaviors so we can break mindless habits that steal our time, energy and attention.

The struggle phase involves being able to hold a single point of focus on a meaningful and challenging activity without allowing yourself to get distracted or sucked into the mental rabbit hole of procrastination.

2. Release

Release activities are essential to help us to step away from our work and shift our attention into the relaxed state necessary for the flow state to emerge. They help us slow our brain waves into the upper ranges of the alpha state so we can supercharge our creativity.

This can involve taking a break where you can take your mind off the problem and mindfully sip some tea, going for a mindful walk outside, listening to a relaxing song or doing a short breathing exercise can help you switch out of struggle and return after a short break ready for flow.

3. Flow

In flow, you become so completely immersed in an activity that you can lose yourself in it. This means that a flow state is very different from the practice of mindfulness yet it is mindful habits that will help you navigate through all the distractions and mental obstacles that block flow.

In an interview with Wired magazine, flow psychology pioneer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.” I like to think of flow as a form of effortless mindfulness.

4. Recovery

This is another key part of the flow state training process that is usually the most overlooked. Today’s hyperconnected Western society has become what contemporary philosopher Byung-Chul Han calls The Burnout Society because most people can’t find enough time to properly recharge from incredibly high stress and busy lives.

Active recovery practices can involve spending more time hiking in nature, participating in a meaningful community that supports you, or intentionally setting aside deep relaxation time each week to rest and recharge through saunas, cold plunges, massages, meditation or whatever works best for your personality.

Building Mindful Habits That Unlock Consistent Flow

Ultimately, it is the struggle and recovery phase of the Flow Cycle that keep most people from consistently feeling and performing their best in flow.

At each of these steps, developing mindful habits is crucial to get to the root of stress, overthinking and burnout so we can break the mindless habits that steal so much time, energy and attention.

When I work with my coaching clients to help them implement a flow state training program, these are the 8 core models that I have found most helpful getting into flow consistently.

They each help to eliminate the mindless habits that keep us stuck and replace them with the mindful habits that make it much easier to sustain focus and resist distraction long enough to trigger flow.

1. Digital Mindfulness

Adopting digital minimalism and using social media with mindful intentionality rather than compulsively checking it.

Digital Mindfulness

The first step to finding your focus is completing a distraction journal to identify what is causing you to get distracted and procrastinate. This involves identifying your internal emotional triggers and external environmental triggers.

From there I take you through a process of digital mindfulness training, which helps you to reclaim 5-10 hours a week through environmental changes and using mindfulness to sit with anxiety, urges and discomfort to resolve them rather than allowing them to continually hijack your attention.

2. Vision Mapping

Crafting a clear and compelling vision of your long-term goals to clarify your mission and purpose.

Vision mapping is a process of developing clarity and self-awareness so you can set long-term goals and identify the key activities that will move you toward your goals the fastest. This way you can start eliminating the lower-value activities that take you off course.

Vision mapping involves creating a visual map of your long-term goals and step-by-step processes for short-term goals to make them easy to visualize. It helps you get ideas, dreams and reveries out of your head and into visual models that can help you clarify what you offer and what activities to focus your time on.

3. Laser Focus

Developing laser-like clarity and focus for your work week by setting clear goals and planning out your schedule.

If there was one flow state training practice that trumps them all, it’s the habit of pre-planning your week. Without a clear plan, it’s far too easy to get stuck in procrastination, overwhelm and distraction.

Each week we complete a 1-page weekly plan to set clear goals and identify your biggest obstacles in terms of internal emotional triggers and external environmental distractions so you can follow a personalized flow system that will improve your focus.

4. Creative Flow

Using flow state training practices to release from inner resistance into focused action.

Creative flow happens when you push beyond the inner resistance and inertia that keeps you in your comfort zone and into a focused state of immersion in a challenging activity.

To improve how you navigate this 4-step creative process, you’ll learn how to use flow induction practices that combine visualization, rhythmic breathing, meditation and brainwave entrainment music to relax under pressure, release anxiety and shift into a state of focus and flow.

5. Active Dreaming

Improving your self-awareness and creative problem solving skills using conscious dreaming practices.

In the modern Western culture, we’ve become completely identified with thinking (logos) and we often suppress or have little recollection of our dreams (mythos). Active dreaming involves developing self-awareness through consciously exploring the dream state.

Accessing the liminal state between waking and sleep as well as lucid dream induction is a valuable tool to go beyond conditioned ways of thinking and enter dreamlike states where imagery, symbols and insights bubble up unfiltered from the subconscious.

6. Deep Sleep

Improving the quality of your sleep so you can fall asleep with ease and sleep deeper.

The effect of today’s sedentary lifestyle where we sit all day for work and spend over 90% of our time indoors staring at screens is leading to an epidemic of poor sleep, fatigue and burnout.

You will learn the key to getting high-quality sleep, which is getting more natural light exposure and practicing short periods of active recovery each day to switch off your body’s stress response and switch on the relaxation response so your mind can relax and your body can properly recharge.

7. Peak Experiences

Mindful walking and nondual meditation practices for experiencing a sense of unity and connectedness.

Peak experiences involve feelings of unity, connectedness and self-transcendence. They exist on a spectrum that can range from the peak moments of your day to the defining moments of your month, year and life.

In nondual meditation traditions, it is taught that we don’t have to adopt rigid practices and make a great effort to practice techniques. Rather we learn to live with ease and flow by relaxing into the selfless, timeless and effortless field of our ever-present awareness.

8. Group Flow

The art of group flow involves building your creative community of people that support you in your goals.

10 Group Flow Principles

So much of modern life involves trying to accomplish things alone that in previous generations were done together in a community. Building an emotional support system is important for getting advice from a community of mentors, collaborators and advisors.

Learn to leverage your knowledge and expertise to create a workshop you can deliver to build your reputation in your industry and leverage that workshop to build your leadership and facilitation skills.

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