The Art & The Science of the Flow to Grow practice
There is an art and a science to everything. Art usually comes first. Divine inspiration leads to creation. And then we study the heck out of it to try to figure out why and how it works so we can replicate it over and over again. This is what we call science.
The Flow to Grow practice is no different. On the surface, the Flow to Grow practice looks like a little meditation followed by expressive writing, aka journaling. But what is meditation anyway? And why is this important to this practice? Ah, you see. As we look more closely, there is far more to be revealed.
Meditation is essentially a practice that allows us to shift out of regular consciousness and enter into a magical brain state called the alpha-theta state. It’s a state that the brain naturally falls into just before we fall asleep and just before we wake up. This is when our creative and intuitive brain is most active, and it’s from this place that most of our best ideas come.
It’s a place where we are able to tap into something higher, a higher knowing, sometimes one that goes beyond reason and speaks to us through colour, poetry, and sometimes really bizarre combinations that don’t make any logical sense but move us in a profound way. It is the creative unconscious at play; others would call it our collective unconscious. Whatever it is, when we tap into it, the universal experience is of something coming through us. In a way, our immediate sense of having a self dissolves and we become a mere vessel for inspiration to come through.
Accessing the gifts that this brain state has for us is nothing new. Most artists, performers, athletes, or anyone doing anything that is both effortless and amazing at the same time can attest to the experience of being in a flow state where creation just seems to happen, and where they are simply the channel for its expression.
The most poignant example of this happened for me about a year before I decided to bring the practice of expressive writing to the masses in my own way. I was in a period of growth. I had decided to challenge my boundaries by saying “Yes!” a la Shonda Rhymes style to whatever offers I received to serve my self imposed mission of democratizing mental health.
I expected this to include maybe doing a talk here and there. What I didn’t anticipate was a request to MC a live hip hop show where a young female hip hop artist was going to make her debut. What what ?!!! That is not my jam. I am not that person. I am not funny. I am not a performer in any way. I have no idea why the person who asked thought I would be good at this. I cannot do it. No way…. Or could I? Damn it! I quickly realized that in spite of my internal turmoil, I had no choice. This was the universe testing me to see if I was really serious about expanding my limits (and a reminder to be careful what you ask for). And so, like Shonda, I said yes.
That same week, I had enlisted in a clinical hypnosis training course. Clinical hypnosis is essentially the study and practice of shifting consciousness and entering into a trance state. It is one of the most effective tools we have for facilitating healing of all kinds. And it is on the continuum of meditation. This is how I meditate. Rather than starting in a light trance (which is what meditation does) I have trained myself to go deep from the start. Why do I mention this here? Because it was my reintroduction to the practice of clinical hypnosis at a time when I was in a somewhat self-imposed period of growth, that started me on the path of realizing my creative potential.
Back to the story:
As part of the hypnosis training, we were given homework to practice putting ourselves into trance. That evening, I was doing some self-hypnosis and called forward the vision of myself as the MC of that live event. I am part of the 50% of the population who rarely experiences visual imagery, so when I do, it really has an impact. This time an image unfolded that I would never forget.
While in trance, a experienced an image of sitting at the side of the stage, watching the artist do her thing. As I watched her perform, I saw this incredibly bright light surrounding her and thought, “She is such a star”. When she was done her set to tremendous applause, I stood up to stand beside her. Facing the crowd with the light in my eyes, I was only able to make out the dark outlines of their bodies. And as I stood there I was again aware of a light surrounding the artist. This beautifully bright, white light. And there was another separate but overlapping beautiful white light surrounding me too. The insight that came through was this: we are both stars.
I brought myself out of a trance and emerged feeling quietly confident that I could do this thing. I knew that I could find my footing on that stage in my own way. Feeling content I went to bed.
The next morning was mine to sleep in, a rare and coveted opportunity for me, a mother of young children. And yet, I could not sleep. I was so annoyed. This was my chance to sleep and my brain would not. Shut. Up. It kept repeating the same phrase over and over and over again. I tried to ignore it but to no avail. So I did what seemed logical. I surrendered to it. I sat up, grabbed my journal and wrote it out. The phrase was, “ We are all stars”. Here is what flowed out of my pen next:
We are all stars
Who fell from the heavens
Shining so bright
who at some point decided
to dim the light
to get along, to fit in,
we let the darkness of doubt win
then spend a lifetime, searching
for the light
that is our birthright
so that we can return home.
I sat there in wonder for a few minutes as I stared down at the words that came through me at the same rate that it took you to read them. These few words spoke volumes to my soul. I knew that the words came through my hands but it didn’t feel like it was me speaking. This was another voice. A voice that was infinitely loving and wise and was showing up for me, sharing a simple truth, in this beautiful artistic way.
A few hours later, I visited a dear friend who has become my creative mentor. There happened to be a friend of his at his store where he hangs out. So I shared the poem with both of them. I told them the truth, that is was something that came through me that morning. And they were impacted. My mentor’s friend looked at me and said that I should print those words on a wall-sized poster. His response was an affirmation that this piece of writing was something that others also needed to hear.
Since then, I have shared this poem in many places. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is at the front of the Growing Forward Journal. I have also made it into a poster (regular, framable size), and I have shared it live during public speaking events. It’s not because I think I am some kind of poet. I am not. I share it because it was a gift that came through me from something that is not me. And if it impacted me, it is likely to impact others. I was the receiver of this gift and, given its impact on me, I feel it’s my obligation to share it.
This is why you will always be encouraged to share here. And ideally with the exact words that come through as we practice putting the brain in that magical intuitive, endlessly creative alpha-theta state. Because the way that message comes through you, the tone and metaphor that impact you deeply, is not just for you. It’s for the rest of us too.
The Flow to Grow practice, is a practice of several things, with each piece playing an important role.
- It sets the loving conditions that will allow the soul to speak. And this requires practice.
- It puts us in a place where we are most open to receiving inspiration. And this requires practice.
- It creates an openness to listening to whatever our truth is. And this requires practice.
- It allows us to become committed to understanding and honoring our truth. And this requires practice.
- It allows us to truly be alive in whatever is unfolding right now even when it is not an experience we would choose. And this requires practice.
The outcome of this practice is a deep sense of connection to ourselves and to each other and unshakeable confidence in our resiliency even when it feels we are falling apart. Because we have practiced.
This understanding is not unique to me. It has been echoed by other incredible teachers whose personal stories of their life journeys reflect their endless creativity. Interested in doing some more reading on the subject? Head over to the Bulletin Board to see a list of my favorite reads on the subject.
And don’t forget to comment below. Whether you relate or not, your perspective is part of what is needed for us to Grow Forward, together.
With Love & Deep Respect,