Flow as Karma Yoga
“Karma is about becoming the source of one’s own creation. In shifting responsibility from heaven to oneself, one becomes the very maker of one’s destiny” – Sadhguru
an optimal state of consciousness for peak performance & genius. It is a state of total, pleasurable immersion in an activity. When you are so soaked into the moment that you forget about everything else – even yourself – being at one with the action. Being in “the zone”. It is that state of consciousness where work ceases to become work and instead becomes energizing and immersive. Flow is about being swept away by the river of ultimate performance. And more than 150 years of research show that flow sits at the heart of almost every athletic championship, major scientific breakthrough, and significant progress in the arts.
“Whenever we see the impossible become possible,
a flow state is involved. – Steven Kotler
In his invigorating audiobook ‘Mapping Cloud 9 – Neuroscience, Flow, and the Upper Possibility Space of Human Experience’, NY Times bestselling author Steven Kotler argues that a spiritual path is not unlike a high performance path. They are complementary overlapping paths and from a neurobiological perspective they are actually similar. So learning about high performance can aid you on a spiritual quest and learning about spirituality can aid you on a high performance quest. Steven believes that the path to high performance is actually a spiritual path. Moreover, he states that people that are stuck on a spiritual path often benefit from a high performance answer, and people that are stuck on a high performance path often benefit from a spiritual answer.
Standing on the shoulders of giants… some history from Kotler’s book
Friedrich Nietzsche – the first major post-Darwinian philosopher – considered that the brain and mind had also evolved. Before Darwin and Nietzsche meaning and purpose in life came from God, now it has to come from humans. The ‘ubermensch’ was born. Nietzsche described a mental state as ‘rausch’, and categorized it as one of the more powerful of experiences possible for human beings. When an aesthetic phenomena stimulates such a state, the individual is vaulted into a higher mode of being, one characterized by power, strength, and an intoxication which mirrors the excitement of sensuality. It is because beauty stimulates states of ‘rausch’, “the feeling of increased strength and fullness”, that Nietzsche heralded art as “the great stimulus to life” for those higher humans whose tragic insight is keen and sensitive.
“For there to be art, for there to be any aesthetic doing and seeing, one physiological precondition is indispensable: ‘rausch’.
Rausch must first have enhanced the excitability of the whole machine:
else there is no art.
– Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the idols’
Nietzsche’s recipe for becoming the ‘ubermensch’ – superman – basically his recipe for high performance was: You have to start by finding your passion and your purpose, finding a central organizing idea. And then attack it creatively. Nietzsche also believed that struggle is not optional. He felt that the only way out is through. And the only way to move through this suffering was the “will to power” – creative self-expression : overcome yourself, become bigger than you are.
Carl Jung said that ‘culture and mama weigh a lot’, and you have to overcome them. But after you have overcome that, you need to go right at your darkness – your shadow side. Nietzsche absolutely agreed with that. He wrote: “I teach you the superman. Men is something that should be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”
Nietzsche however thought that high performance – ‘rausch’ – was not for everyone. He thought that maybe less than 10% of the population should actually try high performance. And he was not a fan of most people – the herd mentality. If you worship comfort and conformity the herd always wins.
In the 1960’s Abraham Maslow studied ‘Peak Experiences’ of highly functional people like Roosevelt, Einstein and considered these to be alternate states of consciousness. He described these as “rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter – moments of highest happiness and fulfillment” (Maslow – ‘Religions, Values and Peak Experiences’). To some extent the term peak experiences represents Maslow’s attempt to denominate those experiences which have generally been identified as religious experiences and whose origins have, by implication, been thought of as supernatural (Though the highly functional people studied where all atheists). Maslow believed the origin, core and essence of every known “high religion” was “the private, lonely, personal illumination, revelation, or ecstasy of some acutely sensitive prophet or seer”. According to Maslow, often reported emotions in a peak experience include “wonder, awe, reverence, humility, surrender, and even worship before the greatness of the experience”, and reality is perceived with “truth, goodness, beauty, wholeness, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, completion, justice, simplicity, richness, effortlessness, playfulness, self-sufficiency.”
