A I K I D O –
Being in state of flow
“A heart felt
gratitude gives birth to any art form. Even the art of aikido is not strictly
defined; but rather, it is the art of adapting to circumstances as well as the
art of freedom.”
“The path of love” –
and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba,
Belgrade 2002, pg 12.
2. Concept of flow
3. The mechanism
3.2. Psychic energy
– directing ki
4. Elements of flow in aikido
Clear goals and feedback information
Loosing awareness of oneself
5. Types of flow
My aim in this text is to analyse a psychological state that can be
reached through the practice of aikido (but not only in aikido)1 and that is commonly referred to as the state
of flow or just simply - flow, as one of the key
elements of emotional intelligence (in the words of Daniel Goleman: “Being able
to enter flow is emotional intelligence at its best; flow represents perhaps
the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performance and
Flow is a state, which most aikidokas have reached at one point or another, and
that to a greater or lesser degree, without necessarily having recognised it as
such while experiencing it. An insufficient recognition of this state means it
fails to be fully utilized as much in one’s overall training, as in one’s daily
life. Hence one misses the opportunity to consciously experience its immense
benefits and so tap into one’s own potential more fully.
During flow emotions and thoughts are suspended and directed; they are
positive, strong and focused on one specific task, stance, move, technique, or
movement, in other words on directing one’s energy, and in so doing one opens
the door to an experience, which according to many authors is more important
than material wealth, fame, power or some other symbol of wealth and
Perhaps the best comparison to a state of flow is that of harmony and oneness
during the act of making love.
In this text, I have limited my analysis to the three basic aspects of this
The concept of flow
The mechanism of flow and
The elements of flow,
seen as starting
points for reflecting on this vast subject, while relying as much on the
scientific (psychological) findings and approach, as the experience gained
through the practice of aikido.
2. Concept of flow
The Chicago University professor of psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has
dedicated over twenty years to researching the question of human happiness. At
the end of his research he had arrived at the experience, which he had named - flow.
In his view, happiness is viewed in the context of quality of a given
experience, which as I mentioned in the introduction, is more important than
material wealth, power, fame and other popular symbols of happiness. We find
happiness when we are fully focused on all the details of our life, good and
bad alike, but not when we try to look for happiness directly. All of us have
experienced periods in our life (momentary, or of varying lengths of time),
when we felt we have control over all our actions and that in some inexplicable
way, we weave our own destiny. In those rare situations we felt joyfulness, a
deep joy we’ve nourished for a long time inside us; and hence this experience
becomes a yardstick, a measure for what life should be about. This is known as optimal
experience, something that we create ourselves.
During his research, professor Csikszentmihalyi analyzed experiences of several
hundred ”experts” in their respective fields (artists, sports persons,
musicians, chess players, surgeons…), following an assumption that they spend
most of their time in activities they prefer the most. Following accounts of
their experiences, he formed a theory of optimal experience that was
based on the concept of flow: “…a state in which people are preoccupied with a
given activity to such a degree that they don’t pay attention to anything else;
in this state, the experience itself is so pleasurable that one is willing to
carry on doing the activity at any cost and without any other ulterior motive
His research has shown that, irrespective of age, gender, or any cultural
differences, all participants described optimal experience in a similar way.
The experience of flow was not only a characteristic reserved for the wealthy
and the educated. Very much on the contrary, it belonged to many others:
farmers, shepherds, factory workers, be they elderly, middle aged or teenagers.
These preliminary findings gave the foundation for coining the term “flow”,
after which it was possible to put together a comprehensive questionnaire, eventually building a
picture based on having accessed and interviewed4 over 100,000 individuals across the world.
All this, combined with theoretical explanations, inspired a wave of school
curriculums, business training programs, product design and leisure services
across the world; it stirred the experts into devising various new approaches
in clinical psychology, underage delinquent rehabilitation programs, activities
in hospitals, old people’s homes, etc.
3. The mechanism
In order to explain the mechanics of flow, which essentially is based on
controlling and directing thoughts and emotions, it is first necessary to point
out the concept of content of consciousness, followed by attention (seen as
psychic energy) that governs the processes of consciousness.
