Working at Wheelhouse DMG has given me the opportunity to further realize that my home, Aikido Shobukan Dojo, and Takemusu Aiki has extended far beyond the mat. Lately we have been working on elevating empathy and productivity in everyday experiences. I uncovered a gem in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s research: a small table prepared in a research article. One can easily underestimate Flow State research, yet its benefits not only to individuals, but herds of individuals are remarkable. The chapter offers a kind of koan, a riddle challenging us to head toward perfection in teaching and in listening, realizing, and applying. It is a map, and Aikido is the compass.
Seeking flow is a bigger motivator in individuals and herds, over that of promises of future rewards for present decisions based on past results (Goals), and over that of promises of present reward and punishment (Carrot/Stick), it is beyond this that I want to share today. Flow – that elusive state we experience on median, twenty minutes a day but want to experience more of. That experience that Disney, Media, Governments, Religions, Political Herds, and Businesses strive to compete on. Mihaley’s research offers insights not only in perspectives of flow, but how people enter and exit it, he even models an ideal teacher; we can learn a lot from this Science looking into the Human Intuition, which is after all, how this whole quest started – an intuition that created science to solve it’s own problem: how do I/we grow faster which ultimately is a question of flow. Now you get it. To travel without moving is to travel on impulse with minimal effort; maximizing the amount of work not done. Simple eh? We’ve known all along. Absolutely – this is found in the first jhana is Buddhism: Rapture — that secret of bamboo.
The common Flow State Diagram can be merged with the “Contrasting States” in the table on page 43 of Applications of Flow in Human Development and Education (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). These contrasting states, can restore flow by overcoming anxiety and boredom. I took a moment to merge these diagrams together for a new diagram for you today, I find that it is helpful as it emerged out of practicing the very things detailed herein.
When considering Flow State, consider a recent article in Quanta Magazine titled “Brains May Teeter at the Tipping Point by Jennifer Ouellette. It is proposed that neurologically, we teeter between states. This is in fact, evident in research on flow state. We aren’t crystallized into a rigid structure and are not de-crystallized into a vacuous vapor of emptiness. With this knowledge, we could think we exist in one side or the other, but I’d propose that we are superpositioned. We are not Turing Machines (cough, though one could argue). We go beyond one side, other side, both one side and other side, and neither one side nor other side (thank you Nagarjuna). We are in a superpositional state until which time a challenge remains to be measured. Voila! The measurement happens and bingo, probability collapses and we arrive at action.
We aren’t crystallized into a rigid structure and we are not de-crystallized into a vacuous vapor of emptiness.
This is but a signpost, for this small list is but a distillation of raw forms. It is the Bath & Body Works version of restoring flow. Like man’s efforts to synthesize nature, the reality of it is much more complex and each being is different and unique. I suppose a luxury version of this list could provide more skilled experiences, but I save that for direct experience with my neighbors closest to me at the moment.
Good luck (code word for empowering personal agency)! Here are some of the most prevalent categories of solutions Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uncovered.
Solutions for Solving Boredom
Boredom: The experience of overly-integrated states ([censored] dx/t).
Empowering and realizing personal agency restores the heart to what the Chinese Five Element Theory calls, the throne. From here, the individual realizes that it is their personal freedom in their locality that nobody can take away, that nobody has given. It is there since birth. We are essentially free.
Agency restores flow for the bored; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond agency.
The ability not only to realize agency (freedom), but honor movements that you endure to seek your needs, wants, and desires. Passion here etymologically offers what I think is the best concept to convey the intent. “To endure”. There is suffering, but the word suffer, originally meant “to endure”. We endure positive and neutral moments just as we endure negative moments. Our passion is the Ox in Eastern cultures. It is the alligator brain in some circles. It is the latent, the momentum, the inertias of us as an individual and herds.
Passion restores flow for the bored; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond passion.
The ability not only to honor passion as part of life, but to diverge these passions (A/B Testing). Divergence is where we have the realization of perceiving multiple possibilities in routes through a waypoint on a path. We literally diverge into multiple possibilities, some of the best meetings of minds come up with rapid sequences of “what if?” Divergence is the entropy of information exchange.