Maslow describes that an individual in a peak experience would perceive the following simultaneously:
- Loss of judgment to time and space.
- Feeling of being one whole and harmonious self, free of dissociation or inner conflict.
- Feeling of using all capacities and capabilities at their highest potential, or being “fully functioning”.
- Functioning effortlessly and easily without strain or struggle.
- Feeling completely responsible for perceptions and behavior. Use of self-determination to becoming stronger, more single-minded, and fully volitional.
- Being without inhibition, fear, doubt, and self-criticism.
- Spontaneity, expressiveness, and naturally flowing behavior that is not constrained by conformity.
- A free mind that is flexible and open to creative thoughts and ideas.
- Complete mindfulness of the present moment without influence of past or expected future experiences.
- A physical feeling of warmth, along with a sensation of pleasant vibrations emanating from the heart area outward into the limbs. Self-actualisation is a concept developed by Maslow that is characterised by one becoming all they want to be, and can be, by maximising their potential.
In the 1970’s the late positive psychologist and author Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pioneered and named the notion “flow” after researching for years what makes people happy and creative. He popularized this mental state – accessible by everybody – in his book ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal experience’. He describes flow as “An optimal state of consciousness where you feel your best and perform your best. Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost. A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
The psychological characteristics of flow are (Dr Csíkszentmihályi’s ‘big six’ – described by Kotler):
- Complete Concentration : more specifically on a limited field of information. Engagement, enjoyment and total absorption in right here, right now. Attention locked on the task-at-hand. Flow follows focus.
- Merger of action & awareness : Becoming one with what you are doing. This is the front edge of that “oceanic boundlessness”, that sense of oneness with everything. It means that the sense of duality, that sense of being both an outside observer and an active participant in your life, melts away. This is what Taoist philosophers describe as “harmony”… of being swept away by the river of ultimate performance. Less poetically, it’s heavy-duty task-specific focus with deadly-accurate, high-speed problem-solving.
- Loss of Self : Self vanishes. Our sense of self-consciousness as well. The inner critic is silenced. The voice of doubt disappears, confidence increases.
- Time dilation : Either time slows down, and we get that freeze frame effect, or time speeds up, and five hours pass by in five minutes. Past and future vanish, and we are plunged into an eternal present, what Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo nicknamed “the deep now”.
- Sense of control : We have a powerful sense of control over the situation – often in a situation that is normally not (quite so) controllable. In this moment, we are captain of our own ship, master of our destiny.
- Autotelic experience : (effortlessness) “Flow is what people feel when they enjoy what they are doing, when they don’t want to be doing anything else. What makes flow so intrinsically motivating? The evidence suggests a simple answer: in flow, the human organism is functioning at its fullest capacity. When this happens, the experience is its own reward”
Kotler states that flow is a peak performance state you need frequent access to in order to learn how to work with it. He argues that flow is very trainable, and that we are actually hardwired for it. How do you find flow? Flow follows focus. Steven describes flow triggers that drive attention in the right here right now: Essentially these triggers drive Norepinephrine and Dopamine into your system, and they lower your cognitive load (more on the neuroscience of flow later).
“The more flow you get… the more flow you will experience.
– Steven Kotler
Individual Flow Triggers:
- Curiosity > Passion > Purpose
- Complete concentration
- Deep Embodiment
- Immediate Feedback
- Clear Goals
- Challenge/Skills Balance (> 4%)
- Pattern Recognition / Creativity
Group Flow Triggers:
- Serious Concentration
- Shared, Clear Goals
- Shared Risk
- Good, Open Communication – “Yes and…”
- Active/Close Listening
- Autonomy – Sense Of Control
- Familiarity – Vulnerability
- Equal Participation (& Skill Level)
- Blending Egos
The challenge / skills ratio is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the golden rule of Flow. You have to make sure you are pushing all the time, just a little bit so you’re at the edge of your challenge threshold. That’s where we perform our best. Steven says: “Flow appears near the emotional midpoint between boredom and anxiety, in what scientists call the flow channel — the spot where the task is hard enough to make us stretch but not hard enough to make us snap. How hard is that? Answers vary, but the general thinking is about 4 percent. That’s the sweet spot. If you want to trigger flow, the challenge should be 4 percent greater than the skills.