There are many different ways one can understand and define consciousness5, although here I shall consider one offered by the above mentioned
professor of psychology: “…we can look at consciousness as a deliberately
arranged information.”6 Such a definition is based on the information
theory and a phenomenological understanding of consciousness, taking into
account primarily events (phenomena) we are subjected to through direct
experience, and less so the anatomical structure, the neuro-chemical processes
- i.e. the effects of the unconscious, which makes the perceiving of these
events possible. It also includes the knowledge about how the information we
receive is being stored, processed, filed and used, which refers to the
dynamics of attention and memory.
keeping in mind the concept of consciousness, it would be good to define here
the concept of “awareness”: awareness is the process in which certain
specific events (i.e. sensations, feelings, thoughts, intentions) appear,
become manifest, and where we are in a position to direct their course.
the outside events have no existence for us, unless we have an awareness of
them (i.e. we have some sort of knowledge about them), it means that
consciousness is connected with a subjectively experienced reality. While all
that we experience carries potential for becoming our doorway into
consciousness, the actual number of experiences that truly become part of it is
very small in comparison. Consciousness is a mirror that reflects what our
senses tell us about the happenings outside of as well as inside our bodies
(primarily the nervous system), reflecting these changes selectively, actively
shaping events, thus imposing on them its own reality. A reflection provided by
consciousness we call our life, meaning: the sum total of all that we have
heard, seen, sensed, felt, our hopes, joys, sufferings, etc., from the very
moment of birth right through until death. Although we are often inclined to
believe that processes outside our consciousness do exist, a direct proof
exists only in those that find their place in it.
contained in bits of information that are contained within consciousness, are
called intentions. As such they appear in one’s awareness whenever one
becomes aware of (has the knowledge of) wanting to or intending to achieve
something. At the same time, intentions can also be made up of bits of
information that are shaped by biological needs as well as by the adopted
social goals. Intention is merely a descriptive term and as such it does not
speak of why someone wants to do something, but simply that it is so.
are organized within the hierarchy of goals, which determines their mutual
relationships, i.e. their order of importance. Most people adopt their goals
based on the needs of their body (to live a long and healthy life, to have a
successful sex life, and so on), or based on desires planted by their
particular social system (to be and do good, to work hard, etc.). However,
these goals can also be very flexible. Those individuals who step outside the
norms, for example saints, sages, artists, poets, explorers, and so on – the so
called “special individuals” (often referred to as “thinkers”)7 – are the ones who seek different things in
life from the majority; their life shows that consciousness can be organized
within a frame work of different goals and intentions. This means that each one
of us has the freedom to control our own subjective reality.
Psychic energy – directing ki
enters our field of consciousness either as a result of us intending to direct
our attention to it or else because it is following the instructions based on
our biological and/or social conditioning. Attention is that which chooses the
relevant information from the potential millions available. We need attention
in order to retrieve the appropriate bits of information from our memory, then
to assess that particular event and finally to reach the correct decision about
how to act.
person who can control their awareness is capable of concentrating their attention
according to their will; they are able to isolate themselves from distractions
and to concentrate until their desired goal is reached.
attention determines what will and will not appear in consciousness, and since
all other mental actions, i.e. memories, opinions, feelings and decisions take
place in consciousness, it would be safe to characterize this directing of
attention as the psychic energy, because in any of the said processes it
is essentially the case of activating, constituting and directing energy.
by the virtue of the fact that we are the ones who choose the way in
which we use our psychic energy – we are our own creators. Since this
energy is under our control, we can do with it what ever we wish, which is why attention is one of the means to reach a given goal – a betterment of the quality of
aikido, attention is the primary force that moves “ki”, or better still, by its
essence – it is “ki”8. It is clear that in order to learn any stance, move, technique or
movement one needs to give one’s attention to learning it. Attention, in its
essence is a thought; or rather at the root level of attention lies a thought
process. However, at the root of a thought process lies an emotional one.
Therefore, attention contains within itself both the emotional and the
to a classical psychological definition, attention or energy (i.e. constituting
and canalizing of “ki”) is governed by the “self”, which is also seen as
a content of consciousness, representing: all memories, desires, actions,
intentions, pleasant and unpleasant experiences, etc., as well as the hierarchy
of goals which have been built during one’s life time. In a broader sense, the
concept of “self” can be seen as the same as that of the “mind”. “Self” is the
most important element of consciousness since symbolically it represents all
other contents of consciousness, as well as the “plan” of their mutual
“self” governs attention, or else psychic energy. But, if the “self” is a sum
total of all the contents of consciousness and of a structure of its goals, and
equally the contents of consciousness and the goals therein are results of
various degrees of employing one’s attention, then we end up with a closed
system that runs along the rim of its own circular design, without any clear
starting point (so in other words not at all touching on the commonly referred
to concept of “cause and effect”). The “self” governs attention and
attention determines the “self”. Both claims are true, since awareness
(knowledge) is not strictly linear system, but rather a system based on a
circular causality – hence the above claim.
aikido this process comes to its full prominence: through attention one
activates and moves “ki”, and by using spiral movements this process increases.
