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timbgray t1_j7ftapw wrote

I agree, but there are certain nuances to flow, not all flows are equally beneficial. At one extreme you have a junkie in a flow state as they very single mindedly focus on the search for their next fix. Less counter productive than an addiction to drugs is an addiction to the flow state provided by video games.

I’d also suggest a subtle distinction between flow and Wu Wei. Wu Wei is more about effortless action, while flow is more about a continuous stream of focussed attention, but if not brother and sister they are first cousins.


FrankDrakman t1_j7fus70 wrote

This is not my understanding of 'flow' at all. Flow occurs when, e.g., an athlete or a musician (the two most obvious examples) is performing at a top level, but is not explicitly trying to do things; they just let the music or game 'flow' out of them.

It is characterized by a lack of blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex (PFC), which is why it's also known as "transient hypofrontality". That lack of blood flow is indicative of the body shifting resources to other parts of the brain. In this case, by shutting down executive and higher order functions in the cortex, the body is able to do things it knows how to do without interference from the judging, over-thinking PFC.

Every golfer knows this problem. You stand over the ball, and there are a million thoughts in your head. "Don't shank it, don't slice it, keep your arm straight, keep your head down, make a full turn, don't come over the top, I wonder what's for dinner tonight, shift your weight, keep your heel down, don't hit it in the bunker,....". Then you proceed to top it into to the bunker.

But you have made this shot a hundred times before, so why are you worrying? You don't worry about picking up a fork from a table, or walking two steps to the front door - you trust your body to do that. But in some tasks, we don't have enough trust to 'let go'.

As OP notes, one can't reach flow unless you have already mastered the basics of a task. That's why piano students spend hours on scales, and golfers hours on the range. You need to build up the synapses and autonomous skills so that you don't need the higher order brain functions to complete the task.

Once you've reached some level of expertise, flow is possible. It is not easy to 'trigger' it, though, because it's not easy to consciously make your conscious brain (CB) take a break. CB is always there, judging each action, assessing the situation, making predictions, and deciding what to do next. However, CB is too slow to play a complicated arpeggio, react to a 100-mph baseball, or make a 20-ft jump shot. We depend on our autonomous systems to do those things for us.

Another issue with flow is it's unsettling to an extent. After, you feel that it wasn't 'you' that did it - it was some other guy in your body, as 'you' weren't present, in that the CB wasn't doing its usual job of collecting, collating, and judging every act you do. Pro athletes have described it as 'being in the zone' - you're completely aware (of the game), and completely unaware (of your ego) at the same time. When they are finished, they don't have much memory of how they played, only that they played really well.

My 30th birthday, I got hammered, and I was playing in a golf tournament the next day. I woke up in the morning, probably still half-drunk, and went out to play. I'm normally a very chatty golfer, but this day, I was very quiet. Instead of the usual thousands of thoughts in my head, there was only "hit it in the fairway" and "hit it on the green".

Which I did. I shot 76, four over par, about ten shots better than I normally do, and I won the tourney. I only remember three shots from the round: two holes had giant oak trees in the centre of the fairway, and you were supposed to play to one side of them. I just decided to aim for tree - "I'll never hit it" - and proceeded to hit both trees on one bounce. I had no shot, so had to chip out sideways, costing me a stroke on each hole. The very last hole, I guess I was beginning to 'wake up', because I hit it over the green, and had to make a nice chip shot to get it close. That shot won the tournament for me.

Afterwards, I barely remember anything except those three shots. Everything else is a bit of blank. Without the CB's constant presence, I was able to perform at my optimum skill level, but none of it registered either.


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blackrots t1_j7fwure wrote

Feel like it's more common in mind sports like chess, go, draughts, etc.


FrankDrakman t1_j7fxnsj wrote

Thanks for the tip about the book. I'll be sure to look that up!

As per your 3rd para, I agree that you need to be near that line to be eligible for flow. As you get better, the line just goes up. I'm sure Tiger Woods had his flow days; I'm equally sure they were a lot better than mine!


HoneydewInMyAss t1_j7g2qoj wrote

I feel like there's a lot of conversations around bending eastern philosophy to fix rigid western standards of productivity and expertise, when many of these concepts were built around people simply existing.

Idk, once you start talking about "multitasking" or "pro athletes and musicians" or "skills," I feel like you've kinda missed the mark of the entire concept.


brownshoez t1_j7g30r9 wrote

Enjoyed this explanation & have experienced this playing music without recognizing how repetitive action flows out later. Drills and scales can feel mind-numbing, but open up avenues when you need them.