The Passion Recipe: cultivate your curiosities, amplify them into passion, and transform it into purpose. It’s not an overnight process. Some steps take weeks/months to accomplish. Take the time to get it right. Building you motivational stack deserve it’s time. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. The key is to connect your passion with a purpose larger than yourself. A Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) as it is called by Salim Ismail in the book ‘Exponential Organizations’: “a grand scale vision statement that is audaciously big and aspirational, can cause significant transformation to a huge group of people – a community, an industry, or even the whole planet, uniting and inspiring action in everyone involved.”
What can block you from getting into flow? The 10 Flow Blockers are:
- Fixed mindset – External locus of control.
- Distraction (it takes minimum 15min. to get back into flow)
- Exhaustion – Not enough sleep.
- Lacking clarity.
- Lacking motivation.
- Lacking time.
- Self-sabotage – Negative thinking, lack of physical and mental preparation
The neurobiology of flow
So what goes on in our brain when we are in a mental state of flow? Thanks to advances in brain imaging we learned that instead of using more of the brain, we are actually using less of the brain in flow. The technical term for this is Transient Hypo-frontality, meaning deactivation of the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that houses your higher cognitive functions, your sense of morality, your sense of self. And studies have shown that this is actually also what happens in the brain of meditators. (Note: In his book ‘Tools of Titans’, Author Tim Ferris mentions that all high performers have some sort of meditation practice!)
Brains in flow are in an enhanced mental state and enjoying a rush of neuro-chemicals. This is an addictive neurochemistry cocktail:
- Dopamine – The reward neurochemical – Acts like Cocaine.
- Endorphins – Endogenous Morphine – Pleasure chemicals.
- Serotonin – Acts like MDMA/XTC.
- Anandamide – Endocannabinoids – Bliss chemical, acts like THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.
- Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline) – Acts like Speed.
- Oxytocin – The ‘Connection / bonding and love’ hormone.
- Acetylcholine – A muscle-activating neurotransmitter used at the neuromuscular junction – in other words, it is the chemical that motor neurons of the nervous system release in order to activate muscles.
- gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA).
Social bonding neurochemistry:
- Norepinephrine + Dopamine = Romantic Love
- Endorphins = Maternal Bonding
- Serotonin = Social Security / Satisfaction
- Anandamide = Openness to Experience / Others
- Oxytocin = Trust
Neuroelectricity & Brain Waves
The human brain has billions of neurons (brain cells), and each individual neuron connects to thousands of others in intricate systems. Communication happens between them through small electrical currents that travel along the neurons and throughout enormous networks of brain circuits. When communicating with each other networks of neurons fire synchronized like charged storm clouds. And this happens at certain frequencies, which we can measure as brain waves. Brain waves are oscillating electrical voltages in the brain measuring just a few millionths of a volt. This activity is strong enough to be detected even outside the brain. By placing electrodes on the scalp, this activity can be amplified, analyzed, and visualized. This is electroencephalography, or EEG.
One way that EEG brain waves convey information is in their rate of repetition. These oscillations are measured in cycles per second (Hz, or hertz). Neuroscientists categorized 5 main brain wave types or flavors: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. These different brain waves correspond to different states of thought or experience.
Neuroelectricity & Brain Waves: 5 main types of frequencies as measured through EEG.
- Gamma (32-100 or 40 Hz) – Heightened perception, lateral thinking, creative ideas, mental sharpness.
