How to Lean Into Creative Ruts to Invite Flow State & Maximize Your Fulfillment
Operating from a flow state of mind can present you with a myriad of benefits including a deep sense of focus, prolonged clarity, and the fulfillment that follows the completion of a meaningful task.
Let’s not forget to mention, flow can also feel like a badass compilation of Jedi-Neo energy and that is one good look we can all embody.
As a flow artist, I spend a lot of time with my hoop as a weapon of love and expression. With my one-year hooping anniversary approaching, I plan on sharing more about optimizing flow and integrating this state of being as a daily practice.
For now, it feels most helpful to share some of the lessons I have learned from leaning into creative ruts and how I utilize curiosity to navigate my way out and through.
Well, what exactly is the flow state anyway?
Flow is the difference between forcing and allowing, trying and being. When we are in the flow state, something is triggered in the mind and body that allows us to get in the zone.
If you look at interviews with some of the most influential artists and athletes, they’ll credit flow state to being the space where creativity expands, time ceases to exist and where goals are achieved with ease.
In this space, runners reach new distances, and painters are poised to birth masterpieces. It becomes less about the desired outcome and more about the idea, the unfolding of a process in the present moment.
Creative flow is the ability to fully immerse oneself in an inspiration without chatter running in the background. Goodbye, monkey mind. Depending on the situation at hand, a level of mastery is required to operate from a flow mentality.
For example, when I first started practicing yoga I heavily relied on attending classes to learn different poses and connect beyond the physical component.
Once I grew in consistency, my body began to lead itself without thinking about the next move. Other examples include the mastery of a musical instrument or learning a new recipe.
The psychologist behind flow
Coined as the father of flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this state as a “focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity. You know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback.” This is also a nod to the benefits of consistency and repetition that helps solidify the subconscious mind.
While he recently passed at 87, Csikszentmihalyi dedicated a majority of his studies to explore the human psyche after growing up in a post-WWII world seeing the adults in his life struggle to find happiness or fulfillment. He describes flow as the act of doing something for the sake of doing it.
“It’s not that a person feels particularly happy” while caught up in flow, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi told the Seattle Times in 1991, “because there is no time really for feeling. But it’s an experience that in retrospect you say, ‘That felt really great,’ and you try to repeat it, you try to get back into that state.”
As an artist and subconscious mind guide, I love learning more about the mechanics and inner workings of flow. The way I experience flow during a hoop session is deep within my body. I’m not thinking about what my next move will be, how to get there, or how to land a trick.
Instead, I am deep in a subconscious state where my practice fuels operation and motion from the highest state of auto-pilot. In this sense, the subconscious becomes my greatest inspiration and best support system.
It’s not always flow state and rainbows. Creative ruts are just as juicy.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a few creative ideas and hobbies going on that you are deeply passionate about. While some days can feel a bit booked with self-imposed pressures to perform at peak levels, we must remember our humanness to enter these ruts with compassion and curiosity.
This is what has helped inform my creative field while generating more ways to approach and land myself out of a creative slump. In this space, my mind is clear and my heart is set on illuminating a budding vision. Things become less about the outcome and more about the unfolding of a process that ultimately becomes the result.
I’ve found this to create a ripple where magical moments will align almost as if, dare I say, I manifested it. When we are in this state of inner and outer alignment, it’s fairly simple to attract your dreams and desires in full force. However, all is subject to change and the seasons will always turn. What happens when we fall out of flow or when we find ourselves in a creative rut?
There are numerous practices and rituals to help us get out of a rut and induce a flow state. While proven to be effective, could the approach of willing ourselves out of feeling stuck defeat the entire purpose?
Perhaps there is a flow to be found amid unwanted stagnancy and crippled creativity. I’d even be so brave to say, finding myself in a rut can be as equally beneficial as the magic that seeps out from the flow state when met with curiosity and patience.
While it is not always flow state and rainbows, the creative rut sails in like a cloud waiting to wash through you removing any pent-up or stuck patterns.