Caring_Cactus t1_j7g3rhg wrote

I've heard that book is amazing, essentially the conscious mind (awareness) merges with our actions in a more subconscious manner. This can also relate to autotelic personality traits, a person's focus of attention is narrowed to where they have complete control over what is optimal in this experience of the moment (often what is being experienced within and right outside their body to focus on). In a way too this can relate to having healthy self-esteem imo.


jamminjalepeno t1_j7g5w0c wrote

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the guy who coined the phrase "flow", says that in order to achieve a state of flow, you have to perform a task that is sufficiently complex, but not so hard that you burn out.


MaddMonkey t1_j7ga9kd wrote

As someone who's been really interested in Taoïsm and who can experience flow quite easily likely die to ADHD (but also really hard at other times) I wouldnt call them comparable.

Flow to me, is what others already described as doing something where my mind is just finally shutting up for a second.

Wu Wei to me is much more mindful. By being in the moment consciously and surrender to that feeling so everything you do because somewhat flow like. Instead of thinking "i have to do this, call that person, go for groceries etc" you just do this and only this. Thereby you can correct yourself as well if you notice it and stay in the flow state.

Whereas flow to me means completely disregarding a ton. Normally I notice almost bloody everything, but when in flow I just have all my energy focused towards the activity.


ValyrianJedi t1_j7gditq wrote

This varies tremendously based on what you are doing. There are plenty of situations where, yeah, I'd prefer to be fully immersed in something, but there are also plenty where being able to effectively multitask is absolutely a virtue. If i weren't able to multitask I'd be working 100 hour weeks. And it's not like I really want to be fully immersed in a conference call, or preparing slides, or grinding through spreadsheets anyway.


isleoffurbabies t1_j7gjxie wrote

I believe most anyone has the potential to experience being "in the zone" at some point in their life, and it's likely most have. It definitely requires a certain level of proficiency relative to a task, but the tell is a feeling of dissociation. I know dissociation has negative connotations, but that's how I describe it. I'd argue that the task doesn't necessarily have to be physical, even. I'm up there in age but can recall a few occurrences when I was much younger. I believe I've experienced flow while playing basketball - specifically, shooting baskets, shooting pool and even while taking an exam. I'm sure their are significant differences in how the brain enables one to run a table or ace a physics exam in short order, but the result in each case is both gratifying and bewildering. I could be wrong, but that's my take.


thoughandtho t1_j7gl8gh wrote

I've entered flow (as you describe it) a handful of times when playing beat saber. I didn't know how to describe it, but it was incredible, as sometimes it is very, very fast-paced. And i remember thinking briefly to myself this is incredible, I'm not really even controlling my arms. I've found I can hit it after warming up for 30-40 minutes, but definitely not on demand. It's a pretty awesome feeling.


Gooberpf t1_j7gla0j wrote

> However, CB is too slow to play a complicated arpeggio, react to a 100-mph baseball, or make a 20-ft jump shot.

I don't think this is related to flow; these are trained motor skills that the brain learns to "run" like a "process" where the many motor signals get bundled into a couple abstract concepts that you do, kinda like how practicing enough with a tool you can "just swing it" without consciously thinking about counterbalance to the weight or the extra effort in the wrist etc.

Flow specifically involves choices being made in response to external or internal stimuli, but with some form of altered consciousness. It's the altered consciousness that's essential here - a pianist can play a full piece of music without entering a flow state, even a piece that they know by heart.

Off-topic: what is this post doing in r/philosophy? It only briefly discusses just the idea of what flow is, which is more of a psychology topic, and has a super shallow analysis.


Psychobert t1_j7gm8lr wrote

Was just thinking that. I actually bought “The Inner Game of Skiing” on my way to my first ever skiing holiday. Once I got the basics, the sense of flow as I linked turns was incredible. I’ve experienced the same paragliding and sailing, but never when in the office for some reason..


Psychobert t1_j7gn8ok wrote

Asking without judgement at all, but why dangerous? When I’ve felt what I think is flow it’s always been associated with what could be a physically dangerous activity, but I’ve always felt completely in control of that one activity.


Caring_Cactus t1_j7gumva wrote

Self-esteem relates to one's confidence to evaluate and manage their emotional experiences in relation to the self, self-worth is what keeps self-esteem stable. Having high secure self-esteem would mean a person has a more congruent self-concept in recognizing what is within and outside their control, and when they narrow their attention of focus to what is within the moment they can then enter these optimal mental flow states.