This in turn has a rebound effect on the particular utilisation of one’s mind
in the direction of development of awareness. Spiral movement initiates
processes “above” duality of the mind, and therefore above the yin-yang
movement of energy within us. In turn, this leads to activation of the
psycho-physiological “cleansing” processes and harmonization of body and mind,
and so to the development of one’s awareness.
identify yourself with the vibration of the Universe, a mutual exchange takes
transformation is the basis of any art form – a wondrous effect of energy.
the vibration of the Universe adapts to your body and it gives birth to light,
enthusiasm and strength.”
“The Path Of Love” –
and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba,
Belgrade, 2002, pg. 59.
some information disrupts our awareness by jeopardizing its goals we get into a
state of inner disarray or rather psychological entropy, meaning a disorganized
“self”, which thus renders it less efficient. Our optimal experience is the
state that is exactly opposite to such psychological entropy.
are situations in which attention can be freely used for creativity; since
there is no disorder, there is nothing to threaten the “self” – this state
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the “experience of flow”9. We have often experienced it for ourselves, as well as heard others
describe it: “I was in the flow”, or “It was as if I was floating”, or “I
forgot about myself during practice”, “I totally lost track of time”, etc. Many
times the experience of flow happens while we are sitting in seiza position –
the mind turns “inwards”, emotions are suspended and channeled, and the
thoughts get directed towards a conscious state of stillness and inner harmony
with which we identify ourselves.
the experience of flow, when compared to moments before this, a structure of
what we call the “self” or “I” is more complete and more harmonious. This is
the result of the two significant psychological elements:
differentiation, in which we
recognize our inner emotional and thinking currents as something that is
connected to us specifically – our individuality,
- integration, which relates to an opposite process, meaning a movement
towards togetherness with events, situations, other people and ideas that lie
outside the “Self” – i.e. union with others.
state of flow helps for the two said principles to integrate – through merging
– because the “self” in the broader context of the mind reorganizes itself,
having discarded the outdated superfluous contents (emotions and
thoughts) and stimulating those processes that spontaneously aid a development
of awareness through self-observation and connection with one’s surroundings.
Elements of flow in aikido
wealth, status, power, image – all have become powerful symbols of happiness in
today’s modern society. For the majority of people, these symbols are synonyms
and as such they become ways of measuring the value of others and themselves.
Lives of those who posses these qualities are immediately seen as valuable and
worthy, even if there is plenty of evidence that such people are more than
often feeling unhappy and empty. But symbols can change and often have a
tendency to pull us away from the reality of life, which we mistakenly tend to
see them representing. And the reality is that the quality of life does not
directly depend on what we posses or what others think of us. The key factor
lies in what we feel in relation to ourselves and in relation to what happens
around us. In order for one to improve the quality of one’s life, they must
improve the quality of experience, in order for it to result in an increased
harmonization of the “self”, and that is possible through an increased and
prolonged being in the state of flow.
pointing out the elements of flow, it is important to bring your attention to
the difference between a mere satisfaction and exultation – as an essence of
Satisfaction and exultation
is a feeling we reach whenever a particular information tells us that we have
met certain expectations, which were based on either our biological or social
conditioning. Satisfaction is an important element of the quality of life, but
in itself it does not bring happiness. It helps in bringing about order within
consciousness (if we are hungry we eat, if we feel tired we rest by watching TV
or having a massage, etc.), but on its own it can’t form a new order in
consciousness. If aikido is practiced only as means of improving one’s fitness
levels, tonality, self-defense skills, or even a psychological release, and so
on – all that will be achieved is the sensory and perhaps a limited emotional
satisfaction. But this is nothing special since it does not bring about inner
harmony, a sort of harmony that reaches higher and deeper, each time resulting
in development of awareness.
happens when a person not only satisfies their needs, desires or some previous
expectations, but when it goes beyond these (i.e. that which has in some way
been programmed) reaching a new quality, through something unexpected and until
then unimaginable. This is a specific characteristic of exultation – the
experience of something new, unexpected or of some extraordinary achievement.
