How Finding Your "Flow State" Can Strengthen Your Relationship With Others & Yourself
We are all spiritual creatures, even if we don't fully realize it yet. Try thinking back to a time as a kid when you felt completely yourself, relaxed and comfortable, unconcerned with the expectations of others, and inspired. Maybe it was when you were doing something that you loved, like a favorite childhood hobby. Maybe it was a simple moment but one where you felt really alive, like lying in your backyard in the grass staring up at the sky.
I remember a moment like this, when I was around 7 years old. I was sitting in the woods behind my house and I was suddenly hit with a profound understanding of who I was and my connection to the vast universe that I was a part of. I remember completely losing track of time and my physical senses taking over, sounds around me becoming more clearer, and colors brighter. I got this message from the universe that I had been put on earth to help others, to serve in some way, and I remember feeling excited that my life was so full of potential in that moment.
I know this story may sound a little out there, particularly the idea that this happened to me as a 7-year-old. But I think we are all capable of receiving these kinds of messages from the universe about our purpose if we are willing to be open and listen for them. I believe that moment, at age seven, was ultimately what led me to my calling as a yoga teacher—even if I lost my way and veered off this path occasionally. My decision to change my life, slow down, and reprioritize, was what led me to rediscover this path and my purpose. It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately, so much so that I talk about it in my upcoming book, Clean Mind, Clean Body.
What it means to find your spiritual flow.
"Flow state," also known as "being in the zone," is a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in an activity, and experiencing energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment. Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the term "flow" in 1975, and it became a leading principle of the positive psychology movement. Flow as a modern term has been used across a variety of fields, but the concept has existed for thousands of years under other names in Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Sufism, and is expressed in these traditions through meditation, prayer, as well as the healing and martial arts.
One benefit of the flow state—which can happen via meditation—is what's referred to as the "relaxation response." This term was coined by Herbert Benson, M.D., a Harvard physician, and he discusses it in his book of the same name. Benson defines the relaxation response as a person's ability to encourage their body to release chemicals and brain signals that make their muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. In the 1960s and 1970s, Benson conducted studies that suggested meditation may promote better health—especially in individuals with hypertension—by lowering stress levels, increasing well-being, and even reducing blood pressure and resting heart rate.
How to find your flow state.
There are many paths to finding your spiritual flow, such as meditation, slowing down, and living with intention. When you create a new habit of meditation, you're more likely to create more good habits like living more connected to nature, in harmony with the flow of the day and with purpose and intention. A sustainable pace of life doesn't have to mean living off the grid. Here are a few simple practices to add to your routine that will help you slow down and reconnect to your spiritual self:
1. Nature walks
Whether you live in the city or the countryside, getting outside for a walk without a destination may provide major benefits. You'll fall into the natural rhythm of the day—as a result, you may feel refreshed, more focused, and maybe even resolve some of those bigger problems that have been on your mind. Essentially, when we spend time outside, we are reminded that we are a part of nature, we remember how we work and move toward more harmony with ourselves.
2. DIY Shiatsu
Shiatsu is normally done with a partner, but you can also practice alone. We naturally massage our own muscles to soothe aches and pains—and this tendency is the basis of self-shiatsu. Here's how to try it yourself:
- Dig an elbow into your inner thigh while sitting cross-legged on the floor to promote relaxation.
- Apply pressure to the outside of your thigh to promote release of control.
- Press with your thumb into the middle of the sole of your foot, to promote a reset of balance between tiredness and over-excitedness.
3. Quiet time
I love enforcing quiet time, whether I am alone or with someone else, as long as they are up for it. This is a practice I started out of a need to bring a sense of calm to my busiest days. Now, I practice at least 10 minutes of designated quiet time at some point every day. Sometimes I'll announce "quiet time" when I'm in the car with my husband Mike and daughter Daisy on our way to the grocery store. We think it's hilarious, but we also appreciate the sense of calm we gain from these designated periods of quiet. Usually, after we've taken a break for quiet, we have more meaningful things to say to one another.
The most essential thing to remember when you're seeking ways to find more flow is you already are spiritually connected. We all are. When you feel disconnected, try a few of these simple practices as a way back into your connected self. When we feel spiritually connected, it becomes a joy to relate to others as fellow spiritual beings, walking around on this journey, doing their best, just like us. We become more OK with ourselves and others, as well as energized to use our gifts and talents for good.