Have you seen Soul? That new Pixar movie? We watched it a couple of weeks ago – and then again last week, because it’s just that great!  I’ve never seen the FLOW state animated so beautifully, and I recognized it right away from my own experience. 

It’s that feeling when you are lost in the music and in your own world. The idea, in the movie, that being in FLOW is a whole different dimension, a different world outside of time. The depiction of the young trombone player discovering her love of the instrument, and the way that our hero, Joe, finds his way from outside to inside the jazz combo and then into his own gorgeous, coherent musical space.

That feeling of timelessness, of effortlessness, of CHANNELING something better than me is the thing I seek, strive for, chase when I’m practicing and performing.

I can find it in my practice room when I’m working on something with just the right amount of challenge. I can lose myself in the fascinating creative, technical, and intellectual search for solutions.  This is the same kind of FLOW that I can find when solving a crossword, or just before a Sudoku breaks itself open. It’s when the solution is not yet known, but when I know that I can achieve it. It’s the joy of the difficulty of the process.

I can find it while performing, writing, or teaching.  It’s when all of the effortful intellectual challenge seems to drop away, and I feel FLOW as a channeling through me. The music seems to be coming through me, through my instrument, without me having to WORK to make it.  When I teach in FLOW I find myself saying things that are true but that I didn’t know I knew. 

Sometimes other people can provide me with FLOW.  It’s like a contact high, when my colleagues are playing so well that all I have to do is ride on their energy.  I discount this version, sometimes, because I don’t generate it myself. But the magic is the same.

Even in this third case, I can’t reliably get to a FLOW place just by luck – I have to show up prepared, relaxed, focused, and stay in the moment.  And even then sometimes it doesn’t come. But I crave it every time.  FLOW, or the possibility of it, is what keeps me coming back to the oboe, to my desk, to my creative habits day after day, year after year. I don’t get tired of this search. 

Can you relate to my love of the FLOW state? How do you achieve it? Is it harder or easier to access in our current unprecedented times?  I’d love to hear how this resonates for you.

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