In aikido it is an experience of having successfully performed a certain move,
lock or movement, which until then kept eluding us. But more importantly, it is
combined with the awareness of where it all comes from, how it takes shape and
what it changes and shifts within us. This process assumes total presence
(awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings) during practice.
that offer satisfaction can also lead to exultation, although the two differ
greatly from each other. For example, a walk results in satisfaction for most
people, but only a few get to feel exulted by it, because the majority does not
pay enough attention to very act of walking and all the many sensations it
offers – the so called taking energy from the earth, etc. Similarly, when one
practices some basic techniques (expl. shionage, iriminage, kotegaeshi, ikkyo)
one should pay attention not only to how that technique relates to one’s
partner, but also how it relates to oneself, how the spiral movement instigates
one’s own inner processes – physical and psychological. It is good to try doing
these techniques on one’s own (without a partner), while remaining aware of
every move, feeling the energy being stirred within...
it is possible to experience satisfaction without (or rather with very little)
psychic energy invested into a given action. On the contrary, exultation can
only happen as a result of an increased attention given to a particular action
that’s being performed. Equally, someone can feel satisfaction without putting
in much of their own effort into what they are doing, for example if certain
centers in the brain are being stimulated artificially (i.e. electrically or
through drug use). However, as these are externally induced states of a heightened
alertness and perception and not naturally (i.e. spontaneously) occurring ones
and as such removed from one’s own control, it is not possible to feel exulted
from any action performed while in such a state.
summarise, if we are not fully present, that is fully concentrated on the given
activity (be it as simple as a walk, having a fully engaging conversation, or a
more complex one such as carrying out an aikido technique and so on).
is reached when we expand our world through introspection and actual presence
“The Path Of Love” –
and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba,
Belgrade, 2002, pg. 51.
is an unstable state, because only a slight psychic energy is being invested
into it, so that the pleasant experiences (e.g. performing a technique with a
minimum of concentration) falls short of developing the “self”.
order for someone to gain control over the quality of their experience, they
must first learn how to weave exultation into activities that take place
throughout the day. This in turn will enable them to transfer the affirmative
experiences from their training into the everyday experiences. The research has
shown10 that psychological conditions that allow for
the optimal experience to emerge are possible always and do not vary from place
that lead to flow require one to invest one’s psychic energy, but are not
possible to perform without certain abilities. For example, writing requires
concentration and the knowledge of the rules and laws of a written word; also
painting, which apart from concentration requires the knowledge about a
particular painting technique, and so does composing music as it requires one
to know how to read notation and many other things other than just
concentration, etc. In the case of aikido, it is clear that one needs to know
the actual techniques, locks and throws, and at the same time these need be
performed with a level of relative ease. To illustrate what I mean by this and
bearing in mind that presently it is not possible to scientifically measure the
quantity and quality of the use of energy (ki), I shall state the opinion very
much present among the teachers of aikido in regards to the physical effort,
and that is that any effort that exceeds the equivalent of lifting 8kg in
weight – is not aikido11.
situation can be used as a gateway into a state of flow, providing that our
abilities are being utilised and developed. Even activities such as
competitions can provide access into flow if taking part in them means
enhancing our own abilities. In aikido there are no competitions; what there is
instead, is the most important form of competition, and that’s competing with
oneself – one’s self-search.
aikido (just as in any other activity) there is a so-called golden edge between challenge and ability, or rather when the challenge is in balance with
our ability to act. For example, someone may be getting exulted from performing
certain techniques in a less demanding fashion (doing the ikkyo ura,
kotegaeshi, etc. slowly), and yet when they are required to do it faster this
may cause them frustration. That is why it is necessary that both instructor
and student ascertain what is optimal, and to gage the level of activities
accordingly. It is important to on one hand take into account the current level
of skill and knowledge of the student, and on the other hand to determine what
sort of challenge their level of ability would find stimulating and engaging,
as opposed to burdensome and overwhelming.
that the body and mind
permeated with the soul of a warrior,
by wisdom and profound peace.”
heart of aikido”
and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba, III,
Belgrade, 2005, pg. 15.
