On the heels of my last post on flow, I will share here how tapping into this state, on an increasingly regular basis helped me simplify my self development efforts.
From Exploring to Overwhelmed
As a depressed teen, having had made the decision to be deeply happy, I stumbled upon the new age and self development worlds as references for what that meant. Although they opened the world of self exploration to me, they were also overwhelming with the plethora of tools out there to “fix”, “optimize” and “heal” oneself.
Too Much Thinking/ Too Much Feeling = No Change
In the recent years the new age world has been integrating with the self development world. People are taking from both and finding the ones that best fit their motivations and lifestyle. In the 90’s though when I was introduced to them, they were polar opposites.
You Can Do It!
Self help/development focused on very pragmatic methods of making change by guiding one to focus and set goals, followed by then heaping amounts of persuasion and motivation to “get out there and do it!” Complete with graphs, diagrams and charts, one could more easily grasp these new concepts of developing the self. Some of the authors I read were Zig ZIglar, Jack Canfield, Tony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie and more.
Top Heavy With Motivating Info
Those books helped me to muster the determination at 12 years of age to lose 60 lbs through exercise. Thank you self help world.
I proved to myself that I could accomplish what I set my mind to. Having reached my goal I felt desirable, up to the mark with fashion magazines and puzzled by how painfully hollow I still felt deep inside.
How does one know what goals are worth pursuing in terms of lasting happiness?
Losing weight I realized, wasn’t one of those goals.
The Limits of Motivation
Another area where I reached a dead end was in my relationships, familial and otherwise. Different faces, same dynamics all through high school and college. I’ve mentioned in a previous post my struggles and how reading books didn’t translate into real change.
Not Measuring Up
These two signposts for me, aside from the nagging feeling that I wasn’t measuring up to what the these books promoted as being a positive person(I.e. always charismatic, enthusiastic, being the first to initiate interactions, projecting your voice and shaking people’s hands firmly while looking straight into their eyes etc.) told me to keep searching.
To this end, self help was for me, too intellectual.
A Whimsical and Ineffective Bubble
The new age material I found was very ethereal in that it had me feel amazed, excited and mystified. I read about everything from numerology to out of body projections, the subconscious mind, angels, demons, E.T.’s, shamanism, fairies, auras, crystals, reiki, the lives of miracle creating saints and more.
The new age world tended to focus on all the unseen and yet to be scientifically proven methods. Techniques from ancient civilizations were taken and sprinkled with modern twists to make palatable for the modern seeking American. We were presented with ways to heal, balance, attract more of, invoke and get in touch with. I was enchanted. It broadened my horizons. When it came to making the changes I was seeking though, results were nill.
Reading these books, getting healings from healers, my cards done etc. didn’t put a dent in my bulimia at the age of 15. After having had feng shui’d my room, understood my numerology, totem animal, sun sign, a few magic spells, my aura and done 9 day water fasts, did it unhinge me from the maddening cycle of codependent relationships? No.
The rubber met the road when my life spoke to me, at times more like yelled at me through painful situations. My patterns were repeating themselves with exciting, more hip, vegetarian, ambitious, meditating, yoga stretched people, but they were the same digressive, ugly patterns none the less. Pain had it’s own magical way of snapping me out of my self-made-delusion and soberly planting my feet on the ground.
I love both worlds. They have shaped people of my generation raised in the U.S., for the better. Everything I tried was a stepping stone to a more holistically fulfilling life and what for me didn’t work, I’m sure for others, has.
To each his own.
What is true for me is that if I give something 6 months of time and dedication I need to see results. The gold out of this was that I got clear on whether something was working or not.
Cutting Out The Fat/Fluff
I learned to discriminate between what I call fluff and muscle. Fluff either comforted me, enchanted me, pumped me up or gave me the intellectual high of understanding new ideas.
Muscle was the integration of heart and mind that together, fueled me with power to create tangible, life affirming change.
When what I understood and felt were on the same page, it translated into undeniable change into the very heart of my life.
Back to Basics
In all my searchings I kept being led back to the very basics of self care: food, sleep, movement, creative expression, intellectual challenge and community. I was pulled by the persistent hunch time and time again to get back to basics.
When I started to understand the power of habits and the compounding effects of small decisions over time, I decided to make feeling good a habit. In the same way I measured, as a tween, my weight loss by weighing myself every week and recording it in a log, I could also measure my increased feelings of wellness by habituating self care at it’s most fundamental level and journal my feelings.
An Integrated Practice
Eventually my searching led me to desire a disciplined practice that I could sustainably commit to for the rest of my life that guaranteed I would keep growing and moving past my limiting comfort zones as a person. What I thought was leading me to only one core practice actually revealed more of a lifestyle.
Feeling Good Regularly Prepares You For Flow
Exercise, dancing, eating whole foods, sleeping well, quality interactions with loved ones, volunteering for a good cause, writing brain-dumps, quickly acting on an inspired idea to create something, walking in a forest, watching clean comedy, these are all things that had me feel better.
Once I started noticing a pattern of what specific activities stood out that led to flow more often, I started to focus in on those and made sure those activities came front and center every morning, first thing.
To Save You Time
This process of zoning in on what makes really works for me, happened organically and gradually over the last 7 years. The 8 years that led to that was spent searching out and integrating into my life general good feeling habits. I wish flow had had a name back then. I wish I knew of the scientists exploring it back then. I’m sure it could of saved me a nice chunk of time and trouble. Hopefully what I’m sharing here will save that time for you.
Finally, Real Change!
Tapping into that state repeatedly led me to make the most impactful changes in my life. It was clear and undeniable.
I describe in more detail this transcendent state in my 2 most recent posts here and here. When I’d come down from this peak state, it was always with new ways of looking at my life, solutions to problems that stifled me and the energy to act on them.
I began to see how my self care was my dedicated discipline of priming my instruments (mind, heart, body) to better tap into that state more easily.
Sharpen The Knife
It is an ongoing refinement, a sharpening of the knife. As an active person with a family I don’t have full control of my environment to completely weed out all distractions like extreme sport athletes or monks.
Kids get sick, ageing parents need help, weeds need to be pulled, veggies harvested, playmate birthday parties need to be attended to etc. I only have the leverage of early morning time, where it’s more likely to have uninterrupted time to devote to this fine tuning
In the wake of being in flow it was much easier to do what I knew was good for me. The areas of my life that pained me the most began to loosen their grip. In my relationships I began to “get” new approaches to replace the old knee jerk ones. In my body I’d “get” mind and heart, how it was a vehicle of so many wonderful experiences, no longer something to be dominated and triumphed over and my care of it easily followed up on that. I saw more possibilities of wonderful, very doable things I could be doing with my time and followed through.
Flow Stands Out
Like those troubling peaks in the heart monitors in the hospitals. When we get into flow it stands out in comparison to the background rhythms of our life. Having dialed into what most helps me get into flow has helped cut through the fluff of what’s just good for me to the heart of what’s most life affirming and essential.
May this be of use to you, if it is don’t forget to share like and comment. Blessings