Yoga. Dance. Surfing. Diving. Writing. Meditation. Running. Climbing. Swimming. Chanting. Painting. Breathwork. Hiking. While distinct in form, practices like these (and many others!) have one powerful thing in common: – from the inside-out – with the sensuous, circadian rhythms of life. Flow experiences can catch us at any time, in virtually any environment. Those vibrant moments of connection between the body, spirit and surroundings that bring us into closer communion with Divine. The ultimate high that requires no external substance – only breath, mindful presence, and the free-form flow of energy moving in and through us, reminding us just how thin our skin actually is when we allow our physical selves to exist as vehicles for the alchemy of energetic creation, expression, movement and release vital to our existence, wellbeing and co-evolution as human-animals living this collective life-world, together.
Cover Photo: Jennifer Harter
Flow is a transformative encounter with transcendence, where the perceiving and physical bodies blend into the ether of the natural environment, through the beyond-conscious energetic experience of sensation and absolute presence. Living in flow, as a collective, we become, in the words of David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous, “a community aware of its place in an accompanying cosmos.” While we can’t always plan for the moment when a flow experience will find us, we can cultivate a lifestyle based on free-form experiences that connect us purposefully to an ego-transcending existence, bringing us a little bit closer to living in the flow of life.
Living in a state of flow isn’t rocket science. In fact, once we begin to clear our lives of all the everyday distractions by committing to and crafting our personal practice, we find that experiences of pure presence become almost second-nature, bridging the ethereal sacred with the quotidian mundane by getting out of our own way and letting energy move through us. Living in the flow of life is where we re-connect to the divine magic of Source, manifest in our natural surroundings, our relationships, and in the pure light that burns within each of us. And if we’ve chosen a spiritual path, that’s the sort of Source-connected life we desire to live, am I right?
So how do we get there?
Photo: Michelle Rodriguez
In the rush and hustle of everyday life, devotion to your personal practice as a central part of a flow-based lifestyle might feel like a pipe dream, at best. Sure, you make it to the Vinyasa class at the gym a few times a week, but truth be told, between work commitments, family, travel and a social life, intentional flow experiences often take a backseat. Still, carving out specific time during the day to prioritize your daily practice – whatever that looks like to you – holds a world of benefits for achieving greater peace of mind, managing stress and living more intimately connected to nature, the elements, your inner wisdom and divine purpose on the Planet.
In the words of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: “It is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.” In yogi terms, he’s talking about our commitment to our Sadhana spiritual practice, and the way we live the ethical philosophy of Ishvara Pranidhana, our surrender to the current of life beyond the distractions of the ego. Cultivating a life aligned with practice, purpose and presence, we live more fully in the flow of the more-than-human life-world and the universal cosmos of which we are an integral part.
So how can you bring more flow into the work of art that is your life? As someone who has crafted a personal and professional lifestyle around a purpose-driven commitment to the movement and flow experiences of surfing, yoga, writing and dance, I offer these practical steps to support you along this journey of great freedom, discipline, trust, discernment and deep surrender.
Four Steps for Living in the Flow of Life
Step 1: Identify the practices that pique your interest and connect you mindfully to a state of flow. For those of us choosing a yoga-based spiritual path of connection, liberation and evolution, it’s important to cultivate a Sadhana practice based on the free-form experiences that speak most powerfully to who we are. Experimenting with different styles of yoga, nature-based activities, meditation techniques, breathwork, journaling and movement modalities can help narrow down the world of flow-based possibilities to the experiences that resonate most deeply. Keeping an open mind as we differently navigate our senses, states of consciousness and energetic expressions is a practice of surrender in itself, trusting our body and spirit to connect with the flow-based practices that will best support us in shedding the sticky parts of our ego-conditioned selves, opening space for both subtle and powerful energies to move in and through us. Once you know what resonates with you, choose one practice and go deep, or compose your personal sadhana by selecting a few.