FrozenDelta3 t1_j7h1hbc wrote

Flow, complete mental fixation or absorption.


Eruptflail t1_j7h2gny wrote

The other thing is that flow states are very hard to achieve in competition against others or very unpredictable things. If you're a top athlete competing against top athletes, you're going to have a very hard time entering flow states because they're challenging you constantly. Even then, entering a flow state then may cause you to commit major errors because you're not using metacognition. You're only reacting.


TopRamenBinLaden t1_j7h2tf5 wrote

Yea video games and music are two areas where I have personally experienced flow state. Rythym games are super good for that. I have been in a similar state playing Beat Saber and Guitar Hero as well. I also get into that state when I am improvising on guitar. It is always a fascinating state, where you feel like your body just knows better than you do.


Majorjim_ksp t1_j7h384i wrote

I have when model making, riding a motorcycle or precision rifle shooting. It’s a wonderful place to be.


Whatsupmydude420 t1_j7h493d wrote

Very good explanation of flow and taking neuroscience into acount without making it to complex.

One thing I would like to add is that you can get to a state of flow through meditation as well.

By taking your time to let every intrusive thought go by till your reach the no thought realm. This no thought realm and only consciousness can be felt in the seconds even without that much training.

You basically try to observe the seconds that pase by between each thought. This feeling of not thinking you than try to extend.

Source: own experience and making sense by sam Harris


Greenhoused t1_j7h5i0z wrote

The Tao that can be named Is not the eternal Tao


cybicle t1_j7h6zm5 wrote

It's more fun to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow.


twotrees1 t1_j7hdoxs wrote

This is fascinating. I have ADHD, and soon after my diagnosis I became familiar with the literature involving the Default Mode Network, and its poor network segregation with other networks in ADHD. The dlPFC is one of the DMN structures. The on/off toggle is unpredictable and I don’t have as good conscience ability to control the switch as a neurotypical might.

When I was undiagnosed in college, I’d procrastinate obscenely for very advanced STEM courses, sit through exams and still somehow pass if not excel outright. I’d vaguely be aware that during cramming I was drilling certain skills over others, and tried to make it interesting. But on the day of the test, exam after exam, over again for years, I’d walk out not knowing if I passed, and not knowing how the fuck I even understood much of what I answered. If I did pass/excel I never felt like it was “me.” If anything it brought a lot of distress because I felt the exams were each a fluke, and that I didn’t actually acquire my degrees and didn’t deserve to have them. It’s not something I bragged about, it brought a lot of shame and distress.

But now I’m thinking about my functioning in a different lens especially how I can trust it more and see my improvement for what it is.


MuteSecurityO t1_j7hdwxl wrote

I agree on this. Meditation of various sorts emphasize a passivity, a receptivity, and a feeling of non-effort.

Once you are trying to do something, play music or a sport etc., then you’re removing yourself from the meditative mindset.

The only thing I think that binds them together is the phenomenological experience of an absence of conscious thought.

But that which separates them is the focus on completing an activity - a futurally extended intentionality - which betrays the presence that’s imperative in meditation.


ghostofpostapocalive t1_j7heund wrote

Assuming your interpretation is correct, I think this applies to anyone that performs well in sports, if you're a skier, surfer, skater, climber etc. You've definitely had moments where everything links up and you're just reacting. I do believe there are a lot of other things "Flow" can be applied to whether it's writing code giving a speech, or doing a job you are familiar with as examples.


BigHurbert t1_j7hezfy wrote

I already use Cannabis ... they finally caught up!


Majesticeuphoria t1_j7hfx0x wrote

The focus on balancing the challenge of a task against our skill is look at the part of the whole of the system for flow. The dissolution of the sense of self is not the symptom of it, but one of the triggers. I'm sure there are many ways to trigger flow, but really what everyone is searching for is clarity of mind which maximizes the chance of triggering flow in your daily life.


sk3pt1c t1_j7hgurp wrote

I teach freediving and it’s one of if not the best example of a flow state


anonsequitur t1_j7hheum wrote

I feel like a lot of people here are equating the concept of Wu Wei with the concept of "The Zone"

Wu Wei is different from the zone. It is effortless. It embodies inaction or effortless action.

The zone is more like a state of heightened awareness where your ability to process and react to information is increased. But it's an active state. The entire time you're in the zone, you're exerting effort.

