A Mindful Day

March 22nd, 2015

If a person learns to enjoy and find meaning in the ongoing stream of experience, in the process of living itself, the burden of social controls automatically falls from one’s shoulders.

~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Time is a tricky player. Especially during flow, our focus is laser sharp and everything else just falls away. Full mindfulness may naturally trigger action with less effort. Our sense of self disappears. Creativity and performance is enhanced. It feels as if we tap into a vast stream of creativity. And, it's not just time that transforms.

Our brainwaves do too; shifting from the fast-moving beta waves of normal waking consciousness down to slower states between alpha and theta. Alpha is associated with day-dreaming; we move from thought to thought without much internal resistance. Theta usually shows upright before we fall asleep and during REM sleep; in theta our ideas may combine in highly creative ways.

The pure absorption and total mindfulness is what Csikszentmihalyi called optimal experience. It's described as being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost. And here comes a question for you:

How do you spend a spare moment?

I suggest that next time you have one – you meditate. There are several ways how to start in case meditation has not been your “cup of tea”. If you are new to it you can start with a guided meditation, such as for example this one. The mindfulness enabled by meditation may help you to zoom out, to be more present and to better understand your current situation (i.e. your potential, the interference, the social dynamics that’s going on etc.). Practicing mindfulness through meditation might be the first step on a journey that “automagically” enables working in flow.

The other option is to go for a dynamic meditation. When we immerse fully into what we are doing, anything can be meditative. The act of meditation lies in the intention of letting go and trust the universe in this moment. Meditation enables self-reflection as we witness any thought, feeling, sensation or emotion without judging it. It is the experience of becoming one with and being fully present with whatever activity we are doing.

Various forms of mindfulness have been part of our history since a long time. Whether it was through religious chanting, repeating mantras, drumming of the indigenous people, yoga breathing or just consciously eating breakfast, it does not matter as long as we do it with all of our being. Acting mindfully enhances our consciousness. Even a walk, washing dishes, or a boring task can become meditative if we apply the same sense of immersion into it. After a while we find ourselves accidentally meditating here and now, and entering flow through doors that weren’t open before…

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

We usually don't wish to change our entire life from scratch. However, to make a change and create something new, it takes a conscious choice and focus. The best way I have discovered is to leverage the morning time. I try to have my big goal work scheduled early. Lets take writing a book as an example of a big goal. I'd schedule 15-20 mins right after I wake up or after breakfast, but definitely before leaving for work.

Once I stopped postponing the most important stuff to later hours of my day I lowered the risk that something else will keep me busy instead.It meant waking up earlier which required going to bed earlier too. I might have watched another youtube video or perhaps could have done a few more emails instead. But seriously, how important are those things compared to my goal? What do they mean in the long run? Imagine yourself two years later holding your precious book (or anything else you wish to create) in your hands versus knowing that you haven’t missed a single status update or always responded to emails immediately…

Sounds ridiculous? Yet, this long-term view is exactly what we typically miss when making allthe tiny daily choices. Do you really want to continue living on an autopilot or are you ready to start crafting your souls deepest desire? If it's the latter, can you let your choice guide your days? Each moment you either follow it or not. You may want to stop doing a few things to create space for the work that matters most. I’d first consider cutting internet, TV, video games, social networking, texting and email.

I suggest you adjust your schedule now so you can start to work on YOUR goal the first thing in the morning tomorrow, no matter what. Then do it again the day after. Be ready to go out of your comfort zone into the stretch zone. You might notice by the end of the week it becomes less uncomfortable. And before you know it this will become a habit and it will be much easier for you to enter flow and create.

Have you ever run a marathon? Would you like to know the #1 tip of runners who make it to the finish line? I witnessed some incredible performers last year during the Ocean Lava Triathlon which is an extreme (and very popular) competition on Lanzarote. How does one accomplish goals such as 180km cycling, 42km running and 4km swimming? The secret is to keep your mind focused on the closest milestone only. Just one at a time. If you have 3km lap you just focus on making the lap. Once there, you focus on the next. You definitely dont think about the 180km of cycling that await you after you are done with swimming

You can experiment with the same approach which leads me to today’s last question:

What is the tiniest step you could do NOW to move closer to your goal?

It can take only a few mins to write the first paragraph of your book or send an email to a friend with whom you want to discuss its content. What does your next lap look like? Find something you can do right now and go DO it!

The task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you.

Create a daily repeating entry in your schedule. Choose environment that helps you shift into flow. Do you need a certain place, light, music, temperature? We underestimate the extent to which the way we feel and what we perceive (environment, people, and information) affects our performance and creativity.

In surfing we can become one with the ocean and everything around us; the activity requires our total attention and each wave is different which keeps it challenging no matter our surfing skill level. I realize it's hard to go surfing around here but I had a similar experience with a simple walk outside yesterday. There’s so much beauty out there if we just pay attention. By walking mindfully, focusing on my breath, perceiving all thats going on both inside and outside I came to the same sweet spot and entered flow.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

~Vincent van Gogh

Give it a try and let me know. I look forward to hear how your meditation practice flows!

Wishing you a mindful day,