The Science of the Flow State
Most of us live in a very restricted circle of our potential being. We make use of only a very small portion of our possible consciousness and of our souls resources in general. However, through the use of breath work, meditation, and psychedelics, specifically microdosing, we can make an attempt at contacting a greater awareness. This state of being is often referred to as a flow state. In this state of consciousness we silence the executive functions of the brain and greater connectivity of more divergent parts that the executive areas keep from speaking to one another results. This allows for a feeling of oneness and connection with everything. It also stops the chatter of the ego mind, which is constantly in a state of judging and codifying everything around us as a way to control our environment. It’s a paradox but we’re trying to let go in order to gain more control.
When we reach a flow state, we’re contacting our intuition. The inner voice. Our spiritual guidance. We’re connecting with the quantum field where all events exist as a probability and where all ideas are housed. Let’s imagine that ideas don’t come from the brain performing an operation but that symbols and ideas populate a place that exists outside of space time to which we all have access. All we must do is quiet the monkey mind and our entry is granted. When we accomplish this task our senses are heightened, our awareness is sharp, we are one with all that there is, and are psychically attuned to the universe at large.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain where thinking occurs. It’s the place where we take simple ideas and add layers of complexity to them. However, and this may seem counterintuitive, “flow states” occur when this type of thinking is absent. Decisions are clear and automatic. It is the opposite of thinking. It is a kind of knowing.
The superior frontal gyrus is the part of the brain that produces our sense of self. It provides us with self awareness and that introspective feeling. Again, it sounds counterintuitive, but this is not always a useful thing. Jung described depression as the ego punishing itself. Depression is a state where we have begun to take everything personally. It’s when our sense of self becomes so introspective that it’s debilitating and our ability to properly function is severely diminished or non existent. By decreasing blood flow to the areas that govern the sense of self and releasing it’s stranglehold on the rest of the brain, meditation and psychedelics can offer a cure for these introspective depressive states. Curiously some forms of exercise such as intense biking or marathon running where the “runner’s high” is achieved can also produce the same results.
Another part of the brain that is deactivated in flow states is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain best known for self-monitoring and impulse control. Self monitoring is that voice of doubt, our pesky inner critic. The one who keeps questioning whether we are good enough. By eliminating this doubt we are liberated from this vacillating voice and we can just act with confidence and without hesitation of any sort. Creativity flourishes in this state. We take risks without worry or fear and there is no second guessing. Problem solving is automatic. This voice of doubt is the mortal enemy of the flow state.
One area of the prefrontal cortex that is stimulated in the flow state is the medial prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain associated with creative self expression. This allows us to retain our individual creativity and why such novel ideas are brought out in the process.
Another aspect of flow states is time dilation. Time is no longer relevant when you’ve connected to this heightened awareness. It seems to slow down or stand still. Moments that last milliseconds seem to go on for an eternity giving you what feels like ample time to process all the information that you’re rapidly taking in. Temporal awareness in and of itself is a construct of our minds, where various areas of the brain work together to give us a sense of time. It’s a summary judgement that we’re making, almost a democratic conclusion reached by the executive areas of the brain, proving that time is a completely relative phenomenon. Take for example the simple mathematic equation of your age. When you are 2 years old a year is half your life, and we experience years when we’re younger as feeling longer to transpire as opposed to when we are 60. A year at this age is 1/60 of your life and why we feel like the years are just flying by. In a flow state, energy that is normally allocated for temporal processing is repurposed for attention and awareness. We’re taking in more data per second and processing it more completely. All of this data processing elongates the present moment so the more information we’re processing, the longer the moment appears to last. Processing more data allows us access to sudden insights and the quality of that data will lead to a more creative solution.
Still another aspect of the flow state is a feeling of oneness. The brain scans of Franciscan nuns and Buddhist monks who were in deep states of meditation revealed that these intense moments of concentration not only alter our sense of self and distort our sense of time but they impact our relationship to space. The area of the brain associated with spatial relationships is called the superior parietal lobe and is located further back in the cortex and has been dubbed the orientation association area (OAA) because of it’s ability to orient us in space. It’s a navigation system of sorts granting us the ability to judge angles, map distances, and keep track of our body’s location in space. It literally tells us where the self is. A lot of energy is expended in figuring these calculations out and a ton of information is constantly being transmitted to this area of the brain to geolocate us in the world. But in these moments of intense focus our senses stop sending data to this area and the OAA stops performing these tasks because it quits receiving these constant signals. With no data to process it becomes temporarily blind and once this happens we are no longer able to differentiate where “I” ends and the rest of the world begins and the brain concludes that you are “one with everything”. When this occurs, surfers report feeling one with the wave, rock climbers become one with the rock, and meditators become one with God. This is significant especially for those of us who have experienced this magnificent feeling. It’s also why there is an explosion of these states in action/adventure sports. One need only look to the giant leaps forward by Danny Way, Laird Hamilton, and Alex Honnold, in their respective endeavors to see that contacting these states of consciousness can lead to impossible feats that are positively superhuman.
One of the main issues to to consider when trying to induce a flow state is our relationship to fear. Fear is what stops us from taking action. It can cripple us. But fear is grounded in a sense of self, time, and space. When we obliterate these concepts we are liberated from doubt, worry, and anxiety and without these hindrances our main fear, the fundamental fear of death, also vanishes. It’s quite a simple equation: If there’s no “you” in “timespace” you become an infinite, atemporal being so there is no possibility of death. This is the ultimate state of being.
Most of us have experienced one or all of these states at some point in our lives but these phenomena tend to be rare and fleeting. However, through sustained meditation and the use of psychedelics we can reach flow states with more frequency, for longer periods, and with greater attunement. These modes of experience can take the ordinary into the extraordinary. The normal human to a superhuman. All with simple and ancient techniques completely void of any modern technological enhancement. The future is these states of being. Transhumanist fantasies are a dark path that will harden our nature and lock us into the material realm cutting us off from spirit. Now more than ever we need a return to the most basic and traditional forms of spiritual atonement, especially as we’re reaching an age of colossal technological upheaval. We’re about to unleash a torrent of technological advancement that is so formidable that it has the capacity to dwarf our understanding of it. If we do not cultivate an equal moral and spiritual enlightenment then these advancements will surely result in our ultimate destruction.