a given activity demands all of one’s relevant abilities, that is a point when
one’s attention is completely absorbed by the activity. Here, there is no
surplus of psychic energy available to tackle any other piece of information
outside the activity at hand. All of one’s attention is concentrated solely on
the relevant stimulus. During these moments (or periods) one stops being so
intensely engaged in what they are doing, the activity itself takes over
spontaneously, almost automatically; one then sees oneself as not separate from
what they are doing, but as one with it. At such a time a given activity (be it
writing, playing music, movement…) is recognised as flow – oneness (unity) of the subject and of the process at hand unfolds.
basic goal of sitting in seiza is to instigate a state in which the external
influences are being switched off, primarily the excessive emotions and
thoughts, and so through a spontaneous turning of mind inwards (towards its
source), to “enter” a state of silence (tranquility and harmony), which in time
enables one to remain in the state of flow for a longer and more frequent periods
during the practice of techniques.
actual meaning of flow is not in reaching perfection in a given activity, but
in attaining and maintaining union with it – for as long as possible. In aikido
therefore, the accent is not on comparing oneself with others (I am doing
this better or worst than someone else) nor on reaching perfection (as it
actually does not exist in the manifested world, in time and space), but rather
on the very being in that state of flow, which in itself brings about progress
in self-knowledge, through an increased communication with oneself.
great strength lies in one’s thought and this must be the focus of one’s
practice, but only with the right feeling.”
“The Path Of Love” –
and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba,
Belgrade, 2002, pg. 57.
4.4. Clear goals
and feedback information
condition for entering flow is having a clear achievable goal, as well as
feedback that always immediately follows the action. For example, a climber is
closer to his goal every time he climbs a centimeter higher, and simultaneously
he carries this information with him all the way to the end.
a person doesn’t know how to establish clear goals and how to recognise and
process the feedback information they get from the activities they are involved
in, they won’t be in the flow.
certain activities including aikido (as well as tai chi, chi gung, yoga…) one
must develop a strong personal (inner) sense of what they are supposed to do.
For instance, during the practice of aikido one of the tasks is to execute
techniques performed with one’s partner as accurately as possible, free hand
and weapon alike. It is possible for the feedback information of whether this
was successfully met to reach an instructor, but this is not even close to the
quality of that “inner sense” (intuition, inner realisation…) of the
practitioner of whether they have performed it successfully. It is the
development of this very sense of aikidoka’s own inner state that presents an
important condition for recognising flow, and the later easier reentry into it.
value of the feedback information lies in the symbolic message contained
therein: a message of having reached one’s goal. This knowledge results in
restructuring of information, their harmonisation in consciousness and so it
amalgamates the “self”.
your perception of what the Universe
looks like and how it acts and turn the
techniques into the carriers of
purity and grace.”
heart of aikido”
and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba, III,
Belgrade, 2005, pg. 14.
every type of feedback information can be pleasant under the condition that it
logically and spontaneously emerges from the goal, into which someone had
invested their psychic energy. Each one of us is extremely sensitive to a
certain band of information so to speak, which during our life time we learn to
value more than most other people, therefore the feedback information
containing exactly that type of information (relevant specifically to us and no
one else) will be regarded as more important for us than for anyone else. The
feedback information sought after by someone is always an expression of some
emotion. For some it is important to attain a good physical form, or a high
level of fitness, or the elasticity of muscles and joints, or to “release” the
excess tension and stress through training, while others are more concerned
with following the inner processes, such as: the energetic, psychological and
other trends and tendencies.
total concentration of attention on the task at hand leaves no space in one’s
awareness for information regarded as irrelevant to the task. While in flow,
one forgets all the unpleasant aspects of life. Firstly sitting in seiza
(switching off the unpleasant influences – emotions, thoughts, feelings,
happenings…), followed by focusing one’s attention on the events taking place
in the dojo creates the general conditions for entering a state of flow.
defined goals and requirements for a training session bring order and harmony,
thus minimizing the possibility for disorder and disharmony to arise within a
practitioner. At such time, information that was stirred in the process of
one’s training is selectively formed in one’s awareness; this is why all the
worries, problems, negative emotions and thoughts that are normally prominent
in one’s awareness are temporarily suspended. And even after the training they
do not return in the same force as before, as due to flow one has effectively
increased the harmony and unity of the “self”.