Honoring the seasons of creative flow and creative ruts
“This too shall pass,” has stood as a pillar amongst proverb throughout the ages while holding the capacity to remind us nothing remains the same. The big idea you discover yourself in today is a testament to all every comfort zone you have overcome.
On the flip side, the cloudy days you find yourself under inspire the perspective that the sun will shine again. Ultimately, your creative fire is bound to ebb and flow through the internal seasons you land in.
No change is black and white or this or that. Just as with every inhalation comes the release of an exhalation, there is a space in between that has the potential to inform us of everything we need to get through to the other side.
While it might feel enticing to induce a flow state, there is so much to learn from leaning into the wall that crashed your state and embrace what it has to say to you.
Next time you find yourself in a rut, take a moment to grace your muscle memory with an appreciation for combining your passion and focus toward the task at hand. Whether you are a software developer or a musician, muscle memory has gotten you far in the flow realm already, hasn’t it?
As an imaginative soul, hooping and writing isn’t the only modality where I find myself in a flow state of mind. I also experience flow in the seemingly mundane like washing the dishes.
Regardless of what activities help you feel flow the most, it’s fair to say our bodies speak the loudest when we feel stuck. The mind will come up with all sorts of ideas and this can be helpful on any other day, but when we are stuck it is an invitation to drop into our physical.
A lot of this has to do with muscle memory. While they are a fabulous tool for hard-wiring the mind and body, they are also great markers for when change is needed.
This is exactly why athletes switch up their gym routines, why guitarists practice different scales, and why the average man might switch up their route to work.
Change isn’t just a constant. It’s a necessity that needs you just as much as you need it.
Since the body is always communicating with us, I have found it helpful to either mentally or verbally speak to it and then listen.
These are some questions that have helped me along the way:
- Where has the muscle memory in my mind or body been overdeveloped?
- Is it possible my muscles are bored of this flow or routine?
- In what ways could this rut be witnessed through different areas in my life? Where else may I be caught in a riff?
These are a few questions that instantly take me out of feeling defeated or stuck in the moment. Rather than seeking solutions to get back into flow, I turn within to listen to the wisdom my body has to share first. You might find the solution in this stillness or maybe you’ll feel inspired to sit deeper in the silence.
I deeply feel there is a flow to be found within the ruts we come to face and experience. If flow is all about being in the now, in the process, fully present in the act of doing, why shouldn’t this apply to the rut state?
I’ve found the less I resist or try to fight stagnancy, the more deeply I can settle into the stillness and listen to the whispers of wisdom that inform a solution. Oftentimes, the information I receive during a hoop rut tends to be a universal thread of advice fitting other aspects of my life.
In a recent hoop rut, I found myself insanely frustrated with repeating the same moves or sequences. I felt bored and as if my body was moving on mere autopilot. Yes, I was in what might appear as flow to the passerby, but my body was only moving from a place of physical muscle memory. I felt limited in my expression and allowed myself to stop hooping for a moment.
As I found stillness, I began to ground into my body. Through these questions, I discovered how this rut informed other areas of my life that didn’t feel in flow. I put my hoop down and dove into a journaling session that moved me through a lesson this rut wouldn’t have taught me if I overlooked it with tactics to get back into flow. If you’re not into journaling, you can simply move through these questions utilizing your mind’s eye.
Pushing beyond limits
Although I have referred to the flow state as an ally to artistic or professional endeavors, it is also a great informant to healing trauma and upgrading stagnant beliefs.
When comparing flow state to a creative act like making music, the levels of mastery achieved in constructing a song serve to inform the artist’s approach to creation. Would you believe me if I told you the same applies to our healing and evolution?
Sometimes we find ourselves in a rut as a result of past pains and this can affect us in harmful ways. Perhaps there was a time you felt rejected by a group or were shut down after expressing your emotions.
These are experiences that can alter the ways we show up for ourselves and others. The trauma blip interrupts our natural state of being and can either be seen as a limit or as an opportunity.
Captivated by change as the only constant, Michelle covers topics including consciousness, sustainability, art, and the imagination. Founder of Flux Air, a conscious website, she navigates through narratives that propel evolution.