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TOPIC: Flow vs meditation

Flow vs meditation 03 Nov 2013 10:46 #16030

My question is what is the difference between flow and non-jhana meditation. The Wiki definition of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow is: “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” I add that I think this is a non-dual state. One is just doing without the doing coming from an “I”. No mental chatter. No self-referential thoughts.

Contrast this with the non-dual meditation I did last night. I used a technique from Tilopa to get "there": Let go what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try to figure anything out. Don’t try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest.-- But once “there”, it was a non dual experience, at least for a time. My mind was just doing without the doing coming from an “I”. No mental chatter. No self-referential thoughts.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who was making a sharp distinction between his meditation sessions and his working whether it was full immersion working in his garden or working as a programmer. I responded that I thought that an intermediate step to reconcile the two might be noting or self-inquiry while working but the end result is just non-dual doing. Before (momentary) enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After (momentary) enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

He responded that when he was doing vipassana, he was open to whatever came in a sense door. When he was working, this was limited. He would not notice anything outside of his immediate task. I responded that this was a difference but not that great a difference. When noticing an itch while doing vipassana meditating, I am not noticing the sound of the fan in my computer, for instance.

I would be interested in your comments.
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Flow vs meditation 03 Nov 2013 11:42 #16034

I'm not an expert on either flow or non-dual states. However, I will share my initial reaction to the question.

I tend to think of flow states more as a "unified" rather than "non-dual." Another way to say this is that they are a type of samadhi, albeit not the one-pointed kind. More of the moment-to-moment kind of samadhi that is a pre-requisite to being able to progress through the progress of insight.

The reason I say this is because flow states are not always beneficial. Someone can be in a flow state of a self-destructive behavior or thought pattern. The lack of the sense of "I" is not required for flow, as one could find themselves deeply in the flow of self-referential thought patterning.

There's also a conversation to be had about the different understandings of "non-dual" between traditions. It means something very different in Vedanta than it does in Buddhism, generally speaking. The meaning can shape experience in subtle ways, so I think it's problematic to assume the states are the same regardless of how they are understood conceptually.

I'm interested to see what others might have to say as well.
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Flow vs meditation 03 Nov 2013 13:17 #16035

I think it becomes a slippery slope to define non-dual states as "lacking self-reference or the "I" perspective." If we learn much in practice we learn that there is no permanent "I" anyway, and that quite a lot of our experience arises and passes with no self-reference and no "I" to be found, or more likely, a different "I" from moment to moment. Flow is, indeed, a state of concentration that can come from dedicated attention to a task (doing) for an extended period. Yes, there may be no "I" being referenced but then, as Jackson said, there may well be, and that "I" may be the focus of the flow state.

My own experience with the non-dual has had more to do with the recognition of emptiness, that there is no object with any essence at all, including "me," than it has to do with a unitary lack of self-referencing, although that has also been part of the experience. It has been a recognition that "things" are defined rather arbitrarily by mind (as that is mind's nature) and that even time and space appear to be so defined. I'd call this non-dual experience the experience of "everythingness" as opposed to "oneness" but... YMMV.

FWIW...
Last Edit: 03 Nov 2013 14:55 by Chris Marti.
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Flow vs meditation 03 Nov 2013 13:22 #16036

I think the important thing is, regardless of whether is meditating or not, subjectivity can drop away. The extremes are total subjectivity (which is the "witness" like state), total objectivity (which is like watching a movie or playing video games), and there is the state which is accessed as "experience/present/being present" without a strong sense of subjectivity and objectivity...

It seems like, but I'm not total sure, that this state of present-ness can also be conditioned by selfing, although it is very subtle, almost a primal kind of selfing. These days I'm doing a practice where I get into the timeless state and then ask "what is awareness?". My mind/sense of self does react to this kind of investigation/inquiry, which suggests there is more to do. But who knows? So far, it seems like it is unknotting some very basic protective mechanisms.

For what it's worth! :)

(The practice is from Wake Up To Your Life by Ken McCloud.)
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Flow vs meditation 03 Nov 2013 13:29 #16037

Chris Marti wrote:
recognition of emptiness... the experience of "everythingness"

+1

(not because that IS my experience, but just where it seems to be pointing)
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Flow vs meditation 03 Nov 2013 13:36 #16039

What Chris said!

I should add (as clarification, perhaps) that it's quite possible for one to have the experience of un-self-consciously "losing myself" in an unhelpful habitual pattern. We all know this can feel good, to forget about ourselves for a while. That is NOT the same thing as non-dual realization.
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Flow vs meditation 03 Nov 2013 17:45 #16054

My initial response was to slot "flow" into "lha-tong"-- as distinct, but not opposed to "shi-ne." That's because my frame of reference is vajrayana. This lines up with flow being a samadhi, as others point out.

