The state of mind that is popularly called “Zen moment” is a fascinating concept. It commonly occurs when we are so focused on a task or during play that we do not think about ourselves as doing it. It’s when the inner dialogue or monkey mind isn’t chattering random thoughts but is quiet. The very moment we realize this has been happening and that we haven’t been talking to ourselves, the Zen moments vanish.
Some people have learned how to harness this quiet state of mind through practice. It is a matter of achieving the delicate balance between focus and letting go. This has sometimes been compared to tuning a guitar string: too much tension (focus) and the sound is harsh; whereas not enough tension (letting go) results in a dull sound. The right tension (Zen moments) is between too tight and too loose.
At some point in performing a task or playing, we feel a lightness of being–almost as if we are on a raft that is floating down a stream. We only need to gently guide our actions in order to successfully complete what we’re doing. One might say that this is an optimum human state. We know that we’re capable of skillful actions; we simultaneously merge into the Zen moments that quiet the mind and guide our muscular activity.
We percieve that our capabilities are arriving at their peak. At the same time, we feel pleasure as we perform at our heightened potency. With practice, the skillful person latches onto this potent eagerness and adapts the situation to fit her/himself.
The entire process cannot be described fully with words. The flow is experiential. We must be completely engaged in a task or in play for it to happen. When it occurs, we instinctively understand our capability and potential. When we become able to maintain that peak, we have gone beyond the flow. This skill borders on automatic, but is not mindless. To consistently go beyond the flow requires active, patient practice.
When we are in this state of cooperation between mind and body, we feel the fullness of strength and concentration. This is when we perform at our best. Breathe deeply and become calmly aware and focused.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century author and screenwriter, Ray Bradbury. “Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”