One of the three external flow state triggers is known as deep embodiment. This consists of being deeply connected to your five senses, as well as proprioception (how you experience yourself in space), kinesthesia (your sense of movement in space), and vestibular awareness (your sense of balance and spatial orientation).
One of the ways a flow state unlocks your ultimate performance potential is through a process referred to as transient hypofrontality. This is where parts of the prefrontal cortex deactivate for the purpose of energy efficiency and the need for an increased level of awareness and processing speed. Shutting down the parts of the brain associated with self-consciousness, our internal critic, and impulse control allows us to intuitively act without having to be slowed down by conscious thought.
How to Achieve Deep Embodiment
For extreme athletes, being present and embodied is necessary for survival. Nothing quite captures our attention like risk, which is another of the three external flow triggers. For the rest of us who are not going to surf a fifty-foot wave or snowboard down a several thousand foot cliff this week, there are numerous ways to achieve deep embodiment.
Personally, I regularly practice several meditations specifically designed to help you become embodied and access flow states more frequently. I know. I know. I’ve heard all the objections to meditation – “I can’t sit still,” “I can’t stop my mind, etc.”. You can go to MasterTheKey.com to read an article I wrote on why meditation is so hard for most people and how to overcome these blocks.
Motivation and Clear Goals Are Key
To summarize, you need a defined purpose or motivator for why you are meditating in the first place. I find most individuals fail from the very beginning because they do not have a clearly defined goal for their meditation. They are doing it because of the overall benefits they have heard meditation can produce, but they lack specific goals they are attempting to attain through meditation. This results in a decreased level of motivation.
In addition to an overall goal, each meditation must have specific target objectives for that session. Pushing the edge of our skill/challenge ratio consistently is one of our biggest intrinsic motivators. Regularly pursing your goals will result in your brain providing a steady release of dopamine, which is one of the primary drivers of behavior.
Another aspect of meditation I would recommend, particularly in the beginning, is to keep it brief. I practice numerous types of meditation that vary in length. The one’s I utilize for flow and peak performance are no more than a few minutes. This also enables me to use aspects of them on the fly in a performance situation to move out of the struggle phase of flow and into the release phase.
Trauma and The Body
Any activity that has mindfulness as a component is great for developing deep embodiment from yoga to taking a mindful walk to surfing, etc. Presence is key. In my trauma work, teaching clients how to ground is an early part of their treatment plan. For individuals suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), the body often becomes the enemy. Learning how to ground out of a state of high anxiety or dissociative numbing is essential for beginning the healing process. This is achieved through providing stimulus to one or more of their five senses and mindfully tracking the body’s response. I may have them smell different essential oils or touch items with various textures to achieve this task.
If these techniques can stabilize someone from having a PTSD flashback, they can definitely help you develop more body-centered awareness. Most people are very disconnected from their body. This is one of the chief reasons they do not experience flow or peak states very often. Moreover, the body is capable of processing information much faster than the cognitive parts of the brain
Trusting The Wisdom of The Body
To achieve flow and peak performance requires letting go, trusting the body and your subconscious brain to do what your conscious mind is incapable of. How many times have you seen an interview, watched a sporting event, or viewed a film where a coach or mentor was admonishing and encouraging the person to get out of their head, relax, just have fun, and enjoy the process.
Similar to meditation, I find people tend to overcomplicate the process of becoming more embodied. It is the essence of simplicity. Just start to regularly notice how your body responds to various activities in your daily life. When you feel frustrated, where do you notice the sensations in your body? When you feel deeply connected with someone, where do you notice the sensations in your body? When you are excited or anxious, where do you notice the sensations in your body? That’s all there is to it.
Embodiment Is Key To A Fulfilling and Meaningful Life
If you practice this consistently you will begin to notice several important things: you will experience life more fully by being increasingly more affected by the world around you; you will develop a greater level of connection with others; and you will notice more regular occurrences of flow states. Research shows experiencing flow states more frequently will result in not only achieving your peak performance but a greater level of happiness, fulfillment, and life satisfaction.
Engaging in activities that force you to be present and connected to your body and senses is the fast track into the flow state. Moreover, achieving flow can reduce the time it takes to learn new skills by up to 75%. Take the time to reflect and identify the actions and events that have generated deep embodiment throughout your history. Then, begin to participate in these practices consistently. This will not only lead to a more exciting and enjoyable life but is one of the keys to unlocking your full potential.
John Hawkins Jr., M.S., L.M.H.C.
John has helped thousands of clients overcome the hidden internal blocks which had kept them from achieving their maximum potential. Furthermore, he has assisted them in gaining clarity of their true life purpose, identifying their gifts and talents, and developing lives of greater meaning and significance.