Fastest measurable EEG brainwaves, and have been equated to ‘heightened perception’, or a ‘peak mental state’ when there is simultaneous processing of information from different parts of the brain. This is much stronger and more regularly observed in very long-term meditators including Buddhist Monks.
- High Beta (20-32 Hz) – Intensity, hyper-alertness, anxiety.
- Beta (15-20 Hz) – Normal alert consciousness, active thinking, emergency.
For example: Active conversation, Making decisions, Solving a problem, Focusing on a task, Learning a new concept. This is easiest to detect when we’re busy thinking actively.
- Beta – SMR (sensorimotor rhythm) (13-15 Hz) – Mental alertness, physical relaxation.
- Alpha (8-13 Hz) – Physically and mentally relaxed, peacefulness, meditative.
Alpha brainwaves are some of the most easily observed and were the first to be discovered. They become detectable when the eyes are closed and the mind is relaxed. They can also often be found during activities such as Yoga, Just before falling asleep, Being creative and artistic.
- Theta (4-8 Hz) – Creativity, insight, dreams, reduced consciousness, optimal meditative state.
Studies have shown that theta waves indicate deep relaxation and occur more frequently in highly experienced meditation practitioners. The source is probably frontal parts of the brain, which are associated with monitoring of other mental processes. Most frequently, theta brainwaves are strongly detectable when we’re dreaming in our sleep (REM), but they can also be seen during deep meditation & daydreaming. When we’re doing a task that is so automatic that the mind can disengage from it e.g. brushing teeth, showering. Research has also shown a positive association of theta waves with memory, creativity and psychological well-being.
- Delta (1-4 Hz) – Deep sleep, repair, unawareness, deep-unconsciousness.
These are the slowest of all brainwaves, and are strongest when we are enjoying restorative sleep in a dreamless state. This is also the state where healing and rejuvenation are stimulated, which is why it’s so crucial to get enough sleep each night.
Generally speaking, we spend most of our day in a beta brain wave frequency. It’s characterized by active thinking, problem-solving, ruminating, and focus on tasks. Essentially, beta waves signal that you’re in ‘doing mode’. If you close your eyes, you might slip into an alpha state, becoming calm and introspective. Alpha also marks a creative zone, and it’s the one you’re in every night before falling asleep. Meditators demonstrate even slower brainwaves, slipping into increasingly relaxed, yet still alert, theta frequencies. When your brain produces slow delta waves, this generally means you’re in deep, dreamless sleep.
Finally, high-frequency gamma waves often come in brief moments of heightened awareness and insight, like when you bite into delicious food or solve a crossword puzzle, or in ‘a-ha insight’ moments as quite common under the shower (Gamma spikes).
When you change your brainwaves from beta to alpha, you slow down your neocortex (the analytical, thinking brain). As your brainwaves slow down you leave the domain of the conscious mind and enter the realm of the subconscious mind. We could say then, that if you are somewhat conscious and aware but not actively engaged in thought, your consciousness is moving out of the thinking neocortex and entering the midbrain, otherwise known as the subconscious, the home of the autonomic nervous system and the cerebellum. This is where powerful changes can be made. By suppressing the analytical facilities, we shut down the critic in our brain, the neocortex. As your brain waves slow down, and you get beyond your analytical mind, your brain moves into trance and you are more suggestible to information. The inverse is also true. As your brain speeds up, you become more analytical, the brain moves out of trance, and you become less suggestible for information. Suggestibility is your ability to accept, believe, and accept information without analyzing it.
Meditation lowers your brain wave frequencies, while fear & emergency increases your brain wave frequencies.
