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Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
Have you ever had the experience of being totally immersed in what it is that you are doing, so much so that it feels like you’ve disappeared? Mental or physical performance seems to hit a new peak, and everything just works. The body, mind, and emotions all pull together, and everything is focused and harmonious. This is Flow.
How does one learn to flow?
Does it just happen automatically, or is there a way to make it happen?
Throughout history and across the globe, people have reported experiencing this special state of balance, where everything just goes right. The Oriental Sage Lao Tzu, quoted above, was a master of flow, and knew the value of putting the idea into practice. His simple, concise teachings have inspired millions to find their own way to go with the flow.
More recently, the Psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, was inspired by watching artists get so lost in their work that they neglected to eat. He wondered about this state of mind, and has spent his life studying artists, athletes and others who regularly achieve this state to try to pinpoint exactly what occurs in their minds and bodies during flow, and to figure out how to make it happen.
Here are some of the things that he discovered.
- The activity must have an active goal – like creating a masterpiece, slicing two seconds off your time, or making $2 million. Taking a bath doesn’t exactly qualify, although even that has a goal.
- Clear feedback needs to be involved. You need to see the work developing, check your time, or see your bank balance growing.
- There needs to be balance between the perceived goal and your own perceptions about your ability to achieve it. See the chart to get a better idea
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Our Thoughts are Powerful – Think About Thinking
We are constantly creating a kind of mental atmosphere around ourselves. We live in a cloud of ideas, preconceptions and conditioned responses to our world. To be fair, the outside world has an impact on what we think and feel, but much of what goes on in our heads is up to us. How we react to reality is a choice.
For parents with children who have habits of anxious thinking, this one insight can be life-changing. By becoming aware of how to better manage the thinking and feeling going on in our inner worlds, we’re able to change the way we feel, and control anxiety.
The following are some tried and tested techniques to help you deal with this problem.
Don’t Fight Anxiety – Think
Psychologists in the CBT field (Cognitive behavior therapy), such as Dr. Reid Wilson, PHD and Dr. Claire Weekes would agree – this is a paradox. Although the goal is to overcome Anxiety, fighting it directly is counter-productive. It merely increases the tightness in the head and chest, and further prolongs the agony. Instead, use a sly, subtle, round-about approach to help your child relax. Dance, sing a lullaby, run (safely) or laugh. It is possible to laugh even in the most anxious situation. Ever heard of laugher yoga? First you fake it, overdo it completely and outrageously, but it’s contagious, and soon you’re all laughing from the belly, naturally forgetting the ‘problem’, and restoring balance. Then, when you’re settled, it’s time to think about thinking.
“Why don’t you and I do something Totally Ridiculous?”
“Remember that bouncing ball you loved? Let’s bounce!”
“Come on, it will be fun!”
Breathe – and think about breathing
The breath is a bridge between the conscious (awake) mind and the subconscious or unconscious (sleeping) mind. You can breathe on purpose, or on autopilot.
This fact was known in ancient times, and it is still relevant today. In the Anapanasati Sutta, for example, the Buddha’s mindful breathing techniques are recorded by his early followers. Modern health practitioners agree that awareness and use of the breath is fundamental to mental and physical balance.
By focusing intently on your breathing, you’re opening communication channels with your deeper mind, and by reinforcing positive thoughts as you do so, you can manipulate your mood, and your child’s mood. It is very simple and very effective. Each time your thoughts wander, simply bring them back to the breath. Teach your child this simple technique, and while he is focusing on the breath, speak lovingly and soothingly, the words don’t matter as much as the tone of voice. You want to avoid hyperventilation, so don’t overdo it, and keep the rhythm natural, deep and easy. Don’t force it, don’t hold the breath too long, or breathe too rapidly, just pay attention to it, naturally, something like this: