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10 Unexpected Benefits of Cultivating Flow
We all have periods in our lives where we feel out of sync and misaligned. Sometimes they are of short duration, sometimes they linger – sometimes they happen daily!
I know that one!
Sometimes situations beyond our control whack us off track: illnesses, break-ups and divorces, losing a job, and other big life changes.
Most of the time, though, we do it to ourselves.
We do it with our schedules.
Our planners and iCals are jam-packed! The rush, the hustle, and our work hard, play hard, go, go, go mentality, have us continuously engaged in the rat race. If we aren’t busy-busy, we feel lazy, unimportant and uncool.
How often and for how long do we really sit still? When we crash, and lay on the couch and Netflix all day?
We have to stop and ask ourselves (yes, stopping is involved):
Where is the meaning in this?
We do it with our technology.
You have to admit, we have made our lives easier, better, faster and more efficient, with our telephones, televisions, washing machines, computers, and smart phones. Yet, though we are massively ‘connected’ with tech, we are massively disconnected in deep and meaningful ways.
And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we all seem to be suffering from attention deficit disorder. Can anyone enjoy a dinner with friends without checking their messages, calendars, Facebook feed, Snapchat, and Instagram?
I have also noticed that “holding” a conversation is a lost art form. First, people would rather text one-sentence blips every few hours. Second, has become extremely difficult for a lot of people to maintain a stream of thought past 5 minutes. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “What was I saying again?” or “Where was I?” in conversations nowadays.
Is this where we want to be?
Now I am not saying this has got to stop. I'm not a quit tech cold turkey advocate. This is our way of life now.
But I am saying we have to evolve.
We can stay “connected,” AND CONNECTED.
The Great Divide
Recently I found myself in a very disconnected state. Everything in my life was out of alignment; my work/life balance, my physical body, almost every relationship I was involved in. Life had lost its luster, and I had lost my joie de vivre.
I felt overwhelmed, scattered, off-track and depleted. I suffered from insomnia, anxiety, and situational depression. I knew I needed to make some serious changes.
I craved feeling grounded and centered again~fulfilled, happy, and aligned.
I realized that the times that I was most fulfilled and balanced in life, were times when I was experiencing FLOW on a regular basis.
If you have ever experienced Flow, it is that mental state of being totally engaged, alert, and challenged during an activity.
No, Flow is not Netflixing it on a Saturday because you are burned out.
It is not checking out.
It is checking in.
I personally experienced being in flow when I was creating in my art journals, writing, during long walks, being in nature, and during meditation or yoga practices.
But dang it! I had created a lifestyle that no longer had the time for–nor did I have the focal endurance for–any flow-producing activities.
Out of desperation, I developed a life hack for cultivating Flow in my life.
Life Hack: Soul Flow
Now, usually when people discuss flow, they speak of a mental state... an optimal psychological state... a mind set.
But I knew I needed something more, something deeper. I wasn’t just struggling mentally, I was depleted spiritually. Not only did I want to find Flow, I wanted to make meaning. I needed to change my soul set.
I call my life hack Soul Flow, because I want Flow in my life that nourishes me at the core of myself, not just my brain, but also my heart and spirit.
Because my time commodity was short, I couldn’t afford a whole hour or more for yoga, mediation or creativity.
So I broke it down into bite-sized pieces. I started my practice with 5 minute, micro-moments~my little Om-ments.
My Daily Practice
I started by picking 6 activities; some that made me feel connected in the past and some that I felt I needed to try: meditation, yoga/stretching, creativity, reading spiritual and personal development texts, writing, and sacred sleep.
I wrote them in a special space in my planner, as though they were as important as my other meetings and to-do’s. And I made sure I took 10 minutes out of my day for each one. That’s right… just 10 minutes!
For instance, when I woke up each day, I would you some gentle stretching and a few Sun Salutations.
Later, I would read a few pages of an inspiring book.
At some point I would stop, in the middle of “busy” and meditate for 10 minutes… a Breathing or Grounding or Centering meditation.
To tap into my creativity, I chose to take at least one photo a day for Instagram. All day I found myself mindful of my surroundings and aware of beautiful things, snap a shot and then play with it in a cool app. (I call it #Instasoul if you want to add to the tag.
Before falling asleep, I would write in my journal a check in about the day and some gratitude practice.
Then, of course, I would SLEEP. I always short change myself on pillowtime in order to fit “more important” tasks into the day. Well, I reminded myself that sleep is one of the most sacred spaces we have, for mind, body and soul. So I embraced that time and made it a Soul Flow practice.
One Hour a Day
To be honest, I was very judgmental about my Soul Flow idea. In total, it was only 50 minutes of my day, interspersed throughout the day. I chastised myself, thinking it was too for superficial and not serious enough. A real yogi would practice an hour. A dedicated meditator would sit in lotus at least 30 minutes!
There was no way 10 minutes here and there in my day was going to change anything.
But I was very wrong! It was POWERFUL!!! I not only cultivated flow and created moments that were more meaningful, several unexpected things happened because of my Soul Flow practice.
Here's what happened:
1. I suffered less anxiety and depression.
Before Soul Flow, at least twice a week–usually more–I would wake up after 4 hours of sleep with anxiety…sometimes chest-crushing anxiety. I am not treated or medicated for this problem, so it usually took two hours for me to calm down enough to go back to sleep.