Divergence restores flow for the bored; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond divergence.
The ability to not only diverge, but play with probability if you acted them out. Try the possible route by playing with it, does it meet the constraints? Does it look good? It’s like trying on new clothes or new behaviors! We even play with possibilities with split and multivariate testing! Children are analysts too.
Playfulness restores flow for the bored; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond playfulness.
The ability not only to play, but to share that play with others. Extroversion is best understood as its root, that is “extro” and “vert”. Literally this means the condition of being turned inside out. Take what’s inside and expose it to the outside. Really get in there and expose it to all of reality. Polish that mirror with the grinding stone of public opinion and reality. Extroversion seems to help go beyond Embarrassment Avoidance, and allow feedback and feedforward to return.
Extroversion restores flow for the bored; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond extroversion.
The ability not only to share with others, but to do so with greater and greater energies to achieve higher valences. Energy is a great concept and is found in every aspect of culture, religion, and sciences. In Aikido and Japanese and East Asian cultures we have this concept as Ki. The Proto-Indo-European root *werg which simply means “to do”. As Aristotle conceptualized, energy is the kinetic, rather than the potential, which was lost over time as the word was defined as “force of expression”, which makes sense too. Heat expresses the amplitude of motion. Flow goes beyond energy.
Energy restores flow for the bored; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond energy.
The ability not only to generate energy, but shine through frozen forms. Breaking habits and established norms is where innovation is born. Why does it have to be this way even though it’s always been this way? What was science originally invented for to solve? What was this application invented for, to solve? Going back to the roots of a problem might reveal different solutions that might be more readily possible than not. Higher resolution in language’s evolution of words might allow the mind to realize connections previously unknown.
Iconoclasm restores flow for the bored; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond iconoclasm.
Solutions for Solving Anxiety
Anxiety: The experience of overly differentiated states ([censored] dx/t).
The rest that one has with one’s closest neighbors here in this moment. Communion is the participation in our selves, in a herd, in superpositioned herds, in society itself. Communion is union, fellowship, mutual participation. It literally comes from “com-” and “-unus” which is akin to with-oneness or together-union. We can see this thread in many cultural identities. It is very easily mistaken for sameness, which it is not.
Communion restores flow for the anxious; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond communion.
The calm with one’s neighbors that is generated from detachment. Detachment is a kind of separation, it comes from “des-” and “attachier”. The operating word here is detach-ment, that is, the mentality is detached. There is a kind of insulating distance across space and time that allows mentality to roam more free in developing skill through study without getting caught up in the momentum of passion.
Detachment restores flow for the anxious; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond detachment.
The convergence that remains as a result of shedding unwanted states. Convergence is where we bring things to a point, a summary, a distillation. It is that which concentrates. It can be seen in many areas of life, it summarizes summaries. It is what brings the mountain peak. We converge to a point. Convergence is stillness, it crystallizes.
Convergence restores flow for the anxious; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond communion.
The discipline that remains in filtering probabilities that diverge from necessary future states. It keeps the practice, it stills the mind. It keeps us on course. Discipline is an interesting word, it comes from “discipulus”, disciple. It is the line, the path, the evolution of the circle into a line. What is interesting is that it goes the direction of “to grasp intellectually, analyze thoroughly”, and that’s from Barnhart and Klein by way of etymonline.com.
Discipline restores flow for the anxious; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond discipline.
The introversion that remains when including the probabilities of one’s self as no different than our local environment, our neighbors. Introversion is best understood as its root, that is “intro” and “vert”. Literally this means the condition of being turned outside in. Take what’s outside and expose it to the inside. Really get out there and expose it to all of that within. Take in the full moon, the ocean, public opinion, and reality. Introversion seems to help go beyond bias, as it is a centeredness from where one can see with great clarity.
Introversion restores flow for the anxious; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond introversion.
