The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Flow and Core Transformation

Flow and Core Transformation

“Contrary to expectation, "flow" usually happens not during relaxing moments of leisure and entertainment, but rather when we are actively involved in a difficult enterprise, in a task that stretches our mental and physical abilities…”-- Mihaly Csikszentmihali

The phenomenon of Flow is perhaps the most sought-after quantifiable quality in human experience.  It is immersion in the process of writing.  It is rapture in lovemaking.  It is ease in our personal affairs and finances, the sense that we are engaged in a pleasing and contributory life work, for which we are appropriately rewarded. It is “runner’s high” and also joy in our personal relationships.  It is the antithesis of “writer’s block” or any other stoppage of our life energy.

The reason I address the physical, mental, and emotional arenas in a newsletter supposedly about writing is that, in working with thousands of students, I find that they generally have the technical knowledge needed to succeed, but lack the ability to “take the brakes off” in one or another of these other arenas, and find their energy “stuck” there.

In a wonderful book called “Core Transformation,” Connirae Andreas of NLP Comprehensive in Colorado lays out perhaps the most important concept to arise from the entire NLP community. It is this: that any behavior, no matter how brutal or evil, is ultimately an attempt to approach the divine.  I had difficulty believing this until they laid out, in convincing pattern, case after case where the actions of apparent monsters were attempts to satisfy some twisted need.  And that if that need were satisfied, the “monster” would feel safe enough to express healthier emotions, which would lead to honest and healthy interactions, which would lead to a feeling of love and contribution, and from there to a sense of true connectedness with community and universe.

It was amazing, and in working with clients, I found this single concept to be like emotional nitroglycerine: violence is the result of anger, anger is the result of fear, fear and love compete for the same place in the human heart.  Fear blocks flow.

Examined in the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs, and the yogic Chakras, a model of human energetics presents itself rather obviously.  The model suggests that when our most basic needs are satisfied, we automatically integrate at a higher level.  While not precisely exact (that would require calibration on an individual level) the process leads to an understanding regarding our experience of creative genius and flow.  Understanding this will help you grasp why certain writers and artists wrestle with the same themes year after year, or in a more personal sense, why I talk about certain racial and gender issues in my blog and in these notes: these are MY areas of damage.  I am working with them and through them.  They express themselves in my work, and manifest in my meditations.  All I want to express in life is love, but my own fear and pain “stop” my flow, and where that flow stops, stories often start.

The most important three arenas, the ones that devil most people, are those of personal finance, physical health/fitness, and sexual/intimate relationships. Please remember that this is a blunt tool, not intended as some know-it-all prescription or declaration that all human beings must be buff, and monogamous, and rich.  Lord knows such a proclamation would be idiocy: it doesn’t even match the true values of most of the best people I’ve known.  But as a rough model of human experience, it is worth looking at with ego set aside before discarding.

I know some of the arenas where my energy is bound.  Every morning, I write these notes, rarely copyediting much, just flowing and speaking the first truth that comes out of my mind and heart.  You read about what frightens me today.  Or what engages my curiosity.  What my subconscious drives me to seek out in entertainment.  What demons I wrestle with in my writing.

It just pours out, pretty much unfiltered.  Just Flow.  And my prayer is that as I engage with these issues that push my buttons and stretch my limits, there will be moments of truth that no amount of calculation could produce.  And that it is those moments that keep the readers of these messages coming back: not that there is something unusual about me.  Quite the contrary. That I am engaged in the same creative journey that all human beings take between cradle and grave, and that the only thing that eases the existential loneliness is sharing. And that the only reason we continue to progress beyond the muck is that we learn from others, and therefore have the obligation to report back from the very edge of our experience, even if what we find there is “too revealing” or embarrassing.  I know no other way to live, or to write. 

Ultimately, all that there is is structure, and flow. 

And love.

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