Wu Wei is passive. Effortless. One example that helps describe Wu Wei is the end of Kung Fu Hustle. Many people would consider the final fight a state of Wu Wei for the main character. But it's really the moment he stops fighting.

A lot of martial arts movies will have this concept. Where someone who's completely mastered martial arts has chosen to stop fighting. Because that is Wu Wei.


buffer_overflown t1_j7hjvb3 wrote

This is anecdotally false. I've hit flow on parkour (noncompetitive), fencing (competitive), and archery (both).

It's not at all about exclusively reacting and asserting that it is misses the point.

Backing up your first point, flow state in competition was most common when my competitor and I were performing at similar levels. Getting stomped, or stomping, did not induce flow.

It's easier in archery because you are not directly reacting to someone else, so even with a lineup of competitors you're still hyperfocusing on the act of the release.

And in all three, you better be paying attention and making decisions. Parkour was probably the best example as I -- or students, to broaden the sample size slightly -- needed to make risk assessments while in the moment.

But it is not at all purely reactionary.

Edit: In order to soften my disagreement slightly, my point is that analysis and flow are not mutually exclusive and being able to integrate decision-making into the mental state is crucial, because it creates an environment where you are able to react intuitively where options are culled to those with the greatest opportunity for success.


Stornahal t1_j7hl7rr wrote

I routinely achieve something like this on the food assembly line at work - balancing cooking more beef on the grill, chicken in fry cats with toasting buns & assembling food, I end up in a sort of calm ‘Center of the typhoon’ mode. Until someone comes in and tries to help.

Edit: Just noticed ‘fry cats’


PoisonTaffy t1_j7hl8zu wrote

This article is about flow, not Wu Wei. Wu Wei is only mentioned once, saying that there are some parallels, not they are comparable. They are most definitely not comparable. This title is pretty much a click bait.


BrickWiggles t1_j7hm1ki wrote

But with several types of meditation, particularly those that are mindfulness based, there is the progression of intentionally bringing that mindfulness or stabilization to life or off the cushion. It’s not having no thought that is the goal on or off (in most practices I’m aware of) the cushion, it’s to be more aware of what is happening in consciousness during practice. That practice being meditation, skills, life.


berd021 t1_j7hpmth wrote

I like to think of Wu Wei as the path of least action when it comes to what we expect the world to be. It's about how things fit perfectly in the current context, any action to be taken is easily derived from this context.

So in a way, a video game map can be made Wu Wei, which in turn may yield a flow state if the player is experienced.

Maybe perfect conditions can lower the threshold of skill/activation needed to achieve flow. Like a ceiling and a floor coming togheter.


awkward_replies_2 t1_j7hsgvd wrote

I disagree. Flow is the highly motivating state where you DO something continuously productive towards a goal you want to achieve, while Wu Wei is literally the ABSENCE of action and goal-orientation.


NapalmRDT t1_j7hw0ei wrote

Apparently the sweet spot is doing something that is 4% beyond our current abilities.


BrendonBootyUrie t1_j7i0kf0 wrote

Yeah I've experienced that too with beat sabre, along with writing and gyming. To me the feeling feels like everything goes silent, there's no internal dialogue, with beat sabre it's almost like a weightlessness and my arms are just doing things while my eyes are watching what's going on almost in slow motion, with writing (technically typing) it feels a lot faster as all I notice is my fingers moving rapidly, the sentence doesn't register in my mind its almost as if my fingers have a mind of their own, gyming is similar to beat sabre, complete silence and absolute focus, no need to think about the movement, my breathing or what number rep I'm up to.


BrendonBootyUrie t1_j7i1b5r wrote

Well many of the meditation/ mindfulness practices taken from Taoism popularised by modern western psychology is conflate mindfulness and equanimity as the same thing and end goal, whereas from my understanding practicing mindfulness is in the goal to reach equanimity.


GoCurtin t1_j7i1cag wrote

the ego seems to be replaced by the act itself. Completing the act becomes 'the thing'... instead of it being 'you' who needs to 'do' something. The thing itself is just happening. So beautiful.


