Are You in the Flow?

SkyeTeam leadership development mindfulness
Written By: Sara Harvey Yao

Have you had periods of time when you find yourself in the right place at the right time, good things spontaneously happen “out of the blue” and in you just generally feel like life is going your way? That’s what most people call “being in the flow”.

I suspect all of you have had moments of being in flow and it feels good, but then something happens…and it ends, or at least it appears to end. It can feel as if the “flow” you enjoyed left as fast as it came in and life is harder, slower or downright no fun. When my clients feel “out of flow” they immediately want to know how to get back. Of course they do, it feels better. But what if the slowness, stuckness and frustration was simply a aspect of being in flow?

Imagine my surprise when I eagerly started writing my second book about presence and the first two chapters came out with relative ease and then the third chapter simply wouldn’t flow. I tried a few contortions like setting specific writing time, utilizing a researcher, etc., but nothing worked. I literally could not (and would not) force my way through a book on presence. I had to live presence, not just theorize about it. For me, this meant I needed to listen and honor what was actually happening inwardly (I knew I needed to stop writing) vs. what I wanted to have happen externally (keep writing and meet my “goal”).

I have been practicing mindfulness and presence long enough to know when something I’m working on is no longer easeful; it’s time to back off and give it some space. So that’s what I did with the book. I didn’t push through and instead I waited, listened and stayed deeply present to what was emerging. This was my new version of being in flow.

I didn’t want to stop writing, but the hardest part of my experience was when I resisted and tried to hold onto my plan of writing. Once I let go of my mind’s version of “the plan” and surrendered to the current flow of my life, I immediately experienced a sense of ease again. My life’s “flow” wasn’t particularly all rainbows and unicorns, in fact, I dug into some deep stuff, but make no mistake, life was flowing and I was no longer resisting. I ultimately paid deep attention and aligned myself to what was actually happening, instead of holding onto something I thought should be happening.

Flow isn’t always about things being easy or comfortable, but when you are in flow, there is an element of spontaneity and ease to how life unfolds. So the question isn’t about how you get “back into flow” because your life is and forever will be in flow. The only question is will you resist the flow or have the courage to go with it?

Here are some quick tools to help you come into relationship to the present moment instead of fighting it:

  • Take a Breather: Literally stop what you’re doing (including if that means you’re beating your head against the wall) and breathe. When we get stuck in a rut or continue to push something that won’t move, we waste precious energy and cause ourselves (and sometimes others) to suffer. Since your breath is automatic, it’s a great anchor to shift you out of the pattern you are in and will help your brain get some much needed oxygen so you can see the present moment with clarity.
  • Assume Life is Conspiring on Your Behalf: In the height of your stuck-ness, it might be hard to believe anything is going right. Try on the perspective that your life may be conspiring on your behalf is some way. I’m not saying you have to believe it, but see what it feels like in your body, mind and heart when you try on the perspective that whatever you are experiencing isn’t necessarily “bad”.
  • Go Do Something Fun: When we’re feeling out of flow, it’s often anything but fun. In fact, being out of flow can make us cranky, short with others and disconnected from our heart. One of the best things you can do to bring yourself back to your natural state of presence and flow is to stop struggling and do something enjoyable. Remember that you used to like to dance or watch funny movies? Even just a quick break to do something fun can shift your perspective.
Sara Harvey Yao is the founder of Yao Consulting Group and author of Get Present: Simple Strategies to Get Out of Your Head and Lead More Powerfully and her second book, Drop In: Lead with Deeper Presence and Courage will be available on October 4, 2016. You can learn more about Sara and her work atwww.yaoconsulting.com