Mindfulness in Practice : Finding Your Flow
Our Mindfulness in Practice series explores personal accounts of looking after our mental wellbeing, and how a mindful approach to life has helped our authors flourish both personally and professionally. Lewis Chandler has been practising meditation for over five years, and discusses how his practice allows him to find flow in every day activities.
In an attempt to convey my personality to prospective employers, I recently wrote in my CV that my interests include “playing football, running, reading and meditating” adding, in a further effort to display my incredible sense of humour, “but not all at the same time”. Of course, as I’m a relatively young man, the first two on that list are part of the same activity – I’m not of the age to play walking football, yet – but the others would be difficult to achieve simultaneously.
However, thinking about this afterwards, I came to realise that all four in the above list have a common theme: focusing, and thereby the cessation of thoughts. Whether you have a ball at your feet, tarmac at your toes as you run, book in hand and fantasy in your imagination, or a mantra in your mind, you are focused on one specific thing and, in doing so, you can experience a feeling of ‘flow’.
Flow can be described as a state wherein one is fully immersed in their environment or activity and, in my experience, whether you’re aware of this fact or not, your every day, repetitive thoughts that run on, can cease. There is a certain magic to this feeling that you may have experienced before.
One aim of the practice of meditation is to ease this flow of thoughts. It can be exhausting when your brain is whirring constantly, often on the same topic, with no let up, whilst you’re attempting to live your life. Like a bored younger sibling that won’t leave you alone, your own thoughts can weigh you down and this is especially troublesome when you’re in the middle of something important.
By focusing on your breath, repeating a mantra in your head or by scanning your body, your focus is shifted away from your inner monologue and onto your choice of function, word or body part. Similarly, as you play a sport you are more effective when centred on the task at hand, not idly thinking about dinner. When you read, your imagination takes over as you form an image of what the author is describing, and when you run, you are either focused on avoiding hurdles or, if you’re like me, you’re listening to music or a podcast to quieten the thoughts telling you that the run is too painful and you must stop immediately or you’ll collapse.
During meditation those thoughts will naturally still arise and you may find yourself getting caught up in their web, which can be frustrating, but the more you practice, the quicker you will be to recognise you’ve strayed and you can simply shift your attention back to your breath or other chosen point of focus. And, as your practice continues, you may find your mind is naturally quieter, meaning you are at liberty to give your attention to your surroundings, the here and now which we so often forget to notice, allowing you to experience flow on a more regular basis.