Hayaidesu t1_j7i77su wrote

What does this mean? I’m kind of feel like it is saying don’t think and just do and be and flow and be one with time but your skills need to be be good because challenges you face will feel abrupt and stop the flow

Kind of like people messing up your high say crazy shit to fuck with you


Hayaidesu t1_j7i7lhv wrote

I get into flow when I write songs and record but the end result is always bad but I learn something new recently of how the term writer block was coined and it was was interesting to discover why and how it was formed

Basically it was excuse to resolve one of responsibility

So I think flow your skill does not matter just be willing to fail and keep on failing and gradually improve


SolaireOfSuburbia t1_j7i80zd wrote

My center of the typhoon moment was at a party on an upstairs apartment, having consumed a tab of acid, a four loko, and some flora. I was very intoxicated. Everybody was being too loud and I was in the corner in a zen state suggesting that we all be considerate of our downstairs neighbors so that we didn't have our mellow harshed by the law.


russmbiz t1_j7ianqm wrote

This is why I always play rocket league better when I get a phone call.


FrankDrakman t1_j7ibjyi wrote

> if you're a skier, surfer, slater, climber etc. You've definitely had moments where everything links up

I've heard from downhill racers that when they have a run where everything links up and there's no hairy moments, they know they've finished twelfth. It's only when they're right on the edge of complete wipeout that they're in contention. Not 'flow' as I understand it.


ghostofpostapocalive t1_j7iehaz wrote

Yeah, I don't think so and I think your hungover golf game is probably a poor example. That seems more like dumb luck, rather than the culmination of your skills/practice coming together for you to perform without thinking and by pure reaction.


quidpropron t1_j7ihy3b wrote

There's 2 places I've seen it first hand, restaurants and auto shops. When you have a mechanic/chef that can consistently pump out the work of like six people, and nothing seems to faze them, almost like they're anticipating every mistake and misfortune. There's a way of sort of lengthening the duration in a flow state, but the stress and pressure have to be something that actually pushes you. The people I've seen, know the basic tasks/jobs like muscle memory. They know exactly how many steps, and and what's the shortest amount of time each step needs to take. So then they can throw in multiple repairs/dishes into one seamless flow where they're constantly in motion, where they're uninterruptedly cranking out of finished products on top of the required prep work. Of course, this is a lot easier in both those situations when you're working as part of a team.

There's a difference, imho, between doing it with routine tasks you've already mastered, and learning something novel. An issue I'm seeing with a lot of Gen Y-er's is the lack of appreciation for silence and purposeful contemplation that's required to actually get a handle on a learning curve. Your point is valid, there's no use in a flow state if you don't have the capacity to maintain and utilize it.


Fearless-Temporary29 t1_j7ijfjh wrote

As the 8 billion strong meat balloon continues it's inevitable planetary overshoot the only flow is towards the dustbin of extinction.


coderatchet t1_j7ijly6 wrote

I can never keep up with all these new javascript libraries


touney96 t1_j7ik41s wrote

When I enter this “flow” is usually at work, time goes by so fast at least it feels


Wishingwings t1_j7isgof wrote

I believe he is wrong. By his own statement, multitasking could be a ‘task that is sufficiently complex, but not so hard that you burn out.’ How? You can simultaneously clear your mind and focus on a single task by multitasking the experience of what you are doing with sensory experiences. Especially focussing on auditory and visual experience from the external world is very effective at clearing the mind.

Now i propose a paradox. I am sitting still, doing nothing. I devote myself to doing absolutely nothing, and even thinking nothing, now that i can choose to so. The same overwhelming feelings arise when i am doing and thinking nothing, as when i multitask. I am using the principle of ‘resource sharing’, essentially multitasking, proven to enhance focus, on a complex and a simple task.

This leaves me to assume that ‘burning-out’ is nothing more than a placebo-effect. And i get it’s purpose - Something HAS to propel the human mind to think, as this is our primary tool to survival. I believe that we fear thoughtlessness, because it logically decreases our ability to prepare, which is a terrifying reality to a large portion of our brains. The long term memory and the short term memory are frightened, as they both are involved in producing short term planning and long term planning. (Edit: Note that once you are already doing your task, you have little need for active long term planning, all the planning that has to be done is very, very short term, and the conscious thought has almost no place in this moment)

This arises the question: Why is the uncomplicated, mostly sporadic nature of the flow state so laudable, but do we experience fear to invoke it through tricking the brain?

Now i have two answers; you can DM me for the long one, which separates numerical chance into two differing calculations of probability, represented as the quantum relative program (brain) and the special relative program (body), connecting at the point ‘emotion’.

Now i have to get more speculative, and propose that we are all addicted to making choices. Notice that we are only naturally motivated to think, to reflect and plan ahead. We, ourselves, choose which route to take. However you look at it, the next choice is heavily influenced by your surroundings, but it is ultimately made by you.