During childhood brain development an evolution in dominant brainwave patterns can be measured:
Age 2–6 : Children’s brainwave patterns move predominantly into theta. So children at this age and stage in their life are in a hypnotic and highly suggestible state. Due to the delta and theta brainwaves, and the fact that they have not yet developed the analytical mind, in the first six years of a child’s life they are very programmable. Thus, because the editing function of the mind has not yet formed, information goes right into the subconscious mind. Comments like – ‘big boys don’t cry’, ‘little girls should be seen and not heard’, ‘you’re not very good at math’, ‘money is the root of all evil’,… – these are all negative suggestions that begin to subconsciously program a child. If we can negatively influence a child at these early ages with such reinforcements, it makes sense that we can program a child in the opposite way!
Age 6–12 : Children move into alpha, a stage of imagination and wonder. This stage is where children pretend, play make believe, dream of being astronauts and princesses, and so on. This is the realm of the imagination – a very important realm – because during this stage children are as creative as they are easily influenced. They look at the world in wonder, looking at everything with fresh eyes and loving new things (neophilia). Looking at the world with this child-like wonder and fresh eyes is something adults can learn and benefit from enormously to boost their creativity and empathy. Treasure child-like wonder, what is referred to as ‘the beginner’s mind’.
Age 6-25 : A child’s analytical mind gradually starts to form around age 6–8. Around age 12 – when the analytical mind more fully forms – tween’s move into beta. In beta, our attention is predominately on the outer world. This is why it’s important to program children before the analytical mind forms (because it takes very little effort to subconsciously influence them) and why training children with positive suggestions at a young age builds the foundation of who they become later in their life. Risk avoidance analytical thinking is only fully developed by the age 25. That’s when rigidity sets in.
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion, there is no thought. All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are a true beginner. We can really learn something.
– Shunryu Suzuki, ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’
Non-ordinary states of consciousness is a term defined by John Hopkins psychiatrist Stanislav Grof as dramatic shifts in perception, emotion and thought are the real key to unlocking our creativity. 3 of today’s most familiar non-ordinary states are: Meditation, Flow and Psychedelics – with specific neuroelectric signatures.
In a flow state brain wave patterns in the Alpha/Theta range + Gamma are measured. This indicates brain functioning at the edge of optimal creativity!
Studies show that brain waves in meditation are primarily in the alpha and theta range. Applying neurophenomenology, it’s probable that you’re down-shifting from anxious beta into more tranquil alpha and theta states. But the patterns are different depending on the type of meditation, like Focused Attention (dharana), Good Vibes (metta), Open Monitoring (vipassana), or Mantra. For example, Focused Attention requires more active control, while Mantra is comparatively effortless. Also, the brain waves in meditation may vary based on the skill of the meditator and the amount of time meditating. Although the research is limited, neuroscientists have found remarkable changes in “Olympic-level” meditators who’ve clocked over 12,000 hours of practice. Cutting-edge research found that they produce significantly more gamma brain waves than an average person, even after formally meditating. This study and others suggest that long-lasting altered traits are possible with training. The average person might experience momentary gamma wave activity when an insight comes, but some highly-trained meditators live in this state all the time.
Deep sleep drops you into even slower delta brain waves. You’re basically in a mental blackout during this period. According to Dr. Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley, the slower brain waves during sleep may help bring information between distant brain regions. Amazingly, scientists found that a famous Yogi, named Swami Rama, could maintain conscious awareness while entering deep delta wave sleep. Rama used an ancient Yogic meditation technique (Yoga Nidra), to enter delta sleep while still recalling external events.
These technologies, and neuroscience as a field, are still in their infancy. EEG has a good temporal resolution (real-time measurement), but lacks spatial resolution, picking up aggregated signals from the outside of the skull. As an analogy, EEG technology is similar to placing a microphone outside of a sports stadium and trying to figure out what’s happening on the field from the cheering of the crowd – it’s helpful but rudimentary. While we can peek under the hood at our inner mental mechanics, we’re still living in the early ages of brain science. Another challenge is how to interpret this data. While it’s helpful to know that brain wave patterns correlate with different states of mind, this doesn’t indicate causation or present a perfect mapping. Although neuroscience still has a long way to go, we can know for sure that significant change occurs in the brain during meditation, sleep, flow states, and other shifts of consciousness, as indicated by our brain waves.
