Author Topic: Having cultivated mindfulness, do you lose the ability to enter flow states?  (Read 1741 times)

cultivar

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It seems that the two couldn't exist at the same time. Or perhaps I am mistaken?


Illuminatus

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Mindfulness has to move across from the static (left brain, conceptual) to the dynamic (right brain, flow states).

A simple illustration is mindfulness of breath:

Static: Breath is packaged as "in"/"out"
Dynamic: Breath is found to be constantly moving and in/out is revealed as illusory concepts (there is no real point where a breath can be said to have stopped being "in" and started becoming "out" -- it is more like a wave)

So to be mindful of breath as a flow state, be mindful of its constant movement.

To be mindful of audio as a flow state, rather than packaging it as objects ("someone talking, bird tweeting, car driving"), instead perceive a continuous flow of sound from multiple sources all merging into one continuous flow.


Your question is due to the mental habit of chopping up the world up into parts. The thinking mind wants to take a sensory input and turn it into an identifiable object. This is mindfulness, but of the static sort. If you can overcome this tendency, you can be mindful of the world as a continuous flowing entity.

If memory serves, Shizen Young talks about when his teacher forced him to do this in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSobyZjJSvs

cultivar

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Hmm. That is helpful, thanks. It's hard to get into the flow of things but at least now i've got an idea of what i'm aiming at.

However, I was more focusing on flow states in a psychological sense, like when you get really into some work and suddenly 2 hours have passed. Such a state is quite attractive to me, (which probably demands some reflection) and I am afraid I would lose this capacity as I become more adept at being mindful. Is the capacity to enter 'the zone' lost as a result of having mindfulness?
« Last Edit: May 04, 2019, 08:26:24 AM by BigLentil »

Illuminatus

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However, I was more focusing on flow states in a psychological sense, like when you get really into some work and suddenly 2 hours have passed.

I know that's what you meant. :)

However, the two things are actually the same. "Being in the zone" and meditative flow states are the same process.

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Such a state is quite attractive to me, (which probably demands some reflection)

No, it's fine. Any meditation producing concentration/absorption/jhana/samadhi uses flow, so evidently it is attractive to many people, including the Buddha.

A flow state is also more aligned to the true nature of reality and two of the Three Marks of Existence are readily observable while in flow: Impermanence and No-Self.

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and I am afraid I would lose this capacity as I become more adept at being mindful. Is the capacity to enter 'the zone' lost as a result of having mindfulness?

In the short-term, yes.
In the long-term however, the capacity is greatly enhanced.

What tends to happen is as follows.

A beginner meditator will start by sitting and being mindful of breath, thoughts, sensations, emotions and so on. He will probably use a "noting" style (verbally saying a label for each object as he becomes mindful of it, e.g. "pain", "thought", "sad" etc.)

If he then tries to do this during daily activities, he will probably be able to do it somewhat well. However, he will also find that this removes him from the flow of the outside world. This is a well known problem amongst meditators in the beginner-intermediate range. The goal then becomes to re-inject himself into the flow of everyday reality while still retaining mindfulness.

This is usually achieved via one or more of the following.

1. Beyond a certain point, mindfulness becomes automatic. That means you are "tracking" reality whether you want to or not. This then means flow can happen a bit more, though the various terrors of what it means to actually go into flow become quite apparent: the ego or "Self" resists flow because flow reveals Impermanence and No-Self, which is the death of the Self.

2. Acquiring certain mental states DURING meditation (e.g. jhana, kundalini rising, heart centre opening, to name but a few) can provide bliss and destroy pain and fear. An afterglow remains after such meditations, usually lasting the rest of the day. This afterglow allows one to enter flow easily and mitigates the fear mentioned in the previous point. So, these states are a lubricant for daily-life flow.

3. Through meditation practice over years, one enters the more advanced stages, where normal waking reality begins to resemble a flow state anyway. This is a result of being in flow so often that Impermanence and No-Self are accepted as the true state of reality.


The Buddha emphasized "right concentration" (jhana) as the vehicle towards enlightenment. So point #2 above is what you want to get into if you want to enhance access to flow states.

However, flow states can also be achieved via nondirective meditation based on SURRENDER. If one surrenders ego, flow is all that remains.

This is why we have two boards:

Directive meditation (concentration) -- https://www.personalpowermeditation.com/forum2/concentration-absorption/
Nondirective meditation -- https://www.personalpowermeditation.com/forum2/nondirective-meditation-self-inquiry/

Final note: There are many everyday meditators around the world who want nothing more than to use point #2 as a lubricant for a flowing, less-resistant and more enjoyable daily life. They will sit for 20 minutes each morning and do mantra (e.g. TM), breath meditation, or something with kriya/kundalini (e.g. Sadhguru's basic meditations) to achieve that, then get up and live life. They find the thing that gives them a little flow, and just use it to enhance life. Nothing wrong with that. Just find the one that works for you, and do it daily!
« Last Edit: May 04, 2019, 11:45:12 AM by Illuminatus »

cultivar

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You've cleared up a lot for me in this comment. Thanks so much for going into such great detail. :)

Illuminatus

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A beginner meditator will start by sitting and being mindful of breath, thoughts, sensations, emotions and so on. He will probably use a "noting" style (verbally saying a label for each object as he becomes mindful of it, e.g. "pain", "thought", "sad" etc.)

