Sunday, October 13, 2013

Flow


Flow. 

When I think of flow I think about those Grizzlies in Katmai, Kodiak and Admiralty Islands.  July. Rivers brimming with salmon. Salmon who are driven to fulfill their destiny, despite all reason, they remain focused. Salmon who are on a kamikaze journey to spawn. 


Photographers and nature lovers alike can get far closer to a Grizzly during this time of year, because the Grizzlies are well-fed, and experiencing the blissed-out feeling that I usually get when I eat (dried) salmon.  Feeding on salmon in the pristine rivers, deep in the heart of Alaska, give the Grizzlies a pathway to food, to survival, to their eternal state of flow.  Focused. Transfixed even.  One singular goal in mind.  Living in the moment.  Living for the next fish that leaps out of the water and into its strong and capable awaiting jaws.  Ready to sink its teeth in and satisfy the urge --  the longing, while experiencing life in “the moment”.   

One moment. At a time.  Flow.  
I generally refer to my happy place as being “blissed out”.  I think of flow as taking it to the next step.  Flow is when you lose track of time, and space and are able to fight exhaustion, tiredness and a body that says “STOP”, while the mind says “GO”.  

Experiencing flow happens when you are exerting yourself in some way, pushing yourself and expanding your personal, and often physical boundaries.  
When I first started running, I felt blissed out all the time about running.  I had never experienced any running related injuries, and every run gave me an extreme endorphin rush, because every run was completed while existing in a state of steady, focused flow.  
When I ran, no matter the pace, I had to block out everything else and go.  Learning to tune out from the world, and tune into my body taught me how to find my personal flow.  Running was the gateway activity into living a life that flows more naturally.  

Without running, I would not have been open to the possibility that our wild dreams could actually come true.  Running has taught me that I am capable of far more than I think I am, and even the biggest, loftiest goals are attainable, if I am willing to work hard enough and remain focused on my own personal kamikaze journey to existing in an eternal state of flow.  
Running the trails helped me find the right path, my destiny; and gave me an opportunity to experience flow through oneness with nature and the fulfillment of childhood dreams.  Dreams of living wild.  Dreams of Laura and her Little House life. Dreams that seemed to big, too childlike, too unrealistic to shoot for. Dreams I shelved. Dreams I forgot about.  Dreams that running reawakened in my soul and as a result enlivened my soul.  
While I run the risk of evangelizing the sport of running (just wait until I get into the sport that really captured my heart: triathlon), I think the message of finding your flow applies to everyone, even if running isn’t your personal gateway.  Finding your flow means pushing yourself past the comfort zone, to try something new, something hard and focusing on it wholly and completely.  Giving it your most positive forward directed intentions.  The visualization of success, achievement, and the feeling of pure bliss are the rewards to focusing your energy on the importance of tracking down and harnessing your personal vehicle to a state of eternal flow.  

Another moment of random affirmation came during a hard cycling session, delivered to my ears via podcast on Another Mother Runner Radio with triathlon coach and yogi Sage Rountree.  In the interview she talked about her most recent of many yoga and triathlon related books, this one titled: The Runner’s Guide to Yoga: Building Strength and Flexibility for Better Running (The Athlete’s Guide) (2012).  In the book Roundree highlights importance of goal setting (which you hear in EVERY running and/or triathlon training book ever written), but she made elaborated on the point by add the importance of setting intentions for your training and your race. She also outlined the importance of graded goals.  The goal you tell your friends, family and faithful blog followers (that’s you: Mom, Dad, Peg, Joan, and Parke); the goal you tell your best running friend (BRF, that’s you Sara), and the goal you secretly keep to yourself and if you have a coach (Hello, Me!), you would likely share it with them as well.  

In the interview with Mother Runners: Sarah Bowen-Shea and Dimity McDowell, spoke with Sage Rountree about the importance of learning from your mistakes in training, and your examining your successes by focusing in on intentions that are somewhat removed from traditional performance based things. By focusing in on specifics like “I hydrated well during the race” or “I listened to my body and took extra rest days during training when I felt like I needed to.”.  This graded goal setting and specificity of intentions, can make the difference between feeling fulfilled, hopeful and determined to try again upon completing a race (or task, project, etc.) and feeling disappointed, hopeless, and depressed.  Celebrating the success on your journey is critical to attaining happiness as you flow through life.  

The interview reminded me that in order to keep in touch with your flow, you need to celebrate the little moments that make flow possible.  I think of those bears again, this time it’s fall and they are out on the tundra spread out in a berry patch.  Bellies full of ripe delicious berries, sunning themselves in the golden autumn sunlight.  Celebrating flow.  
It is important to make a ceremony of celebrating the steps along the way.  Find creative ways to honor yourself, your hard work, and the journey you are on in life.  Then, be sure to be realistic and honest.  A good way to document the positive aspects and the challenges is to make written and mental notes.  By focusing on the good stuff and making a note of it, we can recognize our efforts and achievements in the little steps along the way.  Then you can be honest with yourself about what could be improved upon and meditate on what, if anything, that might help improve the situation in the future.  

Part of this process is the simple recognition that many elements are beyond our locus of control.  We can plan, prepare, and remain calm when things go awry, but often times challenges that present themselves are beyond our control.  Some factors, like weather, can seriously impact racing goals and keeping things in a healthy perspective can help your state of mind and ability to “keep calm and run on”. 
I believe that we all could make more time to celebrate ourselves and the journeys we have taken in life.  Take time to celebrate others, their progress, their goals, intentions - their hopes and dreams.  Cultivate creativity in your life and share beautiful things with the people you care about.  
Caring for those simple, but all too often neglected parts of ourselves allows us to mitigate the intensity of our busy lives, and take a break to sit back and appreciate the good things we have done for ourselves and for others, and gives us time to meditate and write the “suggested routes” of our lives.  It’s that John Lennon quote all over again, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” (Thanks again for that plaque, Holli). You can sketch out the suggested routes, plan and prepare for your journey, but ultimately you never know what is going to happen on the way there.  
Being honest with ourselves and listening to our bodies and our minds allows us to remain open to possibility and gives us the strength to remain hopeful that one day we will host a personal reunion of our hopes and wild dreams.  Step by step, every day each of us writes the story of our lives.  
The best thing we can do for ourselves is to take time along the way to sit. To think. To breathe.  To celebrate little and big personal successes that happened along the way and take time to reflect and learn from the losses.  Cultivate your inner creativity, don’t be afraid to go with it if the mood strikes you, it could be the next step on the road less traveled and the journey to finding your personal state of eternal flow. 
Cheers!

Honey Mama xoxo