What is Flow State?
You may have heard the term ‘flow state’ before. It has picked up momentum in recent years and specifically refers to an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. When we are in a state of flow, we become completely involved in an activity- everything else disappears, time seems to simply vanish, and your entire focus, energy and attention is focused on the present moment.
Does this sound familiar? Perhaps if you are a musician, an artist, or a dancer, this idea and concept of flow state is something you experience on a regular basis. Flow state can actually be reached in great number of ways, and is different for each of us. One of the main ways to find flow state though is when we are pushing our boundaries and trying something new. That is why a surf retreat is one of the most powerful ways to get a real taste for what flow state is all about.
Flow state has several defining characteristics. It involves having clear goals, razor sharp concentration and focus, a loss of self consciousness or judgement, a feeling of timelessness, and the ability to reach a place of reward. A flow state initiates a very special shift in awareness or consciousness which allows you to perform at your best and reach your full potential.
Surfing hits nearly all of the elements associated with being in flow and therefore, a surf retreat is quite literally the perfect way to dip your toes in what it feels like to really be immersed in a flow state. No matter your level of skill the experience of surfing creates somewhat of a time warp as you become one with the elements and surrender completely to the moment. Your attention is wrapped up in your immediate soundarings, all of your senses are engaged, and you are completely absorbed in the activity in its pure state without any distraction. Then of course, there is the absolute thrill of the action of surfing- the ride is quite literally the reward for all your efforts and this thrill is what keeps us inspired, motivated and going back for more.
There are three main ways in which flow state and surfing are intrinsically related:
Like so many activities in life, there is no ‘final point’ or end goal in surfing. Surfers are always creating new goals, trying out new moves and techniques, and trying to improve upon the last surf session. On a surf retreat, as a beginner to the waves, you create simple goals and move through rather rapid progressions. It’s easy to learn quickly from mistakes and create new mini goals each time the next waves appears. Each time we go back, we adjust what we have learned from the previous ride, and we implement that to the next ride in a dedicated effort to improve our skill and maximise the thrill of the reward. You may not be conscious of setting these goals, but it’s this drive that helps us to remain in the state of flow.
There is laser-sharp focus involved in surfing! Especially if you are new to the surf – your senses are all entirely absorbed in each and every moment. Concentration is always essential; not only are you alert to the oncoming waves, you are also aware of the other surfers around you and the conditions of the water. When that perfect wave appears, there is a chain reaction of motions as you position yourself correctly, feel into the energy of the wave and then time when you transition to your feet. On the wave, logical thinking works alongside feeling and intuition, the latter becoming more reliable as you progress in your surfing skills. It is guaranteed you’re not thinking about anything other than the moment you are in, and it’s this absolute single focus that makes flow state so special and so unique.
On a surf retreat, and when surfing in general, you are pushed beyond your comfort zone. In the ocean you are forced to adapt quickly, to trust your judgement, and to move beyond fear when it arises. Feeling challenged is an essential part of flow state. When we are not challenged by something, our mind wanders, we become less motivated, less inspired, less focused. The play of setting goals and overcoming fears to reach new levels of skill and reward is what is natural to us as human beings. Think of children- children are constantly in states of flow as they are learning, advancing, and absorbed in the moment. As adults, we often focus on what is familiar and easy- we don’t push ourselves and we plateau. A surf retreat is an ideal way to shake things up, challenge yourself, and find your flow again.
Harvard research has shown that people who experience this state of flow actually report higher levels of productivity, creativity, and happiness for up to three days after the experience. Flow state may be something we feel connected to when we are doing something new or something we love, but the aim is to be able to harness this sensation and utilize this highly productive state of being in other areas of our life too. You can find flow state at work, in conversation with friends, while driving, running, swimming, cooking, writing. Try to actively seek out activities that meet some of the factors of flow, like playing a logic game, participating in sports, engaging in a meaningful project at work, trying new things like surfing, salsa, yoga, gardening- there are endless ways how to find flow state.
Flow can become a part of your everyday life, and with this comes better performance, more presence, and greater joy. Psychologists have found that people who experience flow state often are the happiest people on Earth! As humans we seek meaning wherever we can find it. To live a life of depth and substance we constantly need to step outside of our comfort zones, and to challenge our own ideas and beliefs. Flow State pushes our boundaries and teaches us that we are often capable of more than we realise. When we are in this mental state, life becomes wondrous and riveting; we step out of the routine ways of everyday life and inject ourselves with a new sense of exhilaration, purpose and drive.