The quietude that remains after resting on one point. To rest, to absolutely rest in the moment, with a thought, with an idea. To remain absorbed in meditative equipoise. It is in quietude that the signal-to-noise ratio increases, in some cases dramatically. It is where we can see the causes and correlations of even the smallest detail.
Quietude restores flow for the anxious; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond quietude.
The tradition that remains, the most simple bits, the cushion, the clothes, the cloth. Tradition is that what worked for a time, it is a reference architecture, a best-practice, a way that has been walked before. It is the roads we built, the cities we’ve assembled. It is the people that have walked before. It is the keyboard, the monitor, the mouse. It is the typing itself. It is the way we walk, the language, the incompleteness of activities and systems that have its own momentum. Traditions are the floor, the shoulders of the giants we stand upon, only to later allow others to stand on ours.
Tradition restores flow for the anxious; once restored, beyond self and other, one goes beyond tradition.
The mind is a powerful probability machine, it literally warps a probable future from one point in probability to another, over large distances and times by laying a path toward a probable future at the same time overcoming a challenge. It knows already knows how to travel faster than light, it changes the future, by collapsing probability, through the present.
… the mind is a powerful probability machine, it literally warps you from one point in probability to another, over large distances and times…
Whether a challenge is moving across a room to acquire food and water, seeking shelter, or resolving patients’ ability to book appointments for one of the largest healthcare providers on the planet. We are warp drives, the very thing we were searching for is right here in our hands. Be a master of the mind, rather than mastered by it — indeed!
The sage leads and the ox moves; not against each other, but together. The sage consider’s the ox’s needs and cares for it accordingly, and vice versa.
Amplifying Flow State
We do not stop here. We consider Flow State for herds as well as individuals; “team” is an interchangeable indicator for any herd of individuals. Whether this herd is a skill focused herd of engineers, architects, analysts, strategists, or leadership. This also goes into any herd, political, vehicular, industry vertical, sports, or spirituality. The important thing to remember that ethically, flow state is the compass by which we can measure the productivity of growth itself. It is the needle that says, you are on an optimal path in life, and that friends has been said before, “The Middle Way” is actually, the “Superpositional Way”, teetering on measurement.
Now that we know that it is an optimization method, bottom line value gain is focused on productivity, whereas top line value gain is focused on growth. We grow our superpositional boundaries by increasing our valence. That is, we grow in our shells. We become better at everything we do. We strive to become better beings, better humans, better businesses, and better societies. We become, like the dragonfly, which is the best at a whole collection of categories in the family of insects, yet we don’t stop there.
Research on Flow State, Neuroscience, Sociology, and Quantum Mechanics is uncovering empirical evidence for the social structures that have been intuitively sensed by many individuals going back thousands of years. We feel that it is compelling for business to heed the research and findings, as all of this is about solving bigger and bigger problems. To do that requires us to go beyond even this as written, the student goes beyond the teacher. I would like to think that this is how it is, and how it should be.
While Mihaly researches flow, I am of the mind that restoration of flow needs consideration, because it is one thing to be in flow and one thing to be out of flow, another to enter and exit it, and another to control one’s speed of entry and exit, another to control one’s acceleration and deceleration in flow, then another to alter the trajectory of where the flow is going. The principals of flow state are simply amazing, and it is already most likely illuminated in Aikido, Daito-Ryu, and many religious and scientific explorations.
I have a hypothesis that entering flow retains key orientations for the period of time while in flow, this orientation is indicative of who an individual is, as in “To Be or Not To Be”. If this is the case, what’s the most valuable thing to place in front of an individual’s experience before restoring flow? That therein is another matter entirely. No pun intended. This is where the business comes to play. What is the most valuable outcome?
Finally the last bit of research is the psychological and physiological effects of remaining in flow for long durations at resolving greater, and greater challenges, growing greater and greater skill regardless of what enters the sensory field.
What challenge are you off to next? I bet you didn’t realize your body, mind, and spirit was tackling more than one, at once. Our mind deals with complete wave-functions, not waves, the order of complexity IS the challenge. Thanks for reading!