Especially those surroundings make it hard NOT to make a choice. You are going to die, you will have children in probably max 15 years, or you are already planning for the days that you are going to retire and need a fund. These things make it incredibly hard to sit absolutely still and do nothing. It essentially feels like betrayal to yourself, proposing an illustration of why we feel like thoughtlessness is “wrong.”

But are we crazy for it? Nah. Ofcourse we are hardwired for survival, ofcourse we are hardwired for childbearing. We are however, ignorant. Ignorant of the creative capacity, the incredible progress, the untainted love, the inner peace, and the mindful world, which is attributed to the flow state.

I hope to see your answers, and await the possibility to reflect on new angles on the subject. :)


Ace-0987 t1_j7j5a3k wrote

Flow is an often vague and ill-defined concept. And the Tao te ching has at least six different interpretations (there's a great article in the stanford encyclopedia on them). Especially when it comes to concepts from Eastern philosophy, definitions can be essential in having fruitful discussions...


Dragon_Fisting t1_j7j6g93 wrote

What you're describing is antithetical to Wu Wei and Daoism. Wu Wei isn't about making things a certain way at all. It's about accepting that things are how they are without trying to change them to fit your perception or goals.

The act of getting into a flow state is not really aligned with traditional Daoism, which is all about letting go of trying to optimize or improve.


Dragon_Fisting t1_j7j7kt5 wrote

Practicing Wu Wei is the polar opposite to trying to achieve a flow state. Flow is when your experience, skills, environment, and activity line up to allow you to perform at a high level with less perceived effort.

Trying to get into a flow state, or trying to utilize flow to accomplish something, is centered around changing things. Athletes, engineers, musicians, etc., pour time and effort into achieving a flow state. They develop their skills, they control their environments, they organize their tasks.

Wu Wei is about doing none of those things. Wu Wei is the concept that instead of changing the world to achieve your goals, accept the world as it is. A literal approach would be to say it is to not have any goals at all, to simply exist with as little attachment as possible to any worldly thing. A more flexible modern interpretation is to adjust your goals around reality instead of trying to change reality to suit your goals. You will always be in a flow state, if you are always doing the most suitable thing to be done at a certain time and place with your specific skills.


kex t1_j7jai6b wrote

I never even learned the concept of mindfulness until I took a mid-life sabbatical and happened upon it after my curiosity reemerged about a month into the break

I was on autopilot for decades

Contemporary life is way too busy


ophel1a_ t1_j7jb7bt wrote

I think you nailed it!

From the article:

>In particular, it is relatively straightforward to engage in a task that has clear goals and which provides clear feedback on how well we’re doing.

Or point number nine. I would suggest tweaking the language here a bit. I entered a "flow" state according to the criteria a few summers ago, but I wasn't challenging myself physically. It was mentally challenging. I accidentally discovered an anthill and decided, slowly, to observe them, then to interact neutrally, then to cause a little mischief. Forty minutes later, I got thirsty and snapped back into "time". As a concept. Hah!

Just some additionary information to put out there. Know your skills, and then be willing to see lil challenges in unexpected places.


ChaoticEvilBobRoss t1_j7jegsw wrote

I've experienced flow, or Wu Wei, many times in life. Often when doing sports, writing, coding, playing video games, or even conversing. It's a wonderful state of being where you're flying along on the wings of possibility. Maintaining this state, mostly through learning how to diminish or dissolve the self, will allow you to be successful and happy in whatever it is that you do. I strive for a life that is filled with opportunities for flow so that I am filling my time with meaningful practices.

With that being said, I am able to achieve flow the best during times where I've focused on meditation and mindfulness. Being present is a prime component of flow. Presence is required to tap into the source code or magic in a moment and carry it to the next. The self doesn't matter anymore and instead, it's just what is. If you're reading this and have even considered taking up meditation, I highly recommend it.


DunebillyDave t1_j7ji3go wrote

It's amazing to me how people latch on to a concept like the "Alpha Male" (which was recanted by the very person who coined the phrase in the first place), or "Nine phases of Grief" (also recanted by its inventor), or "Multitasking" which has been disproved by neuroscience. We actually "switch task" because our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. These errant concepts persist for years, even decades after they've been rejected. For example, if you apply for a job, at many companies, they still ask you to take the Myers/Briggs Personality Test, which is a completely unscientific series of mumbo-jumbo questions that supposedly give the employer insight into your personality. It's based on Carl Jung's typology principles of sensation, intuition, thinking and feeling. Jung has repeatedly disapproved of the Myers/Briggs interpretation of his principles, which, in and of themselves, are shaky.


