The flow state is the place to be. It’s that perfect mental state where our ego falls away and intellect or creativity pour forth. Time flies, and the inner critic stays quiet. We are productive. We feel fulfilled. And we inch toward that holy grail: realising our full self.
The flow state may last five minutes or five hours but what I’ve noticed is that, when I get into flow, my body disappears. My experience of life, work and the universe becomes entirely cerebral. Even the sound of my fingers on the keyboard fades from my awareness. And then, when I come to, I realise that I’ve been contorting my body. Often my legs are crossed, my jaw is clenched and my shoulders are up near my ears, creating pain and stiffness.
So I go to yoga in an attempt to iron out the creases. Here, I achieve flow in a completely different way. A totally other kind of contortion. My awareness moves away from the cerebral, into the body, following the pathway of my breath.
Similarly divine. Nowhere near as tense.
I’m looking for a life of ease and grace. I’d like to move effortlessly into the flow state, and to live healthily in this body for as long as possible. I’m aiming for 97 years, if not more. But given I mostly achieve flow sitting in front of a computer, the news isn’t good: sitting kills. Even if you exercise.
We are advised that to combat the detrimental effects of sitting, we need to get up and move around for five minutes every half an hour. But who, I ask, wants to interrupt the joy of the flow state? It can be challenging to create the perfect conditions for flow. We need time and mental space and, for some of us, blissful quiet, in order to welcome it in. Do we really want to interrupt that every 30 minutes? No way!
If you’re a Pomodoro acolyte, you can use the timer to help you remember to move. But if you truly get into flow, you’ll transcend the need for the timer at all, and you’ll just go with it. So, just like me, you might forget to move.
This study showed found that when sedentary officer workers used sit-stand desks, they appeared to experience an overall sense of well-being and energy, decreased fatigue, reduction in appetite, and lower food intake and self-perceived levels of hunger. So, a sit-stand desk could be an option if your workplace allows it or you can set one up at home.
I think I’m too set in my ways to stand up, though. I feel like my happy place is with my bum on the seat, brain in gear and creativity turned on.
I am trying to bring yoga into my work by pausing for stretch breaks when I’ve fallen out of flow. I’ll stretch when there’s an interruption. And I particularly enjoy walking around while I’m on the phone. I’m watching how I sit, using a footstool instead of crossing my legs, and reminding myself of the ultimate goal – 97 healthy years – and that I want to spend much of the life remaining to me in creative flow.
But if I’m really honest with myself, I love to work way too much. I adore the satisfaction that comes from completing a project, creating something new or contributing to a collaborative piece. I think that, ultimately, the cerebral may define me more than the physical. But I’ll do what I can to take the yin with the yang, and the contortion with the flow.