Effortless Mindfulness Is Like a Flow State

Effortless mindfulness is not only experienced during meditation or relaxation. When we open into it, we find a new balance between being and doing.

Effortless mindfulness is not only experienced during meditation or relaxation. When we open into it, we find a new balance between being and doing. In this age of multitasking, effortlessness may be hard to understand, let alone value. There is a Chinese phrase, wei wu wei, often translated as “effortless effort” or “effortless doing,” which is activity that is natural and in harmony with everything. In Tibetan Buddhism, effortless mindfulness is sometimes called non-meditation because we discover the spontaneous flow of wisdom and action. Effortless mindfulness is compatible with an active, engaged life since it can be practiced with eyes open, anywhere. You can look out of your window at work and, in a few minutes, shift from a sense of feeling worried or fearful into effortless well-being and compassionate connection. You can return to your activity, now operating from effortless mindfulness.

You may know a form of effortless mindfulness as “being in the zone” or in a flow state. Flow is one of the most important areas of research in contemporary psychology. Many of us consider flow an optimal way of functioning while doing complex tasks. In 1990, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD, published his seminal book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, based on years of research. Csikszentmihalyi and his team studied the ways people engage in sports, art, music, scientific research, and other tasks in order to enter a state of flow.

Csikszentmihalyi points to these seven qualities of flow:

  • Knowing that an activity is doable, that our skills are adequate to the task
  • Being completely involved in and focused on what we’re doing
  • A sense of ecstasy
  • Great inner clarity: knowing what needs to be done and how well we’re doing
  • A sense of serenity: no worries about oneself; a feeling of going beyond the boundaries of ego
  • Timelessness: being thoroughly focused on the present so that hours seem to pass in minutes
  • Intrinsic motivation: whatever produces flow becomes its own reward

Most people master the task they are good at to enter the flow state. But in effortless mindfulness, we first shift into an integrated flow state, and then we can do any task from heart knowing.

GLIMPSE: From Your Heart

  1. Pause . . . notice your next out-breath . . . then, with the next in-breath, let your awareness move from your head down to your heart.
  2. What is it like to know from your heart?

It’s often effective to record the mindful glimpses you like best in your own voice, at a pace that seems right for you. Then listen to your own voice lead you home.

You can also find recorded glimpses in Loch’s audio training guides: Shift into Freedom: A Training in the Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness and Effortless Mindfulness Now.

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