The Flow State is something which is heard more and more in recent times. Athletes, programmers, artists and gamers are all starting to tap into the flow state as a source of focus, energy, and creativity.
Alongside the increasing use of mindfulness, some are exploring the flow state as a route to increased productivity and happiness. There seems to be an opportunity to use this moment to demystify some of the language that sometimes surrounds these topics. The simplicity, accessibility, and the power of these ideas makes them well worth exploring.
To give a picture of what flow is, it is a state that we all experience. An activity in which we become absorbed and don’t notice the passing of time induces the flow state. Riding fast on a motorcycle, knocking a sliotar clean over the crossbar, or surfing does it for some. Drawing, cleaning and meditating. The sight of beautiful sunset, or an astronomer looking through a telescope. Each of us experiences it somewhere.
Now that we know what it looks like, what makes it more useful than just a fun relaxing mood and, if it is useful, can we find out how to employ it directly? The beauty is, that in this fun way lies one of the keys to bringing meditation off of the seat and into life – which can sometimes be a real challenge. Just by getting to know and recognise this feeling has a self correcting nature that keeps us coming back. It’s hard to know where you’re shooting unless you have seen the target.
The scythe is one activity that seems ideally suited to inducing a flow state in a gentle way. When teaching a scythe class we can see that some people have a more body centred awareness, whereas some are more in their mind. Both approaches have their pros and cons, and the ideal student has both. Teaching a class gives a lovely opportunity to see this. Sometimes we see a student who seems to have a hard time with their body and mind communicating. They almost look out of time, or that the top half of the body is doing something completely different to the bottom.
Regardless of whether someone is (excuse the clumsy categorisation) leaning more towards the mind or the body this approach can help. This can be done practically by pointing out the flow state, targeting and accessing it directly, and giving the student the tools to do the same. The real learning happens after the course is over so we need to help each other to “check our own homework”.
So flow can help us scythe. Can we bring the flow back with us? Sometimes a blissful feeling in meditation seems to fade quickly, or doesn’t seem to have a practical use beyond a brief respite between life’s storms. The creative flow state can be missed as simply having a good time. In the physical activity of the scythe the two are united.
Mowing is one of those things that just goes wrong as soon as you notice that you are thinking. It’s as good as having a grumpy zen master smack you on the head for being distracted. Some days and some meadows are harder to cut than others. Each stroke is different, and yet each is the same. Fighting our own irritation as we are learning and dealing with frustrating overgrown meadows forces us to find a creative solution. Using a scythe by pushing it with your back and forcing it with your will hurts your body and scythe. It’s not fun.
So in a sense, we could say that the scythe itself is asking us to access the flow state. That flow state that we experience in solitude in a meadow will in time percolate out into the rest of life. If you are lucky enough to already have that peace, and a well loved meadow then all you need to do is enjoy the sunshine and mow.