Wishingwings t1_j7jjnga wrote

Also i have to add that most of the points in the article either are a belief, or an extrapolation of basic conciousness.

I will reflect on every point in the article:

  1. Action-awareness merging:
  • I don’t experience a lack awareness of myself separate from the action that i am performing.
  1. Loss of self-conciousness:
  • I don’t lose concern for the self, rather, i am immersed in concern for the self, as with any expression of individuality.
  1. A sense of control:
  • A sense of exercising control without actually trying to be in control is less of a “feature” and more of a mindset. It is the belief that you create alongside your subconscious and that you are not it. It is a separate process from flow. Flow is the connection between the two processes, to respect the back and forth between the conscious and the subconscious is this “control without trying”.
  1. Transformation of time:
  • This is a basic phenomenon that doesn’t mean flow state, it means enjoyment. You could access the flow state in the middle of a presentation and i’m sure time won’t go any faster.
  1. Autotelic experience:
  • The application of personal justified action is neurologically processed in a portion of the frontal lobe, and is only a burden on the flow state. True flow does not abide by beliefs, and you do not need to be motivated to do anything. You simply choose. I have had flow state in more moments of bad feelings than in moments of good ones.
  1. Concentration on the task at hand:
  • This is contradictory to point 3, as the back and forth between the conscious and the subconscious is done in thoughts and experience. I am allowed to be captivated and inspired by my own thoughts if i wish so, i do not need extreme focus on what i am doing. The ability to get distracted externally and internally is rather a blessing.
  1. Clear goals:
  • Clear goals are not a part of the flow state. That would impede a flow state. Flow can form anytime, any moment. It is you who blocks up your natural ability to plan in the moment. Making more plans won’t solve that.
  1. Unambiguous feedback:
  • This is beyond your control. Your feedback is reliant on your surroundings, your thoughts and your emotions. All of those come to you, you cannot expect them. What you can do, is increase your amount of choices made so there is more to reflect on - in case you do not feel like you know what to do, you only find out what you think you do wrong and fix it.
  1. Challenge-skill balance:
  • You do not ever need to question yourself about your abilities. You have all the skill in the world that you will ever need = A human body.

The flow state is not something that is exclusive to some parts of life. Flow can be found anywhere, it is a basic tool that will become an accessible tool in a very broad spectrum.

Take for instance impressionism in art. Thats literally an art style known for working with first impressions, and representing that on a canvas. I think you must pick goals that interest and challenge you greatly. Let the challenges eat you up inside and destabilise your life. You should experience hurdles based on commitment and learn to increase your capacity for taking on big goals. You should never decrease the chance to fail. Your failures teach you everything you will come to know.


zhibr t1_j7jnll3 wrote

Can you provide me a source to the PFC-thing? What I've seen about flow is that it was a description of a phenomenon Csikszentmihalyi found in various interviews. Despite flow being used in social sciences, I never saw well-defined criteria or unambiguous measures for ascertaining whether flow is "actually" happening.


aBeardOfBees t1_j7jpqgc wrote

I haven't played for a long time but I used to experience flow with the game Dota 2. It is so difficult and all consuming that after a match which could have been anywhere from 30-60 minutes, I'd emerge and realise I'd had almost zero thoughts about anything other than the game in that whole time. It's so deeply relaxing and refreshing.


berd021 t1_j7jzy5b wrote

So it doesn't make sense that someone can make a place perfect, such that others can be there effortlessly?

I mean that if things already fit your perception perfectly then there is no need to change them. At that moment you can just chill.


hawkwood4268 t1_j7k1gwj wrote

Skill and complexity of task are subjective and dynamic. Is it about the perfect task? Or about our ability to flow to the task?

You could view flow as a skill in and of itself.


canttouchmypingas t1_j7k3poi wrote

Was there any purpose to relate it so a specific culture's concept within the title rather than another's? It's an odd and out of place addition


CuriousTechie t1_j7k51ee wrote

It takes a lot of effort to be effortless and multitasking requires a stable mind guided by meditative and contemplative techniques


berd021 t1_j7knpz4 wrote

Sure, but if circumstances are difficult then I wouldn't call it going with the flow to just play along. If your house is on fire, there is no effortless action. All choices are difficult and all action hard.

