Hoop Hallway

What are Flow Artists?

December 4th, 2017 By rane

Well if you want my definition (and my guess is you do if you’re reading this), Flow Artists are individuals who can easily access flow states, or are able to guide other people into experiences of flow.

Umm, so what is Flow?

Flow is a mental state, where you become so involved in some activity that you are fully immersed in that activity with a feeling of energised focus, and involvement in that activity.  It’s when you’re so in the zone that a whole afternoon can go by without notice.

You can also experience this in a mindfulness meditation, or a yoga class that seemed to go by in the blink of an eye, even though you enjoyed every single second of it.

Maybe it’s dancing yourself into a state of ecstasy, moving a hoop, poi or staff around your body effortlessly, or a musician that gets “in the pocket”.

I remember many years ago In a different life when I played the drums.  One gig in particular the whole world went into slow motion - the crowd, myself - everything was effortless and flawless, and time seemed to stand still.  That’s Flow.

Don't take my word for it, listen to jazz bassist William Parker talk about Flow.

What are the benefits of Flow?

Well apart from just feeling awesome, there are many benefits to flow.  

  • It can make you more emotionally resilient - you are more able to take the lows with the highs.

  • It can increase “positive” emotions.  In fact Dr Csikszentmihalyi along with Martin Seligman (and others) helped create the Positive Psychology movement!

  • Flow increases your ability to handle stress.

  • Flow can increase creativity (more on this later)

  • It can increase focus.

  • Flow can happen when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges. In other words, it can help you level up!  

And these are just the tip of the iceberg

So this isn’t just something you made up?

Heck no!  Flow was named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian Psychologist, who describes 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. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."  

He also believes that things like personal possessions, money, luxuries, etc also don’t play much part in how happy someone is. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi found that humans are at their happiest when in flow.  

That’s right, money don’t mean a thing when you got flow.

It might make a bit more sense if you just watch this ted talk:

What's Happening in the Brain During Flow States?

Well, for one thing, the prefrontal cortex shuts down - and with it your sense of ego, your moral standards, and self-reflection all just disappear (for a while at least).  Some studies have shown the same phenomenon with people on psychedelics, monks meditating or rappers performing on stage.

During flow states, increased levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, serotonin and endorphin are produced. These substances are some of the most powerful performance-enhancing substances our body can create. These chemicals lead to more focus, more pattern recognition (the underlying skill in creativity) and massively amplified learning.  I’ll have some of that!

When you get into Flow, brain waves move from a beta wave, (a fast-moving wave of waking consciousness) down to alpha, a daydreaming mode and below that is theta, the wave that is present you’re in REM sleep. Flow happens right in the sweet spot between alpha and theta. Scientists are now learning that when you’re in theta, you can occasionally get a gamma spike, which often is felt as an epiphany or insight. So by getting the brain into a theta state, Flow can help us get to those AHA moments.

Watch this video for more about the Neurobiology of Flow.

How Can We Hit That Elusive Flow State?

Well if you watched that TED talk earlier, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi makes the point that in order to achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the difficulty of the task and the skill of the performer.  In other words, that flow comes when you’re surfing in that sweet spot where it’s hard, but you’ve got the mad skillz to pull it off!  

Another useful component is to not take things too seriously - to have a sense of play - Buddhists say we should "act always as if the future of the universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference."

So About These Flow Artists?

So yeah, Flow Artists are the reason we created this podcast!  They are individuals that share their passion.  They give others the ability to access that flow state by creating a safe open space, and encouraging them to be themselves fully.  We want to find out how these people do what they do, why they do it and how they became the person they are.

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