Step 2: Commit to creating your sadhana and sticking to it. Be realistic! Surrendering to the flow of life in alignment with your spiritual purpose doesn’t mean succumbing to nihilism, apathy or inaction. In fact, committing to your sadhana requires the discipline of a valiant will, drawing from the strength of your solar plexus – the wellspring of vital energy you’re projecting out into the body through your practice, and beyond the self, into the world. Depending on the experiences we choose to incorporate into our flow-based lifestyle, our sadhana might be rigid in daily repetition, or it might look different each day, each week or each month. And we can always remove elements that aren’t working and add others that inspire our curiosity. Sky’s the limit! For example, my practice most days includes an early morning surf, followed by a hatha-based asana flow and 30 minutes of free-form journaling. Lately I’ve incorporated open-ocean swimming and long beach walks a couple of times per week, a morning Kundalini class every Thursday, an ecstatic dance celebration at least two Fridays per month, kirtan whenever possible, and a sweat lodge ceremony at least twice per year. Both discipline and enjoyment keep me in integrity with my sadhana, and when my body is aching for a break, I’ll skip one or two of my regular activities, but not all of them. Writing, for example, is the one everyday practice I’m rigidly disciplined about. Be sure to leave room for rest, and women will want to adjust your practice to attune to the regular changes of your moon cycle, as well. Get creative and stay realistic with your commitments to keep yourself on track. Even twenty minutes per day is an important place to start!
Step 3: Rearrange your life, as much as possible, to prioritize your flow-based practices. For some of us, embracing a flow-based lifestyle might mean quitting our 9-to-5 jobs that don’t align with our sense of purpose or fulfillment in life, so that we can make time for all the things that do. Or it might inspire us simply to trade Saturday nights at the bar for sunrise meditation and an early hike on Sundays. But for most of us, the realignment in our life priorities can be a gradual shift with profound results for our long-term sense of wellbeing. This is the time to take a genuine inventory of the ways we spend our days, who we spend them with, and toward what purpose in life? Surrendering to a flow-based lifestyle can be powerfully transformative to the point that we are willing to be completely honest with ourselves and take full responsibility for the way we wish to show up in our lives. Prioritizing free-form and flow-based experiences is a practice of deep truth in alignment with purpose and an embodied presence of being that requires our deliberate action and intentional awareness each step of the way. As we know, our daily habits become who we are. What are you choosing? What are you ready to replace? What will you prioritize in your life today? What about tomorrow?
Step 4: Embody a flow-based lifestyle. This doesn’t mean selling all your possessions and moving across the world to become a monk. (Though for some of us, it might!) Embodying a flow-based lifestyle is the natural progression of your sadhana becoming the foundation for your life. The more you’re able to clear away life-defeating distractions and prioritize the flow experiences that bring you into communion with Source, the easier it becomes to access a regular state of flow, even in mundane activities like walking the dog, making breakfast or folding the laundry. Engaging with mindful presence in your sadhana practices creates a level of deep awareness with important spillover effects for daily life. The more you endeavor to embody a flow-based lifestyle, the more connected you become to the natural world in your ability to listen intuitively to the signs around you and receive Divine guidance, express and move energy through your body, and live more boldly in a place of truth beyond the ego. Sure, our sadhana takes us on a fast-track to encountering the flow states we desire, but living in the flow of life is more profoundly about connecting the everyday moments we live outside of our practice with the same mindfulness, purpose and presence we cultivate through our intentional flow experiences. And as we change our lives from the inside out – on and off the mat, in the ocean and on the land, dangling from a boulder or digging our hands into the dirt, on the dance floor and in the dreamscape – we recover our essence as an integral part of the more-than-human earth community, an entire life-world bound together in the sacred flow of universal energy and cosmic evolution. We are the dreamers and the dream.
As we step more fully into living in the flow of life, may we endeavor to fulfill the prophetic vision of David Abram, that: “the recuperation of the incarnate, sensorial dimension of experience brings with it a recuperation of the living landscape in which we are corporally embedded…. [A]s we reacquaint ourselves with our breathing bodies, then the perceived world itself begins to shift and transform.”
And so it is.
Tara Ruttenberg is a writer, surfer, and yogini based in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Tara created Tarantula Surf (www.tarantulasurf.com / @tarantulasurf) as a space for authentic story sharing and engaging with new social living paradigms.
Join Tara and FLOW This July:
A Writing Immersion for Planetary Wellbeing in a Changing World