This stopped completely within a week of my Soul Flow practice.
When anxious thoughts catch me off guard during the day, instead of them working up into a full-blown panic attack, I release them very quickly.
I also suffered from occasional depression and there were days that I had great difficulty getting out of bed. Since beginning my practice, I think I have had one “low” morning; it was a Monday that I had to go back to work. In other words, a normal blah, not a weepy, covers over the head day.
This isn’t completely unexpected. I expected my anxiety/depression would lessen, I didn’t expect it to become nonexistent that quickly.
2. I drank less.
Before, to deal with stress and anxiety and to calm down in general, I self-medicated with a couple of glasses of wine or beer at least 3 times a week.
Because I wasn’t feeling as anxious or stressed, I hardly thought of it.And I love red wine! I love it with food. I enjoy the whole ritual of pouring a glass, and swirling it, and savoring it. So to have it rarely cross my mind came as a shock to me.
3. My energy level quadrupled.
I woke up joyful, alive and ready to go.
4. My diet changed.
I craved vegetables and juices and WATER and a serious distaste for chicken, pork and beef. I was already on the fence about chicken, but beef! I’ve always loved a steak! I made it twice –a T-BONE– and threw it out because I couldn’t even swallow one bite.
Now it is summertime, so I thought that might have something to do with it. But summer never stopped me from eating meat before. Or Ruffles potato chips... and I haven’t wanted those either.
**Woo-woo Alert** Yeah, I am going to get woo-woo on this one. My energy level had started changing. I was feeling vibrant and light. It felt like my intuition was rejecting food that wasn’t nourishing or would deplete me.I lost weight.
5. Well, duh! Less alcohol. Changed appetite. I lost 8 pounds without effort.
6. I broke up with energy vampires.
This was hard. Because there were several and a couple of them were close family members.
Like my break-up with beef, I literally could not stomach staying in contact or the physical presence with people who had been using me, or abusing me. This was not done lightly, it seemed harsh and went against my pattern of caregiving (read: codependency). There is grief associated with it. But the level of toxicity, and TAKE was too high for too long.
Once I had reestablished the flow state, I was vibrating so full and powerful and light, that I immediately noticed the evaporation of my positive vibes when I was with certain people. I needed to establish strong boundaries, and unfortunately, with some people, the boundaries meant no contact.
7. I lost rage.
I was angry. A LOT. Hot, white anger. The root was in the relationships with energy vampires. I wasn’t being filled up in any way, and what positive energy I had was being drained further. That depletion led to resentment... led to anger...led to rage...
Toward people... toward life... toward traffic... toward myself.
This unexpected benefit brings me to tears. Because in rage's place now is joy.
8. I started enjoying my J.O.B.
This is mind-blowing. My job is not my ‘passion’ and all I have ever really dreamed of is finding a way out of it and doing my ‘passion’ full-time.
Because the work that I do, as a 911 dispatcher, by its very nature, is an energy vampire. It is all take and no give. It contributed to the rage pocket I carried around in my gut.
But my Soul Flow practice made me feel full and connected. I was able to find purpose and meaning in ALL moments, which bled over into the work I do in the Emergency Comm Center.
My attitude shifted. Now, I’m not saying I don’t feel irritated when people are rude and hostile (this includes callers and co-workers)... I am saying I am better able to shake it off, and maintain my energetic equilibrium better.
This is so powerful. I notice that it shifts the momentum of the calls I take, and it has shifted the dynamic in the room when we work. I am more engaged in my tasks, and enjoy my shifts more.
9. My dreamspace came alive!
I’ve always been a vivid and lucid dreamer. But it was only a couple of nights a week that I would break past the Mundane and Astral Planes and venture further.
Now, every night is an adventure. My dreamspace is invaluable when it comes to my spiritual growth and creativity. I will talk more about this in the future, for sure!
10. There was more time in the day!
Gone are the days of saying, “There’s not enough time.”
It seems counter-rational that by taking time outs to stop everything and get into flow, that I would have MORE time instead of less. As my Soul Flow practice continued, I began spending even more time in my practice... meditating longer... practicing more than 6 times a day, yet I was still getting more accomplished in the same amount of time.
This Flow state, made me more centered. I discerned better what was really important. The tasks that were just spin, fell away. I became more effective at what I was producing. Getting things done was easier, almost effortless.These benefits were cumulative, and interrelated, like a domino effect, except the dominos lined up instead of falling down.
Bringing Soul Flow into YOUR Life
Last week, I introduced my eBook “Soul Flow: A Workbook for Creating a Lifestyle that Nourishes Your Soul.” It is available for FREE and outlines the system for creating your own Soul Flow practice.
It is popular to say, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.” This is a myth. It takes daily practice to create a habit ~ a daily commitment to find flow and make meaning.
What can flow do for you? What would you like it to do?
To help you establish flow in your life, I will be hosting a 30-Day Finding Flow & Making Meaning Challenge on my Facebook Page beginning August 1st. I invite you to DOWNLOAD the ebook, and journey with me during the month of August as we #makeflowhappen!
Hope to see you August 1!