7 Ways to Live in Flow (Part III)
Flow and beauty are effortless, unconcerned, and unendingly playful. So, by adoring the beautiful and artful aspects of life, we cultivate the sense of playful but structured surrender that is necessary for flow.
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We like to think that everything worth learning can be learned in step-by-step fashion. We pretty much have it in our heads that life would be way easier if everything just came with a perfectly linear, comprehensive instruction manual.
And who can blame us? This way of thinking is ingrained in the fabric of our modern society.
But life is greater than the sum of disparate actions and experiences—and some things (usually the most important ones) can’t be broken down into linear processes.
There’s no mechanistic process for learning precisely how to love, and it’s difficult to teach someone how to recognize beauty when they see it.
In like manner, it’s counter-productive to define the “process” of living in flow.
Have you been taking more time in nature, focusing on meaningful moments rather than ticking clocks, or trying to be more neutral-minded after reading the previous articles?
You’ve probably noticed something about all these “ways of living in flow.” They’re not just practices; they’re ways of being.
Seeing life as art
Flow states have a lot in common with aesthetic appreciation.
In fact, beauty is a perfect sensory analog that can help us understand flow. It’s indeterminate but harmoniously structured, non-linear but impactful. It urges balance between thoughts and feelings, and it insists that immediate experience is always primary.
Flow and beauty are effortless, unconcerned, and unendingly playful. The German philosopher Friedrich Schiller said that “Man shall only play with Beauty, he shall play only with Beauty…and he is only wholly Man when he is playing.”
So, by adoring the beautiful and artful aspects of life, we cultivate the sense of playful but structured surrender that is necessary for flow.
“Look at more beautiful things” might seem like a pretty vague prescription, though. What’s a practice or simple action that can help us cultivate a beauty-based view of the world?
Okakura Kakuzo provides an answer: drink more tea.
In his brilliant and exquisite work, The Book of Tea, he provides a description of “the Philosophy of Tea” that could just as easily pertain to the Philosophy of Flow:
“It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life…it expresses conjointly with ethics and religion our whole point of view about man and nature. It is moral geometry, inasmuch as it defines our sense of proportion to the universe.”
There’s nothing like a tea ceremony to order and beautify your day. It is patient and simple, yet refined and disciplined—and there is a joy that flows from this experience of improbable balance.
There is a special calm in the bubbling of a tea kettle, the neat arrangement of tea-stained porcelain, the subtle and sensory bouquet of crafted tea leaves.
The joy that is born from this kind of sacred space is a portal to new understandings of life, new ways of living in blissful balance with ourselves and with others.
Just don’t mistake doing for being…
This is probably already obvious, but it’s worth saying anyway: there’s no causative relationship between tea and flow states, or between looking at art and attaining a life of perfect balance.
The point is not the tea or the art, but the feeling of transpersonal poise that they engender. The real magic moment is when a practice or ritual becomes a way of being.
Practices and rituals confer benefit only when they are actually being performed. They require directed effort, discipline, and persistence. Some rituals—like drinking tea—lend themselves more naturally being effortlessly blissful. But the ritual must still be repeated many times before it begins to define our lives.
Once a certain tipping point is reached, rituals become programmed into the fabric of our being. They are internalized as deep muscle memory, intuition, and higher guidance, and are therefore expressed effortlessly through flow.
This certainly doesn’t mean that the rituals cease to be necessary, but only that less and less effort is required to drop into the fluency of flow states.
So here’s how to accelerate this process of flow mastery: don’t focus on the mechanics of experience. Develop and maintain practices and rituals, but don’t get lost in the details. Instead, focus on the experiential joy and appreciation that they bring you.
Acknowledge moments of beauty, and be grateful for them.
How to make all your dreams come true
Gratitude is much more than touchy-feely emotionality.
It is the key to leveraging and multiplying synchronicities in your life, being balanced and present, and manifesting exactly the existence that you desire.
Taking the time to be grateful viscerally connects you with your highest passions, and it rewards you for living in alignment with them. It taps you into your core frequency—your most natural purpose and guiding vision.
Gratitude cultivates a virtuous cycle of personal fulfillment. The deep contentment that gratitude brings allows you to live and feel as though you’ve already received everything that you want. This perfection and completion is then reflected in the external world as a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because in its simplest form, that’s how manifestation works: act like you have all the things you want, and all those things will come to you.
Most importantly, though, moments of pure gratitude remind you that you really do already have everything you need. And this is precisely what the experience of flow is all about—it is a reminder that life is alive simply for the sake of being alive.
All things exist for the sake of being aware.
In fact, all of the practices and concepts we’ve talked about so far in this series can be boiled down to one simple but fathomless directive: rest in intrinsic awareness.
Which leads us to the most important flow ritual of all: meditation.
The foundation of all rituals
Any process of lifestyle ritual design that seeks to find flow should begin with meditation. And since flow is a recurring, cyclic process, it seemed only natural to end this series by mentioning it at the end—because in a circle, the beginning is the closest point to the end.
Meditation is the cultivation of holistic awareness, the neutral and unperturbed observation of all manifestations of consciousness. It is the disciplined surrender of the ego into the arms of infinity.
And practically speaking, it is the practice that provides a foundation and framework for all other rituals. It’s a means to the ends of health, happiness, and high performance—and also a profoundly meaningful end in itself.
Whoever you are and whatever path you’ve chosen, please consider integrating meditation into your life.
Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right; it really doesn’t matter. If you do nothing more, just pay attention to your breath for three minutes every day. Try finding a mantra that resonates with you, or practice visualizations like this one or this one.
Build a meditation practice that is perfect for you, and practice it every single day. Your body, mind, and spirit will love you for it.
Wherever your journey takes you, just remember this: daily practice is the gateway to living in flow.
I’ll conclude by recapping the 7 Ways to Live in Flow that have been the subject of this series…
1. Connect to the element of water.
2. Find the balance between surrender and discipline.
3. Live by kairos rather than chronos.
4. Connect to Mother Earth and her natural time cycles.
5. See life as art (and drink more tea).
6. Be grateful.
Through practices like these, you can learn to work with our world of infinite flux. Thus, when you come to realize that—as Hermann Hesse says—“the river is everywhere,” its currents may become organizing forces of lightness and clarity, rather than cause for struggle.
Do these rituals and practices resonate with you? Have they helped bring some flow into your life? What would you add to the list? Share with the community by leaving a comment below!
 Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004), p. 80.
 Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea (Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1990), p. 4.