during flow, together with clearly defined goals and an immediate feedback
ensures a qualitative shift in awareness (reaching an ever-higher levels of
harmony by the way of integration of the mind), thus creating a pleasant state
– a state of psychic non-entropy.
is important to note that pleasant experience of flow is not as simple as a
mere sensory satisfaction (which in itself is certainly not a negative thing),
but rather it has an added quality, attained only through awareness (or in
other words, the knowledge of each individual element of oneself in that
particular moment), which in itself represents the development of awareness.
experience of flow also includes the sense of control, or more accurately, the
absence of concern over the possibility of loosing control, typical to many
situations of everyday life. Essentially, it is more the case of the sense of
the possibility, rather than the actual realisation of control.
accent here is not on the pathological excitement one can reach while being
exposed to danger, but rather on the affirmative emotions enjoyed by someone
who is in the state of flow and that give rise to the pleasant sense of being
capable of controlling potential situations and forces (physical and energetic
surges). It is also important to point out that activities that produce a state
of flow so to speak, even those more difficult and even risky, are being
constructed in such a way that they still enable for the development of the
abilities necessary to bring the number of possible mistakes to a minimum.
imagine how much thought and practice one needs to put in perfecting all the
elements of one technique, let’s say ikkyo omote, in order to acquire a level
of control that would enable them to perform it with ease. But not only that:
to actually feel it, to have a clear sense of control while executing it. This
is where real beauty and subtlety of aikido becomes apparent – when you are
aware through direct and total experience of how the most complex techniques
(full of numerous subtle elements, as well as being aware of your relationship
with your partner) can be performed with ease through control. This realisation
enables you to identify yourself with the process of execution of a given
technique, and so to become one with it – i.e. to be in the flow.
is necessary at this point to issue a warning: here lies a danger for a person
to become addicted to their own ability to control a pleasant activity (this
being an activity without entropy – without disorder) so much so that one is
unable to redirect their attention onto anything else; this is when one looses
control, i.e. the freedom to constitute the contents of awareness. Then
pleasant activities that produce flow take on potentially negative attributes.
This way from just pleasant they become addictive, thus maximizing one’s
attachment to a particular way of behavior, which by definition reduces one’s
ability to resolve and deal with problems in life. Because aikido places a
strong accent on self-awareness (being a universal principle, an expression of
man’s inherent drive towards self-realisation) expressed as application of its
basic principles, it does not lead towards creating attachments. On the
contrary, it leads towards breaking down of all forms of attachment (primarily
to a body and mind) and ultimately towards freedom.
awareness of oneself
mentioned earlier, when a certain kind of activity is being developed, there
simply is not enough free attention left in a person engaged in that activity
to enable them to exchange any other unrelated stimuli.
preoccupied with oneself uses up psychic energy; in everyday life we often feel
threatened by others, starting from various ways we are expected to carry out
our responsibilities, through possible illnesses, to the very uncertainty of
life on the whole. Whenever we are feeling endangered, we need to bring back
into our awareness an image we have of ourselves, in order to find out whether
the threat we are facing is a real one and if so, how can we best deal with it.
However, flow leaves precious little room for such enquires, just as it does
for the very opportunity for the “self” to become endangered in the first
of “self” from one’s awareness doesn’t mean that while in flow one has lost all
control of their psychic energy, or that one is not aware of what is happening
in their body and mind. Optimal experience of flow assumes a very active role
of the “self”. For example, while doing a certain technique, it’s important to
direct your attention to every single movement you perform, and even more so to
your whole being. Then the very process of directing attention (a so called
direct attention) will bring about the flow, or we can also look at it as – a
state of identification with the process of a given activity, which results in
the loss of awareness of “self”.
Therefore, a loss of awareness of oneself doesn’t mean loss of the “self”, but only
that – a loss of awareness of “self”.
