Have you ever been so engrossed in a task you were doing that time just seems to fly by as you go about accomplishing your mission?
When you get into a state where all of your senses are completely immersed in the task at hand, where you feel fully energized and you’re thoroughly enjoying what you’re doing then you are in the state of flow.
Anyone who’s ever truly experienced flow will tell you there’s simply no substitute for it. Flow is as close as you’ll ever get to a superpower, and once you’ve had a taste of it you’ll keep craving for more and more. It’s the rocket fuel of our creative efforts, sometimes referred to as being “in the zone”.
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian-American psychologist, identified and named the psychological concept of flow. During multiple interviews with talented artists and athletes he learned that when they experienced moments of great inspiration and peak performance they described their work as flowing out of them naturally, almost subconsciously, as if they were channeling some greater power. In other words, they were in the flow state.
How Do You Achieve Flow State?
When we engage in activities that challenge and inspire us mentally, physically, and spiritually we are on the way to achieving flow. Losing yourself in an activity like meditation, painting, creating music or playing a sport is a typical way of triggering flow because it’s something that you feel exhilarated and a deep sense of enjoyment and accomplishment when you do it. When you’re in a flow state you’ll often experience a lack of sense of time and space, as well as a decreased awareness of your personal needs.
In order to achieve a flow state the challenge before you must be accompanied by a genuine interest in the task you’re doing as well as the right level of skill to accomplish your mission.
The Flow Triggers
In his book, The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler points out the 17 flow triggers- the prerequisites for you to get into a flow state. They are broadly classified as Psychological, Environmental, Social and Creative. The psychological triggers, for example, include
- Intensely focused attention
- Clear goals
- Immediate Feedback
- Challenge Skill/Ratio
If there are triggers that help us flow, then it’s equally true that there are distractions that keep us from flowing. Switching off these distractions is key to helping us tap into the flow state. Interestingly, one of our biggest distractions is our own ego. Ego is the inner voice that makes up our personality. This voice is molded by all the people and environment we encounter throughout our lives.
Ego and Flow
Ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but ego and flow don’t go together. To achieve the state of flow, you must overcome, or find a way to get past the ego. If you don’t, you become too self-conscious and doubts arise, both of which inhibit flow.
Interestingly, when you’re in a flow state you engage the subconscious mind a lot more. To be specific, you use your prefrontal cortex, the region in your brain where planning and decision making are done. Side stepping the ego gives this part of your brain greater control, and opens up space for spontaneous creativity driven by instinctual reactions. The subconscious mind doesn’t need to overexert itself comparing options and forming opinions because subconscious reasoning happens automatically.
Can Psychedelic Shrooms Facilitate A Flow-Like State?
Psychedelic magic mushroom trips have interesting parallels to flow experiences because they dissolve the ego, leaving you free to feel more at peace with who you are and what your life is about. MRI studies on patients treated with LSD and psilocybin have shown that there’s reduced blood circulation in certain parts of the brain, seemingly in order to allow for “higher” processes to take place there, just as it happens in the flow theory.
Psilocybin is actually thought to affect regions in the brain similar to the ones that have reduced activity during the state of flow. We are talking about the medial prefrontal cortex here. Studies by John Hopkins researchers also show that psilocybin treatment has more lasting effects, possibly even permanent ones in your personality.
Csíkszentmihályi believes that the key to genuine happiness in life is repeatedly accessing flow states. He’s even compared the flow experience to tripping, where he refers to it as a “kind of a toned-down ecstasy”, although he thinks the psychedelic path to ecstasy is a manipulation of your nervous system. Csíkszentmihályi would prefer more conventional ways of attaining flow such as art, yoga and meditation, or sports or mental challenges. Unfortunately, these require time and effort especially in our modern materialistic society which is geared towards constant production of goods and services.
Could Microdosing Be The Answer?
As much as we would like to induce the flow state using psychedelic mushrooms, full-blown trips cost time and energy which we don’t have. Microdosing is probably a more attractive option to helping us regularly access the flow state and its benefits. It’s a well-documented fact that miniscule amounts of psilocybin, LSD, or even ayahuasca helps people to get a clearer focus and be more creative, for a significant period of time.
Is There A Relationship Between Psychedelics And Happiness?
One thing we can all agree is that genuine happiness has more to do with inner peace than our ability to control the forces of the universe. If we learn to find enjoyment and purpose in our lives, irrespective of the social environment around us, then we have a genuine shot at happiness. If we learn to take life a little less seriously, not being bothered if things don’t work out exactly as planned- invest our time into enjoying the little things, then things will flow more smoothly.
What has this got to do with psychedelics? Everything. There’s no denying that psychedelic mushrooms, used in the right environment, and for the right reasons, can reconnect us with our human core as well as the nature. They remind us that we are, after all, human beings, helping us live the present moment to the maximum, while detaching us from the expectations brought by our day to day lives.
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