The word “flow” frequently features in my discussions with people. Like many language short cuts, people immediately understand when we say “things are flowing really well” or “it’s just not flowing at the moment” or “a bit of flow would help”. Belonging to the language of fluids, water, blockages and leaks, flow is the state which is most valued and sought. It evokes a state of ease, lack of struggle and abundance, flow also brings new energy and nutrients to a given space.
Yet flow often feels absent or at best, fleeting. On a micro level, even when we clear the decks and lock ourselves away for a couple of hours work, be it a work project, painting or writing, flow can elude us as we block ourselves! On a macro level, life seems to put rocks and driftwood into our river in the form of challenges of all sorts.
One of my favourite ways of working with people is to use the Kawa approach. Kawa means “River” in Japanese and uses the metaphor of a river for expressing life, projects, businesses and peoples’ state or absence of flow. It might sound strange, but understanding your personal river, what blocks it and why, can help you make mindful choices which will improve flow, whatever that might mean for you.
Let’s take a quick look at my river in relation to my painting. The river bed represents the environment, both social and physical. In this aspect, my flow is impeded by my lack of space, as I currently do not have a studio. The restrictions on flow are obvious as I have to pack away my paint to allow my husband a space in the bed! The flow is also hindered by several large rocks and boulders. These rocks or “Iwa” represent life circumstances and challenges. For me, health challenges block my flow greatly, but my awareness of them and willingness to manage them, can reduce the degree to which they block.
My flow is also hindered by large branches, stuck fast in the mud. This driftwood or “Ruyboku” personal assets and liabilities. My creativity is clearly an asset when it’s being helpful, but if it’s leading me to focus poorly and work on too many ideas at once, it’s very much a liability. I often block my own flow in this way. Even if I can overcome the self-doubts, make space in my bedroom, turn off the phone and put away my laptop, I still find that overwhelm of ideas and creative chaos rush in to fill the space I have created.
There is no magic wand but just as creativity is the blocking force, it is also the key to finding ways that help. So here are some creative ways that help support me:
– A ritual to help me clear my mind, set some intentions before I start my work
– A notebook to jot down ideas- trying to stop the flight of ideas is pointless
– Mindfulness, noticing the ideas, letting them float in and out is key
– Gentleness. This wonderful thing called creativity defines me – being grumpy wastes energy and is completely pointless
– Building in times when I can just flit around and fiddle with new ideas – this lets off a lot of pressure
– Reminding myself how far I have progressed and how nice it feels when something is completed
So, what are your favourite ways of blocking your flow? How do you self-sabotage your best efforts? How do your strengths sometimes hinder you? How can you get them working for you better?
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