Just recently the neuroscience startup Kernel Neurotech has shipped their first Brain-Computer Interface helmet known as the ‘Kernel Flow’. Just like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, the company Kernel Neurotech was founded in 2016 to explore the world of neuroprosthetics and implantable brain-computer chips to give humans the ability to control machines and computers just with our minds. However unlike Neuralink, which currently focuses on medical devices, Kernel pretty quickly shifted its focus onto building a non-invasive brain-computer interface for average consumers in the form of a simple helmet that you can put onto your head to immediately start quantifying your brain. Their mission is to make neuro measurement mainstream. ‘Kernel Flow’ is a non-invasive, full-coverage, optical (TD-fNIRS) headset that can be used in nearly any environment for recording real-time cortical hemodynamics to establish precise patterns of brain activity. The most near-term functionality of kernel’s revolutionary brain computer interface helmet will be the ability to always know the current state of your mind. For an example, have you slept too long or too little, are you in a creative state of mind in which you could optimally write or draw works of art. The headset would be able to know everything about your brain and automatically derive suggestions on what you should do to better your inner feeling or performance in whatever you want to improve in. The knowledge of when the optimal time is to do so and when it isn’t promises to be a huge improvement at the rate of which you learn things and would save so much time.
In his recent book ‘Karma – A yogi’s guide to crafting your destiny’, Sadhguru gives an exquisite and clear expose of what karma actually is. Sadghuru explains that Karma is not about punishment and reward. “Karma is not about being sinful or virtuous. Karma is about understanding the legacy of information that comes with our birth and continuous through our life, enhances itself to various levels and impacts every dimension of our experience.”
“The word karma literally means (outward) action… that means as the actions that you perform become more and more conscious, your destiny also will become a more conscious possibility… that means essentially you are going where you want in your life. For most human beings socially and career wise they maybe going where they want reasonably but in their experience of life a whole lot of human beings are not going their way.”
“So ‘my life is my karma’ essentially means I am the maker of my life. You can craft your destiny by being conscious about various levels of karma that you perform in terms of physical activity, mental & emotional activity, and energy activity. Karma simply means we have created the blueprint for our lives. It means we are the makers of our own fate. When we say ‘This is my karma’, we are actually saying ‘I am responsible for my life.’ Karma is about becoming the source of one’s own creation. In shifting responsibility from heaven to oneself, one becomes the very maker of one’s destiny. Karma is the natural basis of all existence.”
“Karma is action on three levels: body, mind & emotions, and energy. Whatever you do on these three levels leaves a certain residue or imprint upon you. Your five senses are collecting data from the outside world every moment of your life. You are literally being bombarded with stimuli at every instant. Over time, this enormous volume of sense impressions begins to assume a certain distinctive pattern within you. This pattern slowly shapes itself into behavioral tendencies. A cluster of tendencies hardens over time into what you call your personality, or what you claim to be your true nature. It works in the reverse as well: Your mind shapes the way you experience the world around you. This becomes your karma – an orientation to life that you have created for yourself in relative unawareness. You are not aware of how these tendencies develop. But what you consider to be “myself” is just an accumulation of habits, predispositions, and tendencies you have acquired over time without being conscious of the process. In other words, karma is like old software that you have written for yourself unconsciously. And, of course, you’re updating it on a daily basis. Depending on the type of physical, mental, and energetic actions you perform, you write your software. Once that software is written, your whole system functions accordingly. Based on the information from the past, certain memory patterns keep recurring. Now your life turns habitual, repetitive, and cyclical. Over time, you become ensnared by your patterns. Like so many people, you probably don’t know why certain situations keep recurring in your inner and outer life. This is because these patterns are unconscious. As time goes on, you turn into a puppet of your accumulated past. But this software is not a fate to be endured. It can be rewritten, dropped, or distanced.”
