flow

Mastery And Flow

TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2011

Focused Flow
In asking people for suggestions for my Writer’s Block project, I realized that my perspective on the problem is an inability to freely shift between editing and flow modes. That “Focused Flow” is, for about 80% of people, the real issue–everything else is removing obstacles to this quality, and letting your best self issue forth.

Last Sunday I was speaking with the greatest martial artist it has been my honor to know personally, the phenomenal Steve Muhammad. And the topic of how to help students enter this critical mental/emotional state while maintaining technical precision was central to the discussion. Specifically, I asked this man, who has more right to the term “master of his craft” than anyone I’ve been able to observe closely, over time, how he would define “master.” Paraphrasing slightly, he said: “mastery is command of your basics sufficiently to create spontaneously, under pressure.”

Combining this with comments on Mastery from such thinkers as George Leonard, I offer the following thoughts on Mastery:

1) Mastery is a verb, not a noun. A process, not a position.
2) Masters are eternal students. They generally laugh at the idea that they are “masters” in the sense the beginner uses the term. But they accept the term because students need something to strive toward. We used to have Saturday morning Silat classes in Vancouver Washington under Stevan Plinck. Afterwards, many of us would go to breakfast. I was at breakfast, grousing about my performance when another student snapped at me: “stop that, Steven! If someone at your level isn’t happy with your skills, what are the rest of us supposed to think and feel?” And…I got it. All I see, really, is how far I have to go. I forget how far I’ve come.
3) No matter how far and how fast you run, the horizon is always the same distance away.

What happens if I combine these thoughts? Well…my conclusion is that:
1) Once you have command of your basics and
2) Have committed to your path for a lifetime

You are as much a “Master” as anyone else on the path, no matter how much “better” than you they are, or how much farther along the path. There is just…the Path. Stop comparing yourself to others.
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The key to remaining engaged for a lifetime is relishing the Flow.

In martial arts, sexuality, driving, writing…countless disciplines the question is how to have the basic skills at Unconscious Competence so that flow can be entered, and you can just…well, enjoy the ride.

This “Focused Flow” is the lowest level of the esoteric mind, the doorway to your highest performance. To access it there must be a balance between challenge and familiarity, pain and pleasure, attention and intention. It is here that your instinct and education blend to create an artistic response…and I don’t think it would be too much to say that every student I’ve ever had has, in one way or another, sought it.

The first step is to ADMIT YOU DESIRE IT. Then you can define how it would look and feel, and begin to identify the quality when and where it already appears in your life, and people who have greater amounts of it than you…and then begin to model them.

That means adding some behaviors, removing others, and modifying some. It will be a combination of emotions, mental focus, physical energy, and environmental design. It is your doorway to excellence.
Whatever your abilities, whatever your potential, whatever “mastery” means in your life…this is absolutely a component. Embrace it!