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The Anatomy of FLOW (HAPPINESS and FLOW series #2)


The Anatomy of FLOW

Control of consciousness determines our quality of life – This much we know.

So the question is,

How do we learn to control our consciousness?

*Before we get into this, note that: knowledge of how to control consciousness has been known for thousands of years – the issue is that every time the cultural context changes,  the information must be reformulated to fit the new cultural context. For this reason, control over consciousness cannot be institutionalized – “there is no way out of this predicament except for an individual to take things in hand personally.”

> the goal of this article is to help you contextualize Flow and its relationship to Happiness <

FLOW can be achieved in as many ways as there are individuals who care to try.

YOGA – achieves FLOW through mental and physical discipline

ZEN – achieves FLOW through cultivating constant spontaneity

BUT – the intended result is the same:

To free the inner life of an individual from the threat of chaos or entropy.

START – by understanding the limits of consciousness

This is what is meant by ‘limits’ of your consciousness – Obviously, you cannot do things like understand 3 conversations at once…


  • Well in the first place, you cannot really truly ‘multitask’
    • What happens is your attention simply flips from one subject, to another, and back again -which effects efficiency and reduces performance of the tasks at hand.

Some nitty-Gritty information on neural processing speeds:

  • 7 bits of info can be processed at any one time
  • 126/ second
  • 7,560/minute
  • ½ million/hour
  • 185 billion/lifetime (75 years @ 16hours of wakefulness)


You ARE able to collect the info from 3 different people talking to you simultaneously.


You would have to put out of consciousness ALL other thoughts and sensations.




Attention selects the relevant bits out of the millions of bits of info available to you at any one time

Attention retrieves the appropriate memories, evaluates the situation, and then chooses the best thing to do – based on the information at hand.

A healthy ability to Focus Attention is one in which consciousness remains under control until the task at hand is completed – despite external distractions.

This skill of attention – whether under direct control or not – determines the contents of one’s thoughts and therefore assists in the creation of who we are.

But what if I cannot ‘pay attention’?

  • What is “I” anyway? – “I” is the thing that decides what to do with your attention.
  • The “I” / The Self, directs attention.
  • and Attention determines the self and the contents of thought (as discussed earlier).
  • Paradoxically; The Self directs attention, while attention determines the self.


Information coming upon your nervous system will either:

  1. Create disorder and get you wound up


  1. Reinforce goals and increase enjoyment, thus freeing up attention which can be focused on making a task at hand more efficient.

FLOW occurs when threats are eliminated and disorder is straightened out.

The battle is not ‘against the self’ – but against the entropy that brings about a disordered mind / consciousness.

Automation: a blessing and a curse

The nervous system is extremely efficient at ‘chunking’ bits of information such that a task that once took 10 units of effort will only need 8 units of effort to complete the next time, maybe 5 the next time and so on and so on…. this process allows some high achievers to execute intensely complicated computations or movements with seeming ease and grace.


Habits can either “good” or “bad”

A good habit is to respond with compassion and to treat others with dignity.

A Bad habit is to respond to a task with dread, rolling your eyes as you curse under your breath.

Both these habits can form WITHOUT ATTENTION i.e. without conscious knowledge or intention (a subconscious process).

One must be ever vigilant in clearing their consciousness of these habitual ways of being, moving, seeing, thinking and interacting with others and their environment.

As we age, the less automation the better – The more of our daily life that is automated, the quicker one follows the biological and social patterns generated by society to their – very literal – end.

On a different note,

Time spent in leisure i.e. free from obligations – typically consists of us using the brain/body as little as possible. This lack of use is disturbing because it in fact hinders progression of skills and decreases the likelihood of FLOW.

If one’s skill is not consistently challenged, the likelihood of FLOW decreases. And if certain skill goes unused for a long enough period the body LITERALLY begins to shut it down, i.e. Use It Or Lose It = You ‘Age’.




Martin Colangelo : “The Better Movement Specialist”

– Blog Author

Owner / Instructor @

*contact me for a free consultation


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How to Become an Extraordinary Person (HAPPINESS and FLOW series #1.2)

How to Become an Extraordinary Person – Continued:

“Improving Quality of Life”


Having a ‘complex’ personality is always a Bad thing.

Being Extraordinary (as we have been using the term) is the result of two basic but essential mental processes: Integration and Differentiation.


  • Movement toward uniqueness or specialization – and towards separating oneself from others. A self that differentiated (and not integrated) may attain great individual accomplishments – but runs the risks of being mired in egotism.



  • Union with others, ideas and entities beyond the self. Without integration, a fully differentiated system would be a confusing mess. However, an entirely integrated person will be connected and secure, but lack autonomous individuality.


A complex self is one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies.


How FLOW increases HAPPINESS:

  • The self becomes more differentiated as a result of flow:
    • overcoming challenges inevitably leaves a person feeling more capable and skilled.
  • Flow also helps integrate the self:
    • in a state of deep concentration, consciousness is unusually well ordered.

Flow allows us to receive the best from both of these worlds! and thus dramatically improve the quality of our lives.


Improve your ‘Quality of Life’.

2 Strategies>

1>Try to make your ‘external conditions’ match your goals.


2>Change how you experience these ‘external conditions.’


#1 is very challenging to do – for altering external conditions does  not always improve existence.


#2 since how we feel about ourselves is based on the quality of our experiences – in order to improve one’s ‘quality of life’ – one must inevitably improve the quality of their ‘experiences’

And there are many, MANY ways to go about doing this ….


Before We Go Into the Many Ways to Improve ‘Q of L’,

Let us discus the difference between Pleasure and Enjoyment.

Why? I hear you ask…

Because Pleasure and Enjoyment are much different things ***


Ø  Enjoyable events occur when a person has not only met prior expectation or needs – but has gone beyond and achieved something unexpected.



Ø  A feeling of contentment achieved when your consciousness believes expectations set by our “biological and social conditioning” have been met.


*** and because Pleasure helps to maintain order, but by itself cannot create new order within consciousness – whereas Enjoyment or Flow can.


The Phenomenology of Enjoyment, or FLOW:


  • Must we have a chance of being completed (appropriate skill level).


  • Must be able to concentrate.


  • Task must have clear goals


  • Must provide immediate feedback.


  • “One acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life. “


  • There is an increased sense of control over one’s life.


  • Concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger.


  • Sense of time is altered.


Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety; when the challenges are balanced with the individuals capacity to perform. This occurs when the difficulty of a ‘game’ is kept constant – a fine balancing of challenges and skills – THIS yields the maximum of enjoyment, and increase in the quality of one’s life



Martin Colangelo : “The Better Movement Specialist”

– Blog Author

Owner / Instructor @

*contact me for a free consultation