“In losing awareness of self is the trap of karma. The hunter becomes the hunted, the architect becomes the bonded laborer, the creator becomes creation. A spider trapped in a web of its own making is a tragedy. – Sadhguru
“With a little awareness, every human being can begin to transform habit into choice, compulsion into consciousness. Yoga — literally union — refers essentially to a science of transformation. Karma Yoga — the science of transforming memory into choice, passivity into dynamism, identity into possibility, sleepwalking into awakening. Karma means that you are capable of being at your best and doing your best in this very lifetime. It implies a movement toward your ultimate well-being.
Even good deeds can be performed compulsively, rather than consciously. This can lead to entanglement rather than liberation. It is the how that makes the difference. It is the volition that counts. If action creates bondage, it is karma. If action creates freedom, it is karma yoga. If you perform action miserably, it is karma. If you perform action joyfully and effortlessly, it is karma yoga.”
Approaches to Karma Yoga: Awareness and Abandon
Sadhguru explains that karma can be shed in two ways: either by acting with awareness or by acting with total abandon.
“Mental alertness is not awareness. Mental alertness will help enhance your ability to survive in this world. The mind is a useful faculty of discernment, essential for survival, but of no existential consequence. Awareness is a far deeper dimension. It is not something you do. It is not an action. It is a state of being. It is the way you are. Awareness is inclusiveness, a way of embracing this entire existence. You can set the right conditions for it to happen, but you cannot do it. If you bring the physical, mental, and energy bodies into alignment, there will be room for awareness to blossom. Once that blossoming becomes experiential for you, you explode into the oneness of existence. This is yoga, the ultimate union.
Acting with abandon means that your involvement has become so intense that you are willing to abandon yourself. You are willing to just give up everything that you consider to be yourself. Now, abandon can certainly happen by simply sitting still, but it is not easy. It takes great awareness to do this in a state of inaction. On the other hand, in intense states of activity – when you are running, dancing, or playing a game – you can give yourself up with total abandon. In such moments, there is a disconnect between your past and you. When you are completely lost or immersed in any activity, the influence of your past karma is no longer upon you. Many sportspersons and artists know this state of immersion, but the frustration is that they are unable to sustain it. Immersive activity can give you a taste of freedom, but it cannot last. Yoga is the science of sustaining that experience.”
FLOW AS KARMA YOGA…
So what does this all mean for you as a leader, innovator or game changer? You can see that when you have more frequent access to flow states and consciously act in flow, that you are actually performing karma yoga and resolving karma on your way to liberation. This brings another dimension of importance to flow and lifts its importance beyond yourself. Not just as the key to high performance and a joyful satisfying live, but also as a key to liberation and as such essential on your path to self-actualisation. That is the mystical secret of flow! In flow you become one with the activity. Instead of perceiving the activity and being separate from it you become the activity.
You become aware that you are not your body… you are not even your mind.
It is essential that you find your passion and a purpose that is larger than yourself. And then dedicate yourself to it with all your creative ability and find your flow in this as much as possible. A flow coach can support you with this.
We live in times of tremendous change and a new type of conscious leadership is needed. We need leaders with a strong massive transformative purpose, a purpose larger than themselves. Leaders that have frequent access to flow and act consciously. “If you want to maintain a status quo nothing new will ever happen. A leader means you are a madman always wanting to step into something new… your life is an adventure.”
Sadhguru states that “being a leader places you in a position of a certain responsibility and privilege. If it is not dispensed with Integrity, Insight and Inspiration then that leadership is bound to flounder.” For Sadhguru these 3 I’s are the 3 qualities of a great leader and it is the DNA of success.
“If you want to be inspired you need to do something that is larger than yourself. There has to be a risk or an element of uncertainty. If people don’t see that you are willing to step into something that no one else is willing to step into, you cannot inspire anybody. Where there is no danger there is no adventure. Where there is no adventure nobody will be inspired by you.
