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How to Stay Focused and Get Into the Zone

Athletes call a flow state “the zone”. Musicians know it as “the pocket” or “the groove”, while actors know flow as “truth”. In Taoism flow is “wu wei” – a state of effortless action in perfect harmony with nature. On the spiritual side, words like “enraptured” and “ecstatic” apply. Many of us simply understand flow as a state of inspiration, the word inspiration coming from the Greek entheos meaning “God within” or “possessed by God”. Even the hero’s journey, the archetypal story around which all stories unfold, is a tale of flow, a tale of journeying into the underworld of our own minds, finding a supernatural aid, and returning transformed with treasures to share.

The variety of methods humanity has discovered to induce flow states is both impressive and confusing. The diversity of rituals and practices athletes, writers, and artists employ, from jumping and wriggling on the starting block, to wearing special items of clothing, to repeating a special prayer, to listening to a particular song. Frustratingly, what works for one person may not work for anyone else, and what works one day may not work the next or ever again. Flow is a very personal journey, and a fickle partner that needs to be romanced, cultivated, and sometimes snuck up on.

Historically, music, dance, prayer, chanting, ritual, fasting, sensory deprivation, isolation, extreme exertion, extended focus, heat exposure, and plant medicines have all proven to be highly effective methods of inducing flow-like states, especially in guided group settings. Flow is contagious and participating in any coordinated group activity can often effectively induce flow. Engagement is key, so active participation in intrinsically rewarding activities that provide the right amount of immediate feedback and challenge are what easily induce a flow state. Too little challenge or feedback is boring, while too much is frustrating. To stay engaged, focus on the process, not the outcome. Lastly, risk is a highly potent flow inducer, both physical and emotional. Race, climb, jump, surf, ride, create, or simply say “I love you” without knowing what the outcome will be and you will find flow.

Angie Aristone, co-author of
Consciousness Becomes You


Angie Aristone, co-author of Consciousness Becomes You www.angiearistone.com


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