Microflow: An Alternative For Those of Us Who Can't Meditate

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If you can't meditate in the conventional way, don't worry, there is another option. 

I would like to first and foremost apologize because I have not written in a very long time due to the fact that I am completing a two-year Master's program in one year and all of my creativity seems to be flowing directly to my thesis. 

I have, though, been taking some time to self-study happiness, a concept I've been struggling with recently (probably because of burn-out). I've been reading books, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, observing, and pretty much any other form of learning possible, about joy and happiness. One of the topics that has stuck out to me the most from all of this is microflow. 

What is microflow?

To put it simply, microflow is just the idea that you're getting happily lost in what you're doing to the point where you're in a subconscious state of flow. I just finished a book on Ikigai, the Japanese word for what essentially means your life's purpose. Ikigai originates from Okinawa, the happiest city in the world with the longest life expectancy. The book is full of advice, but each lesson is all about how you must reduce stress, find your purpose in life, and work towards fulfilling that purpose. 

When your life is in flow, you're balanced and you feel as though you are working towards your life's purpose. Microflow then, are the tasks you do throughout the day that put you in an almost meditative state. If you can't meditate, don't feel inadequate, there are people who are not supposed to meditate the masculine way of sitting in lotus pose and eliminating your thoughts. The purpose of meditation is to listen to your higher-self/angels/whatever or to give your brain a much needed break. Microflow still helps you achieve this.

Examples of microflow

A few areas of my personal life where I experience microflow includes cleaning, gardening, zentangling, coloring, and creating. 

An example that stood out to me was how Bill Gates uses microflow. He insists on doing the dishes every night because it gives him a chance to not think about everything going on in his head. He only focuses on washing the dishes. And he throws in twists and challenges, trying to do the dishes a little better each night. He does things like wash all of the dishes first, then the silverware, or he tries to get them even cleaner each time, etc. 

This is much like meditation because you try to meditate longer, or deeper, or reach a state of meditation quicker each time. Whether it's meditation or microflow, it's a practice. 

There is a story I read about the Dalai Lama and the author who both were hiking up a hill. The Dalai Lama was 30 years older than the author and made it up the mountain in half the time it took the author. When he asked the Dalai Lama how he can hike so quickly at his age he responded that the author thinks about his life, troubles, anxieties, etc, while climbing the mountain. When the Dalai Lama climbs the mountain, he only climbs the mountain. 

Going back to my examples, I notice I am almost in a trance when I am gardening. It is to the point where I barely notice outside sounds. I have no sense of time, I am simply gardening until the task I set out to complete is done. And again, I try to do it better every time. So I'll try to think of a better way to compost, or a more efficient way to layout my plants, or how I can attract pollinators. This is my meditation because my brain is only focused on one thing at a time, my mind isn't racing, I have no anxiety, I feel happy in that constant state of flow, and I can feel a certain sense of pride and accomplishment once the task is over. Plus the fact that it is outdoors helps with grounding. (I also am in a constant state of flow when I play the Sims, but it's so unproductive I feel guilty afterward.)

An example that I know everyone can relate to is Candy Crush. On the surface the game seems utterly useless and childish, so why is everyone so addicted to it? When you're playing in you're in a state of microflow. When you beat the level you feel accomplished, you're only focused on that one level, that one task. It has actually been proven to help people when they're doing something boring such as waiting in line or listening to a presentation that is below their educational level. The Japanese believe boredom is what causes aging - to the point where they do not even believe in retirement. Finding a microflow activity to add a level of complexity to mundane tasks also helps with happiness and relieve stress. 

TL:DR Summary

If you don't feel like reading this whole post just know that microflow is a task that puts you in a meditative state, relieves boredom, improves happiness, and should be a task complimentary of your life's purpose. The importance of meditation cannot be understated, especially for improving your mental health, so if you find it extremely difficult you don't need to feel like a failure. Just microflow. 

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