I love the rowing machine.
With enough focus and repetition, I can get to a point where it hardly feels like I’m rowing anymore. I’m simply breathing and dancing to the rhythm of my own heartbeat. The rowing is a biproduct of the focus. It just happens.
We call this “getting into the flow.”
It’s interesting to think of this concept of flow. We all know what it means. We all have felt it and we have seen it in others.
When a basketball player can’t miss a shot
When a comedian is effortlessly landing jokes
When you’re on a date and the conversation hits a perfect stride full of laugher and good banter
It can be tempting to think of flow as a mythical place that we are lucky enough to stumble upon from time to time. When we refer to flow in this way, we call it finding our flow. As if somehow we turned a corner and the flow was laying there on the ground, waiting for us to pick it up.
But flow state is not a lost puppy. It’s not a set of car keys. It’s a destination that we must earn the right to visit.
That’s why the more accurate description of it is getting into the flow.
For the first 2000 meters of any rowing session, I feel heavy and clunky. My mind wanders and any little movement in my peripheral vision demands I turn my head and misplace my attention. My body can’t find a rhythm and my movements are labored and inefficient.
But eventually, the magic happens. Eventually, usually at around 3000 meters, I find the perfect rhythm on the rowing machine. I have the perfect inhale as I pull forward and the perfect exhale and I explode back. There’s no stop or pause in between strokes and the experience feels more like floating than it does working.
There’s a point on the front of my rowing machine (just underneath the digital screen that tracks my distance and pace) that I gaze into. My focus and my vision don’t falter. I gaze into this tiny dot and for that moment I feel “one with the Universe.”
We all know this feeling. We’ve all been somewhere or experienced something where distractions and time disappear. It’s a beautiful state to be in.
But there’s a catch.
Flow state isn’t free and flow state isn’t on demand. Your flow state exists at the other end of your doubts and fears and mental blocks. You can only get into the flow once you have cleansed yourself of all the emotional garbage that is in your body, your mind and your spirit.
To put it simply, it means we have to force ourselves through the bad repetitions before we can get into the flow.
Flow demands us to push through the laborious painful strokes on the rowing machine.
Flow demands us to write 500 words of bad writing, before we start to find our good writing.
Flow demands that we spend 2 hours working a song we hate before we start to write a song that we love.
But usually, we quit before the magic happens.
We stop rowing at 2500 meters because we’re tired and exhausted and frustrated. We quit writing after 20 minutes of staring at the blank page, and then we chalk it up to “writers block.” But this hard work, this emotional labor, is the part that matters most.
It’s not the same as practice and it’s not the same as warming up. It’s about cleansing your creative spirit so that you have direct access to your higher self.
Flow is available to anyone, even you.
You simply need to have the courage to trek through the mud, before you can walk on the clouds.