I think it's more in line with circumstances/context fitting perfectly with what you expect of the world. And your expectation is managed by your ability and experience.

I like to see it as the principle of least action from cognitive neuroscience. Where we try to update our model of the world to fit according to our senses. If your model is aligned with what we sense then we do not need to take any action. We are already in sync so to say.


aBeardOfBees t1_j7kv637 wrote

Yeah, there is a certain magical mix of qualities that an activity has to have to achieve flow. The examples always mention athletes and musicians as discussed above in this thread but video games have it too, but only in some situations. The game has to:

  • Be sufficiently difficult that it demands expertise and mastery to perform well

  • Be fast paced enough that it occupies your entire mind when playing (no room for your mind to wander)

  • Have a continual feedback loop of mastery and focus = reward, from moment to moment. So you are always occupied with doing well right now.

  • Be something you are an 'expert' at, in other words that you can perform the actual mechanics of the game (say, going from intending to cast a spell to casting that spell) without ANY conscious thought, leaving your mind to focus on the higher order mastery of decision making.

The only things that have ever given me this are Dota and Street Fighter!


Gooberpf t1_j7lp3d2 wrote

I'm not a heavily invested scholar but my understanding of Dao and Wu Wei is that it does strive for perfection, it's just that perfection is harmony with nature and divine providence.

The descriptions of the ultimate government using Wu Wei is that the ruler at the very top should do nothing at all because nothing needs to be done - in the ideal government, the ministers diligently carry out duties, and their subordinates do the same, and the country prospers without need for a directive from the ruler.

"Effortless action" here doesn't mean doing nothing, it means that no additional effort need be expended because acting in harmony with the world and the Dao creates a divine experience (not even necessarily positive - there's a measure of Stoic-like acceptance of harm as also being part of what nature is).

I think (not 100% sure) there is a "perfect" world under the Dao, but it's one that's effectively without thought - all persons just, by their nature, act in accordance with the Dao and what will be will be.


_____------____--- t1_j7ng2x7 wrote

This is so far from Wu-Wei that it's insane. I just came to this sub and now I don't trust it.


_____------____--- t1_j7nh56n wrote

Wu wei is what happens when one understands the nature of existence. It's not something you can make yourself do. It's something you've always done, which is kind of the joke. Wu-Wei is what you realize you were always doing when the delusion of separation finally collapses in on itself.

It's like the dude learning to learn on land in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall".


_____------____--- t1_j7nilhz wrote

Grasping and letting go are both actions. Wu-wei is the pattern of nature. It's in the nature of raindrops to fall from the sky when it rains. The raindrop doesn't TRY to fall from the sky. It makes no choices. It follows the "Tao."

When we no longer view separation between self and environment, the delusions of control and self dissipate. Wu wei is how you live after. It's how you lived before too, but now that you get it, you don't spend your life pressing the elevator button so hard your fingers bleed. Pressing the button harder doesn't make it work better, but it hurts the presser.

Not correcting or arguing. Just sharing what I thought while reading you post.


Low-Comparison-2127 t1_j7o9e8i wrote

As someone with ADHD, I think the best way for me to compare them is that hyper - focus is more like "uncontrolled - obsessive focus" and flow as more like "directed goal focus". For example, if I was working on some interesting problem that required me to research various topics online, I would end up getting distracted by any subproblems that arises and end up going down a rabbit hole. So the idea behind hyper-focus is that mainly with ADHD, it's hard for us to "remember" to keep something in the back of our heads while engaging in any activity thats requires mental effort. That is why a lot of people with ADHD are seen as impulsive as that little thing that many people can keep in the back of their minds is very difficult for me without conscious effort. On the other hand, flow is like when you are in the zone and you have this very clear vision in the back of your mind of the end goal with all the necessary steps needed to achieve that goal outlined already. So in that sense, IMO the intensity of focus would be the same between the two, but the difference lies in the intentionality of it. Not sure if intentionality is the best word, as I believe flow and hyper-focus is unintentional when it occurs but I hope this helps.


DJBlaser t1_j9dkuz1 wrote

I just started practicing this in more than action/effort alone. I try to make no plans in life or work. I admittedly am fortunate enough to have been married to my best friend for the last 17 yrs. This makes it much easier, but somehow, I have still gotten a raise and a quasi-promotion since I started this. I figured since it's not a lot more work than I already do and that I didn't ask for it, it will be ok.