Where there is no integrity you cannot inspire. Integrity means you are committed to something larger than yourself. You are committed to something beyond your self-interest. If people do not see that, you cannot inspire.
Insight means that you are able to see something that most people fail to see. You see things before other people see it. The reason why insight is lacking is that people are largely trying to function with their intellect. This is an unfortunate consequence of the type of education that has been important everywhere. Your intellect only functions with data that has been fed into it. Data means memory, thus things that have already happened. So if you function from the data you have, nothing new will ever happen. Insight means you do not get identified with something limited. What you identify with is what you become. In that sense you are not able to look at life just the way it is. If you are not able to look at things just the way it is, this is because you have given more significance to memory than to human attention & intelligence. Human attention can open up doors in the existence. Human memory will just recycle the past. Do not mistake information and data as intelligence. Human intelligence is sharpened only by attention, not by thinking. Thinking means recycling data. If you want to maintain a status quo data is important. It is that data driven intellect that will eventually be taken over by artificial intelligence.” We humans need to go back to our humanity and rekindle the fire of insight, creativity and intuition (However that is a deep topic on its own for a next article). “A leader consciously steps into danger, so your life becomes an adventure. Because your life is an adventure everybody is looking up to you.”
These 3 I’s are what the light bulb in the VALEXION logo stands for: values-driven innovation, transformation & regeneration through Insight, Inspiration and Integrity. This path is not always easy, and every leader, innovator or game changer deserves and benefits from coaching support. The purpose is to provide you with neuroscience-backed support on your joyful path to self-actualisation. May your purpose be massively transformative. That is your path to liberation.
“Everybody has creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world. – Paulo Coelho
Standing on the shoulders of giants…
In this article I have quoted extensively from fabulous works by Steven Kotler and Sadhguru for the purpose of sharing ideas, to inspire, and to instigate reflection. I have tremendous gratitude for the knowledge shared by these thinkers and I am greatly indebted to these gentlemen. My wish is for you to find in this article what serves you. The world needs you.
#flow #consciousness #leadership #consciousleadership #insight #integrity #inspiration #karma #karmayoga #creativity #creativepotential
Steven Kotler is a 4x New York Times bestselling author, and 2x Pulitzer Prize nominee. He is famous for titles such as ‘The Future Is Faster Than You Think’, ‘Stealing Fire’, ‘Tomorrowland’, ‘The Rise of Superman’, ‘Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think’, ‘Bold’, ‘A Small Furry Prayer’, ‘West of Jesus’, ‘The Angle Quickest For Flight’, and ‘Last Tango In Cyberspace’. He is the Director the Flow Research Collective. Their top-notch online training in flow and peak performance – ‘Zero To Dangerous’ – is highly recommended.
Sadhguru is a world-renowned spiritual thinker, visionary, yogi and mystic. He is a man whose passion spills into everything he encounters. Named one of India’s 50 most influential people, Sadhguru’s work has touched the lives of millions worldwide through his transformational programs. Sadhguru has a unique ability to make the ancient yogic sciences relevant to contemporary minds, acting as a bridge to the deeper dimensions of life. His approach does not ascribe to any belief system, but offers methods for self-transformation that are both proven and powerful. He is the recipient of presidential awards for exceptional service, environmental & social initiatives.
Sadhguru is a New York Times Bestselling Author, and he is famous for exceptionally insightful books like ‘Inner Engineering – A Yogi’s Guide to Joy’, ‘Karma – A Yogi’s Guide to Creating Your Own Destiny’, and ‘Death: An Inside Story – A book for all those who shall die’. The online course in – ‘Inner Engineering’ – offered by his Isha foundation is highly recommended and fundamental to empower yourself to create your life the way you want it. Inner Engineering is a technology for well-being derived from the science of Yoga. It is offered as a comprehensive course for personal growth that brings about a shift in the way you perceive and experience your life, your work, and the world that you live in.