we are not preoccupied with our “self”, or rather when we get a chance to
expand the concept of who or what we are, this can lead to the transcendence of
this “self”, towards a sense that we have somehow shifted the limits of our
very existence. Such occasional giving up of the sense of “self” is necessary
in order to build it, because in flow a person’s challenge is to give it their
all and to continually make progress in their chosen activity. But later, when
the activity is finished, and the awareness of oneself has a chance to return,
the “self” that is experienced is no longer the same as the one that was there
before we entered flow: we are left enriched with new abilities and fresh
A sense of fulfillment after training, a result of being in the state of flow (particularly
after the multiple training sessions, as in the case of several days long
seminars), will spontaneously transport into the days following the experience,
and even longer, into all spheres of life (family, work, friends…)
4.8. Time aspect
of the most commonly reported accounts of the experience of flow is that of the
sense of time working in a way different to how it normally does. It is often
the case that hours seem like minutes (which is more common), and some times it
is the opposite, that time is so slow it feels it’s almost still (much less
closest definition of this is that while in flow, the sense of time is not
strongly connected with the so called objective passage of time (clock based
loss of the sense of time is not the main element of exultation, and yet the
freedom from the tyranny of time certainly does contribute to the overall
how many times have you thought: “Has it already been half an hour?”, or thought
“The time just flew by”...?
5. Types of flow
able to recognise when you are in a state of flow is very important, as it is
this very process of recognition that leads to a quantitative (extending in
duration) as well as a qualitative (harmonisation with an ever fuller content)
increase in its occurrence and expansion, and thus its transfer to all spheres
the aikido practice, one can observe several different types of flow, in the
a. Micro flow – happens
when for a moment (a split second or few seconds at the most) one fully
identifies with the action one is performing, as well as feeling that it has
been done to the maximum level of proficiency.
b. Partial flow – happens
when while performing one or several connected techniques, one experiences the
same feeling as with the micro flow, although here there is continuity in one’s
awareness (over a longer period of time) of harmonizing single emotion and
thought, or rather a group of emotions and thoughts with another individual
emotion and thought, or rather a group of emotions and thoughts – one has a
sense of inner harmony, peace, relaxation, that nothing is done too much or too
little… The situation shows that the state can be controlled during practice,
but also that it can be “transferred” and brought about in other spheres of
c. Complete flow –
presupposes that all emotions and thoughts are harmonised, and that there is a
complete awareness (knowledge) of this. As a figure of speech: “as I feel so I
think, and as I think so I feel.” It assumes one’s possession of a unified mind
or rather a total awareness, which starts with a partial flow and from there it
spreads onto all the spheres of one’s life. In this way aikido becomes a
complete path, permeating one’s whole being, but not so that one spends all day
thinking about it, but rather that its principles and elements are interwoven
into every second of one’s life, primarily through the state of flow.
aikido, the path to a complete state of flow leads through a constant study and
application of the basic postulates of aikido, which are:
- Principle of seeking the truth
- Principle of the Universe
- Principle of love
- Principle of harmony
- Principle of unified energy
- Principle of channeling energy
- Principle of absence of form
- Principle of non-resistance
- Principle of self-knowledge
represents emotional intelligence of the highest order. In it emotions and
thoughts are tamed and channeled for the purpose of performing a given action
successfully. Here one identifies with a given activity, feels fulfilled,
finding the very purpose of one’s being in the activity at hand.
author of the theory of flow is a psychologist, professor Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, who has come across it as a particular state in its own right
while studying the phenomena of human happiness.
who reach the state of flow go beyond satisfaction and reach exultation, which
involves a conscious act of increased attention or better still of increased
human activity offers a possible gateway to flow, although some activities are
better suited for this task than others – scientific work, painting, sculpting,
sexual act, listening to music, to name but a few.
arts (or perhaps a better term to use might be spiritual paths) such as yoga, chi
gung, tai chi, and certainly aikido assume that one must
give oneself to them fully. This is particularly accentuated in aikido, when
energetic harmonisation ties in with awareness (knowledge of the process) as a
singular process, and it is at this point that one gradually and spontaneously
starts to enter a flow state.
most important elements of flow are: concentration and the loss of awareness of
oneself, or more precisely – of the “self”, which leads to transcending this
“self” in the direction of perfecting one’s abilities.
practice of aikido is not an end in itself, but rather a tool through which one
can enter the state of flow (while remaining aware of this process during
practice) and eventually transport it onto all aspects of one’s life (family,
work…), thus becoming ever more fulfilled. And yet, flow is only one step on
the path of development of awareness…
present is rooted in eternity and eternity
in the present, and each of our actions
a prayer to the divine. Our goal is
unchanging universal eternity.
Source creates the world endlessly.
science of the universe, man is a fulfilled
“The Path Of Love” –
and ideas of Morihei Ueshiba,
Belgrade, 2002, pg. 53.
Dušan Gruičić, August 2008.
from Serbian: Dušan Đurović