The word calls to mind many things. To proceed readily. To have smooth continuity. To hang loose and billowing. To deform under stress without cracking —used especially of minerals or rocks. Or, “flow” can be a particular way of thinking and feeling, more than anything else. It’s liquid quality leaks looseness, portraying it’s peaceful properties, calling to mind sheer seaside serenity.
However one may define it, I couldn’t help but recall a more unique description of the word. In positive psychology, flow can be defined as a mental state in which all your senses are working simultaneously, through conscious experience, whilst performing an activity. You’re functioning with full involvement and enjoyment in the actual process of doing that activity. Some may call it “being in the zone,” or less simply put, the optimal state of cognitive processing.
Regardless of how you define the experience, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s a universal one. Where the real uncertainty lies, is how often we each actually get a chance to experience these special moments of uninhibited existence and whether we’re mindful of seeking out the activities that bring us to this state. In an age of worldwide technological advancement, connection, and communication, the reality of what we experience tends to be displaced from our actual surrounding environment. I’ve personally found that choosing to put yourself in a natural environment at one point or another, every day, can really help re-ground your awareness. It doesn’t matter what activity, really, just that you’ve put yourself out there. Thus, allowing flow to …well, flow.
California’s gift is it’s fostering of lifetime relationships with the ocean. This increases the ability to be able to experience things in this state, quite frequently actually. I find myself returning, again and again, like the ebb and flow of the tides. And I find myself trying to share the priceless benefits and treasured secrets one may come to understand through living on the coastside. I crave the magic it seems to have over my body and my mind, connecting the two in perfect harmony. I think it’s what draws a lot of us to the ocean. So much so that, I’ve yet to leave the seaside and I hope I never will. A toe dipped off the edge of my paddle board into the crystal waters shoots lightning bolts of feelings throughout my extremities. Electrifying the very fibers of my being, drawing my mind out from any sedentary bouts I may have fallen into throughout the day.
All sorts of things are given the opportunity to come out of the blue (no pun intended there), shattering your preconceived notions about what is “possible.” Sometimes we can get so comfortable in daily routine that we assume we know everything there is to know about everything. So when life seems to lose a bit of its mystery, it’s easy to start to feel all too aware of the disconnection from experience. Oftentimes, all it takes to shake that state is a genuine moment of excitement. A sea lion stealthily emerging from the sea depths as I’m navigating through the pillars of the underbelly of Stearns Wharf. Or a Cormorant squawks from the bait platform at the mouth of the Harbor, tuning my attention abruptly to my peripheral vision, disentangling myself from unimportant thoughts. Shocking me into “the now.” And while it may startle the sheer living daylight out of me, I’m brought right back to being innocently surprised and fully engaged in the moment. In complete awe of the world once again. Everything felt is vital, integral, and transformative from one moment to the next. The positioning of the sun determines the places your body feels most filled with its warmth and energy. The current condition of the of the water moves your muscles to compensate for the the ever-changing surface. Drawing from your pool of knowledge of your body’s strengths and weaknesses. How it can move. Maybe how it can’t. When I allow my body to feel my natural environment authentically and open my mind to the sensations, I get the impression that I’m in good company. Like an old friend. A reunion with who I am.
It’s not like we aren’t enjoying life when were not experiencing flow, but it does allow us to remind ourselves of the fundamental excitement that life experience can hold. That the world is wild and unpredictable, sometimes in the least threatening of ways. That the diverse palate of colorful sunsets and sunrises here, while daily and anticipated, are each uniquely decadent treats to devour. They celebrate the beginning and ending of our involvement in the world for that day. No matter how big or small. And most importantly, the ocean us California locals tend to take for granted. In my opinion, it’s the most therapeutic environment we can be in to refresh, reawaken and reaffirm ourselves within the incredible natural space in which we coexist.
Note: The photo taken was during one of our Sunset Paddling Excursions