Many years ago, while I was backpacking through Europe, I began to notice myself falling into two distinct patterns of experience. One pattern seemed to consist of periods in which everything flowed smoothly. Things would unfold effortlessly and seemed to work out perfectly. I would meet people who would point me in the right direction where I would in turn meet others. I would have the sense that I was in the right place at the right time and that there was a grand intelligence guiding me. All the elements of my life and the life of those I met seemed to be in some kind of beautiful synchronized orbit held together by some strange unseen force ... and life felt rich and full of "original gravity."
Then, suddenly, I would find myself in another pattern of experience. Everything seemed to go wrong, and I was out of the flow. I sensed that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Places I wanted to see would be closed or inaccessible. People seemed distant and cold. I felt isolated and alone. Every step was an effort, and I felt out of synch with everyone and everything.
Slowly I began to realize that there were certain thoughts and perceptions that seemed to precipitate and support these two different patterns of experience. A surrendering of my plans, expectations, and past memories preceded the periods in which I experienced a sense of flow and effortlessness. During these periods of flow I would tend to be totally in the present moment. I seemed to naturally accept things and people as they were. The periods in which I experienced everything being out of balance seemed to coincide with planning, expectations, and/or following a past idea, suggestion, or desire. A flood of past memories and future concerns also marked these times.
The qualities of my flow experiences were very similar to those described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his writings on flow (1990; 1993; 1997). These qualities include the loss of self-consciousness, a sense of being part of some greater entity, and an altered sense of time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993). This experience of flow is "... like being carried away by a current, everything moving smoothly without effort" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993, p. xiii).
At first I tried to manipulate myself into having these flow experiences, but that only seemed to send me farther into the other experience. I began to see that each pattern of experience was related to the other. My periods of flow seemed to come from the surrender produced by the culmination of the frustration of the "out of the flow" experiences.
When I finally surrendered to the whole process the rest of my journey was filled with miracles and blessings. I felt guided at every step by a loving and compassionate force beyond my comprehension. Though I had explored spirituality and caught glimpses of this force prior to my trip, none of my previous experiences compared with the combined depth, magnitude, duration, and everyday integration of my experiences in Europe.
When I returned from my trip overseas I was unable to retain my deep and continual connection with this force, yet somehow I felt as though I had awakened from a deep unknown sleep. Everything seemed different; old familiar people, places, and experiences had a different quality to them. It was as though my center of gravity had shifted.
It is a disturbance of the equilibrium of the self, which results in the shifting of the field of consciousness from lower to higher levels, with a consequent removal of the centre of interest from the subject to an object now brought into view: the necessary beginning of any process of transcendence. (Underhill, 1961, p. 176)
Before my journey, my life was centered on career and finding romantic love, with short excursions into the realm of spirituality. After my experiences in Europe, the center of my life seemed to shift toward becoming the best human being I could become, and to find a way of reconnecting with the experience of Divine Flow. I began to explore, more deeply and earnestly, the world's spiritual and religious systems for knowledge and practices that could aid in my journey. And ultimately, I was lead to a process of self-reflection and self-inquiry to deepen my quest to understand this strange and wondrous experience of being in the Divine Flow.
*Excerpt from Original Gravity: A Personal Narrative Theology Inquiry into the Experience of Seeking, Receiving, and Following Divine Guidance by Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D.
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