I asked my inner “houseguest” what he likes to do for fun. In response, I got a nonverbal impression of what it feels like to practice tai chi. He wasn’t talking about tai chi specifically, but about flow. That sense of flow can happen anytime and anywhere, but it comes easiest while engaging in skills that have been practiced over time. The mind is settled, and the body moves with grace.
I was supposed to seek peace for him, but I wasn’t sure how. Maybe this is part of the “how.” Maybe this is part of what I was seeking when I said I wanted to be a monk. These are related concepts. If you have flow, then your mind is at peace. Your thoughts rest lightly on the waves. Most of the action takes place under water, out of sight.
Flow and peace are related but not exactly the same. In modern terms, peace is the absence of conflict or war. A skilled martial artist can achieve flow in the middle of a fight. Maybe that’s a testament to how an understanding of flow can bring inner peace even under the most stressful of outward circumstances. If I say that I seek peace, you’d think I’d make an effort to avoid all outward conflict. That’s not how life works, however. I will say that it is easier to cultivate flow in quiet surroundings. Like any skill, it gets stronger with practice.
How do I practice? Tai chi was the example given, but flow can occur while doing pretty much anything. You can achieve flow while cleaning the kitchen, or doing yardwork, or writing.
There’s not much more to it than being aware, but the simplest ideas are often the hardest to implement. We like to throw pebbles into the stream and delight over the sound and the ripples. It’s doing something exciting, so that must mean there’s more water! Over time we start to wonder why the flow has slowed down to a trickle. What is that supposed to mean? I’m not completely sure. He likes to talk to me in image-concepts, metaphor. It’s up to me to decide how to apply it.
Our resistance to flow is based on the feeling that nothing is really happening. It’s quiet. The surface is still. It does result in artistry, but it’s of the type that makes the viewer believe it is effortless. It is overlooked by those who prefer noise and splashing.