Then it appeared to me that the two countering definitions of shi-ne and lha-tong are less about the experience of a state of absorption, as about how it is arrived at: focus-in or focus-out, in Shinzen's terms… And I have a sense of the question having been addressed in the Leigh Brasington material posted elsewhere.

The more I mess with the question in my mind, the more it seems better pondered, than definitively answered.

But that's how it is for me about most things, these days! :lol:
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 08:00 #16085

Here is a 7 minute clip of Shinzen Young talking about different definitions of non-dual awareness:
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 09:26 #16086

So awesome. Thanks Jack!
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 16:32 #16104

Jackson wrote:
What Chris said!

I should add (as clarification, perhaps) that it's quite possible for one to have the experience of un-self-consciously "losing myself" in an unhelpful habitual pattern. We all know this can feel good, to forget about ourselves for a while. That is NOT the same thing as non-dual realization.

How true. But why?
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 17:11 #16107

I don't know why, and curious if others have technical answers, but ime there is an experiential difference. If I compare many flow states, including flow states post awakening, there is an immersion in the activity (skiing or other sports, art, music, recitations of prayers, etc.). But a flow state doesn't include the recognized loss of subject/object or loss of sense of experiencer. If it did then I'd have remembered that, because that's pretty weird and unforgettable.

Thoughts?
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 17:39 #16108

I have moments that I would call flow states where when I "snap out of it" it is obvious I was just going along, doing what I was doing with no self-referential anything. It is almost as if I don't know what I was just doing right before I snapped back into 'thinking about what I am doing mode' Hard to explain.
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 18:04 #16109

russell, do you feel those differently from flow states before awakening? i feel like there's a difference, and it tends to be noticeable. that is, flowing down the ski slope years ago i never got to the bottom and thought whoa, shit, what just happened? i might have said, yeah cool i was really focused.
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 18:19 #16110

Ona, in my experience flow and non-duality are not the same experience. I explained my experience in an earlier comment. Flow appears to me to be a natural and common state that human beings experience when they concentrate on a task. Non-duality is natural but nowhere near as common.

Again, JMHO.

Also, I like this explanation of emptiness and non-duality:

arobuddhism.org/community/form-emptiness-and-non-duality.html
Last Edit: 04 Nov 2013 18:23 by Chris Marti.
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 18:24 #16111

There are two different types of things I experience that I could term 'flow states' - one is the kind that (I assume) happens to everyone, with or without meditative experience (though its intensity, frequency etc might be altered by the latter) where you are simply completely absorbed in a task and at the end, or when interrupted, you suddenly realise, whoah, 'I' wasn't there or thinking about anything else during that time.

The other I hadn't experienced, that I remember, before starting a practice but it's coming up a bit at the moment - hard to describe, but it's like the process of being a living conscious being just flows along on its own - there are self referential thoughts but they are included in this 'flow' process - a sense of, 'it's all happening on its own' and while some things are foregrounded more than others, they're not valued more than others, if that makes sense. For me when this happens it has a pleasant, slightly spacey or dreamy quality to it.
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 18:32 #16112

Yeah, I think we may be using the word "flow" in several different ways in this conversation, possibly leading to some confusion. "Flow" can be used to describe that "floating along in a stream of existence" feeling that Rowan just described. It is also used as a more precise term as was referred to by Jack in his first post here: the feeling of being fully absorbed in a task, an activity, such that the sense of time and place fall away.

Technical definition of "flow:"

...the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, this positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.

I don't believe these two "flows" are the same experience.
Last Edit: 04 Nov 2013 18:34 by Chris Marti.
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 19:49 #16115

jackhat1 wrote:
How true. But why?

I don't know if my answer will be wholly adequate, but I'll try.

Buddhist non-duality is the non-duality of emptiness and form. It is not just the experience of selflessness, nor the experience of being carried along without stopping to think about yourself. An experience of non-duality, I think, implies a freedom from being sucked into habitual patterns, while simultaneously releasing the energy (or rather, energies) of such patterns to be as as they are, without any further conceptual elaboration. This is a fully conscious, awake, alive, intelligent state; and yes, it also flows.

Like I said, I'm not sure if that is adequate. I guess that while I think the flow state points to an aspect of the non-dual experience, it is best not to conceptually conflate the two. I fear that doing so permits one to miss out on something much more profound than would otherwise be possible to experience.
Last Edit: 04 Nov 2013 19:54 by Jackson. Reason: edited for clarity
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Flow vs meditation 04 Nov 2013 21:41 #16117

Ona Kiser wrote:
russell, do you feel those differently from flow states before awakening? i feel like there's a difference, and it tends to be noticeable. that is, flowing down the ski slope years ago i never got to the bottom and thought whoa, shit, what just happened? i might have said, yeah cool i was really focused.

