finding your flow: conquering your fear

Guest blog from Tai Carmen of Parallax: Exploring the architecture of human perception.

We all know what joy feels like. It feels good. By the same token, we all know the visceral grip of fear, anxiety and dread. The search for happiness is instinctive and organic. We want more of what feels good. Simple.

Yet in the daily grind of life, it can be anything but. It’s easy to get stuck in a bad space and feel powerless over it. We blame our circumstance, ourselves, the other. But I believe the source is stuck flow, and our frustration with it getting in the way of what feels good, because as everybody knows, fear feels awful.

---‘Head of JYM’, oil on canvas, 1982, 64 X 60 cm. Artist: Frank Auerbach--- Read More:

The German word Angst was popularized by Jean-Paul Sartre to describe a persistent acute, yet vague, sensation of anxiety, philosophical in nature. Existentialism, then, is wrapped up in the sensation of ones existence, its temporary nature, meaning or lack thereof, and the absurd nature of reality.

Søren Kierkegaard, the father of existentialism, said that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. In his many writings on angst he maintained that it was the sole responsibility of the individual to create meaning in his or her life, and to live that life passionately and sincerely, despite obstacles of anxiety, dread, alienation, absurdity, depression, boredom, etc.

I think we can all agree that it is up to us to give our own lives meaning. The question is how?

---NEXT .. is an incredible portrayal of fear and anxiety that speaks for itself. Utilising muted colours and impressively subtle body language, ~nomak-gfk proves that there's a lot more to expression than what shows on ones face. Check out more at --- Read More:

I find that I’m much more likely to have insight into this question, or what it means to me personally, when I am, as they say, in the flow. It’s a tricky word. Gossamer, elusive. One that’s likely to elicit protests from the pragmatists among us. Despite the sparkles, I, too, am a pragmatist. And I subscribe to the theory of flow from direct experience.

I believe that we can all feel innately when we are in the flow. A bright sense of possibility seems to radiate outward from the center of our being. The body feels pleasant and relaxed. We smile easily and remember to be kind, noticing small moments of beauty in our immediate surroundings. Creativity flows, we do our jobs better. We take pleasure in small details and joys. The world seems brighter when we are in the flow.

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Flow of course is the premise behind the ancient Chinese principal of Qi, translating as air or breath, as well as the ancient East Indian system of Prana, which translates as vital energy.

Essentially, both systems center around the idea that there is a flow of energy through all things, animating all living beings. The father of Western medicine, Hippocrates himself, posited the existence of Qi/Prana-like force, a system known as vitalism.

But I’m basing my theory on experience rather than these traditions, though I find their ideas validating and interesting.

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It is my experience that flow gains momentum and gathers around you when you’re present enough in your body and the moment to nurture yourself, and from there, others.

In that same vain, accumulated stuck flow days result in permanent bad moods, depression, etc. Some people are highly functional within their stuck state, but deep down they know, their body betrays them: the true radiant joy of existence isn’t pumping through their bodies.

In today’s world, it’s easy to feel stressed, and when we are stressed, flow is automatically blocked. We have to consciously work to enter the present moment and release our stored up tensions.

---"Chagall's vision of love, so appealing to the human soul, frequently involves a merging of two faces, or bodies, into one. In this regard he is Platonic, as his figures pursue their other halves in an apparent longing to become whole again. Over and again he paints the myth that Aristophanes recounts in The Symposium."--- Read More:

So often we resist the moment we find ourselves in, straining against the situation, wanting it to move faster or stand still. This tension blocks the natural flow of energy, the natural flow of dopamine. However you want to say it: doubt cuts off creativity, and fear squelches joy. The first step is awareness that we are straining. Then we can “drop it like it’s hot” ~ an instinctive thing, if we don’t get in our head about it.

When I am in the flow, riding the wave, in the zone, I am on. Synchronicities tend to happen. I type an uncommon word and someone on the radio says the same uncommon word a second later or simultaneously. When I’m in that zone I notice ideas come to me more freely and vividly. It feels good!

The only way to access it is by being in the moment. Nothing else is real.

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In our society we’re not really taught to pay attention to nurturing good feelings beyond the five senses. I’m talking about that on-fire-lit-up-feeling you get when you’re really inspired, really on to something; the natural high that accompanies an in-flow day or week or month.

Art, nature, friendship, communication, kindness, creativity, laughter, music — all these things generate pure good feeling when done right. And good feelings beget more good feelings. Be the change you seek and throw your heart into nourishing yourself and those around you. We can change the world starting with our next word, our next action.

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Giving the simple gift of a kind word, a caring touch, a sincere smile, writing a piece of beautiful music, cooking a delicious meal for someone, treating yourself to constructive action — all these things are small, yet yield ripple affects of positive energy experienced by all who come into contact with it, radiating outward exponentially.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi pioneered the use of the word flow in psychology, defining it as a mental state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in an activity, with a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow represents perhaps “the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning.

“In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.”

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