My Three Selves: Flow and Finding Balance

There’s a feeling I get sometimes when things are going really well. It’s a mixture of flow and paranoia. This is not just an out-of-body experience, but an out-of-out-of-body experience. I’m not just watching myself, I’m watching myself watching myself.

Let me first talk about flow. I’m italicizing that word, because it’s not mine, but to put it into quotes would trivialize it–and it’s not a trivial state. Flow is found by runners, writers, mathematicians, musicians, artists, gurus, dancers, athletes, heck–children in the middle of imagining. Flow is a meditative feeling, a feeling that you are right in the center of things, or that your body has taken over and is working without your brain mulling over every minute detail. For runners, flow is when you feel like you could run forever, or when you don’t even remember your feet are moving under you because you are just looking at the world around you. For writers, it’s when you are so immersed in the story you’re writing, the room around you disappears.

Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of flow, I catch myself stepping behind myself and thinking, “huh, so this is flow? This is awesome! I wish this could last forever! I would get so much done!”

And then, there’s another me that steps back from the part of me that is celebrating the flow, and that part of me thinks, “whoa, calm down. Now that you’ve just acknowledged that it’s going really great, shouldn’t you be careful? ‘Nothing gold can stay’ and all that. Maybe being all caught up in this isn’t such a good thing.”

And there you have it: my three selves. None of them are the real me; all of them are the real me.

In some way, all three of these selves lie somewhere on a spectrum. The first and last are the extremes: totally immersed in the flow and totally afraid of it. In between is the self that is able to observe the flow and revel in it, but is also aware of the outside world as well as itself.

I don’t want to be entirely immersed in the flow all the time. Anyone would be carried downstream. It’s overwhelming to have too much of anything, even a good thing.

At the opposite end is the paranoia. I don’t want to be constantly looking over my shoulder. There is a certain amount of luck and coincidence that comes into play when hard work, circumstances, or creativity allows the world around you to begin to click into place. The Wang Lungs of this world (The Good Earth by Pearl Buck–read it!) speak ill of their good luck to not anger the gods, but what good does that do you in our world?

I want to be more of my middle self. I want to keep a watchful eye out for the gods that want to do me harm, so to speak, but I also want to celebrate my good fortune and hard work. Flow only comes out of hard work. It takes miles of training to finally reach a few minutes of running in flow, but it’s the best feeling in the world. Who has ever heard of a kindergarten child having a moment of flow while practicing his or her letters? But writing in a daily journal can provide a mental escape that is priceless.

Do you practice anything to achieve flow? Do you have any tips to quieting that pesky, questioning third self?

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2 responses to “My Three Selves: Flow and Finding Balance

  1. This sums up pretty much exactly what happens when I meditate. You just put into words a completely intangible experience, and did so quite eloquently I might add. I love your writing, friend!

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