Yes I agree it has changed since awakening, and that is a great analogy. I can even be sitting on the couch at times, then whoosh back in to me-land and actually be pretty confused where I just was. Make sense?
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Flow vs meditation 05 Nov 2013 08:29 #16124

Let offer up a probably too-simple definition of non-duality, so it may spark additional discussion:

Non-duality in the spiritual/Buddhist sense is the recognition that mind mediates experience by creating and then assigning meaning and separateness to objects, thus creating the subject-object duality. Not-self is a subset of this, as self is an object like all others.
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Flow vs meditation 05 Nov 2013 08:54 #16126

Just to confirm... in the way you are using it: it seems like you are using "not-self" as a state experience? (As opposed to using "not-self" as a synonym for the perspective/recognition of the non-duality of all states?)
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Flow vs meditation 05 Nov 2013 10:13 #16127

Chris, I like what you proposed for a functional definition of non-duality, for our purposes in this thread.

Shargrol, the way I understand it, recognizing that phenomena are not-self leads to an experiential realization of emptiness. And in a way, realizing that emptiness is also not-self (i.e. emptiness is empty, too) can lead to a realization that emptiness and phenomena are not-two, not-one; i.e. not divisible, not indivisible. This is more of a Mahayana perspective on the teachings, since there really isn't a clear-cut teaching on this in the Pali suttas; at least not that I've seen.
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Flow vs meditation 05 Nov 2013 17:09 #16133

Just to confirm... in the way you are using it: it seems like you are using "not-self" as a state experience? (As opposed to using "not-self" as a synonym for the perspective/recognition of the non-duality of all states?)

Shargrol, call me dense but I'm not sure what you're asking me. What I'm saying is:

1. Not-self is a subset of non-dual experience - there are all kinds of non-dualities (not-rock, not-chicken, not-dog, etc.)
2. Non-duality is the recognition that all objects (self, rock, chicken, dog, etc.) are arbitrarily pulled out of experience, separated and objectified by mind, creating what we then experience as the subject-object duality of self, rock, chicken and dog.

Does that help? If not, please ask again and I'll try to explain better, if I can.
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Flow vs meditation 05 Nov 2013 21:21 #16142

I think there is potentially some use in distinguishing the unforgettable recognition (which usually arises in response to a direct experience) and the actual direct experience. or maybe there is no use in that distinction. not sure.
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Flow vs meditation 06 Nov 2013 06:10 #16150

Chris Marti wrote:
Shargrol, call me dense but I'm not sure what you're asking me. What I'm saying is:

1. Not-self is a subset of non-dual experience - there are all kinds of non-dualities (not-rock, not-chicken, not-dog, etc.)
2. Non-duality is the recognition that all objects (self, rock, chicken, dog, etc.) are arbitrarily pulled out of experience, separated and objectified by mind, creating what we then experience as the subject-object duality of self, rock, chicken and dog.

Does that help? If not, please ask again and I'll try to explain better, if I can.

Don't worry, I think I'm the dense one :D

I think what I was trying to tease out is the use of the word subset. The way I think of subset has the sub- items as complete members. For example, cats and lions are felines. They are both completely 100% feline.

The way I'm thinking of the not-self realization these days is more consistent with Jackson's parsing. There are the insights into not-self (form is emptiness), but that can be made into another kind of self ("not self" is emptiness underneath it all). Then there is the overarching wisdom that whatever we think of when we think of emptiness is yet another phenomenon (a thought, a feeling, a clarity, a feeling of ease, etc.), emptiness is empty. If this is the framework, I wouldn't use "subset" for the first category of not-self, because it is more like only 50% not-self, so to speak.

The way I'm thinking about what you said is more along the lines of... #1 is more of an insight into not-self, and #2 is the overarching knowledge of not-self-ness. In this case the use of "subset" seems almost Platonic in a way, where #1 are the shadows on the cave wall (true but not the whole thing) and #2 is the actual object directly seen.

"Subset" was/is throwing me off.

I've probably complicated and dense-ified things further...
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Flow vs meditation 06 Nov 2013 08:36 #16155

I was trying to make it simple. Simple can be confusing sometimes. I was still focusing on the assertion made here that not-self is pretty much all there is to non-duality. It's not. And I think we agree on the deeper meaning.
Last Edit: 06 Nov 2013 08:39 by Chris Marti.
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