If he then tries to do this during daily activities, he will probably be able to do it somewhat well. However, he will also find that this removes him from the flow of the outside world. This is a well known problem amongst meditators in the beginner-intermediate range. The goal then becomes to re-inject himself into the flow of everyday reality while still retaining mindfulness.

I will add a little more about this as it is a big one for beginner-intermediate meditators.

So, there are two ways of structuring meditation (which particularly apply to mindfulness):

Formal practice: Sitting at the same time each day, preferably morning, for the same amount of time, doing a set method. Hopefully results are being tracked in a journal after the sit, too.

Informal practice: "Taking your meditation out on the road." This is where you attempt to do your method while out and about, in an ad hoc way. This could be a concentration method (e.g. practising concentration on objects in the environment, or trying to generate the love-feeling, or doing some energy work) or a more mindfulness-based practice (e.g. presence walks, being aware of the wide field and all contents of consciousness, or noting events as they arise).

How these are combined is optional. You could simply do 15, 20, 30 or 60 minutes of formal sitting practice in the morning then get up and live your life without giving another thought towards meditation, in a "fire and forget" kind of way. I would actually advise this for beginners, perhaps for the entire first year of practice.

Depending upon your goals, you could then begin bringing in some informal practice, too:

- If you are following a Buddhist path and wish to see the Three Marks of Existence in everyday life, this is where you would intentionally begin to become mindful at various points throughout the day.

- If you are following a love-based path, you could begin intentionally feeling the love feeling pointed at various things during the day.

- If you are following a path of surrender, you could begin intentionally surrendering to the conditions the world presented you with during the day.

Morning sitting practice builds up a momentum through which doing the above becomes easier and more flowing.


I actually started with completely informal practice (being mindful at all times). This is because I did not get into meditation in a traditional way. Rather, I watched a David DeAngelo video with a guy called "Dr. Paul" who encouraged development of a process called "observing ego". I did not equate this with meditation at the time but it is clear to me now that this is moment-to-moment awareness/mindfulness.

The problem with this approach is that it brings in an awful lot of information I did not know what to do with. This is where mindfulness will absolutely pull one out of the flow of everyday life. Socializing became particularly difficult as I was now aware of many dynamics I was blind to before, and my (perceived) mistakes became very clear (and I could not do much about them, which is the worst of both worlds -- awareness of problems without recourse). This is the reason I had to begin practising formally via a set programme (which was Shinzen Young's The Science of Enlightenment, incidentally).

But this phase is quite well known amongst many meditators. The mindfulness or increased awareness (whatever you want to call it) is a kind of information overload, a splitting of attention, which pulls one out of the ordinary flow of reality and conditioned action in which regular people live their entire lives. Learning to re-inject oneself back into the flow of reality is a well known sticking point or work in progress at this point. This is where things like the concentration states can be really helpful. Triggering a bit of flow in the morning helps one merge back into the larger flow of reality. Such states are a lubricant.

SURRENDER is also highly useful here. This is where you say to yourself, "Whatever happens, happens." It is almost inevitable that one will develop a sense of God, grace, or the Universe "knowing what it's doing" in order to begin giving in to events. Developing this sense is practically a necessity later on. The alternative is assuming you can somehow control things and keep your hand on the steering wheel, which will tend to drive you towards insanity (since it's impossible).


Anyway, that sounds pretty bleak, but remember that I went balls-deep into something I didn't understand. Meditating via formal sits in the morning will most likely delay or mitigate that phase. The good news is that there are many, many "early gains" to be made from daily sitting. The first couple of years tend to be extremely fun and filled with new discovery. I just urge beginners not to try to do everything at once like I did, but take it slow and let the process unfold, mainly via formal sitting in a "fire and forget" kind of way.

saturnus

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This is an excellent read on how to develop the state of witness consciousness. It goes into how in the beginning the witness consciousness can reduce efficiency by taking you out of the flow (identification with activity) in the beginning but later on becomes a valuable asset since you can then modulate your activity from an observer's standpoint.

https://auromere.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/how-to-cultivate-witness-consciousness-saksi-bhava/

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Now psychologically it is true that sometimes when you are absorbed in the activity, our activity becomes very proficient for e.g. while acting. When an actor forgets that he is acting and becomes completely engaged in the activity of acting, and he forgets to witness that he is acting, his acting is most powerful. He becomes one with his activity and that gives a very powerful proficiency. The moment he becomes aware that he is acting, his acting begins to flounder.  So it is true that this witnessing consciousness may (negatively) affect the effectivity of action. But that is true only for the time being. As you develop this witnessing consciousness more and more, you can have a double consciousness and by witnessing you can actually modulate your activity even much more powerfully, then what you can do by becoming completely identified with activity. One who is very aware that he is acting, throughout his acting, can be a much better actor than one who forgets that he is acting. So that is another state, another capacity that one develops.  Although in the beginning there is a kind of deficiency which one experiences, that is, when you begin to try to be a witness-self.  Gradually you find that the greater the continuity of witness consciousness, the greater is your force of activity, so that you are not swallowed up by your activity and whenever you need something more you can always draw from your witness consciousness that what you need in your activity. So one should not be worried if in the beginning the effectivity of action is slightly reduced. It is by continuing to do it and gathering more and more power of witnessing that this capacity is generated and actually increased.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2019, 06:04:58 AM by saturnus »

Illuminatus

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Thanks Saturnus. That is what I was trying to say.

"Witness consciousness" is a better term for what I developed at the start. "Mindfulness" tends to be a more embodied practice.