Creating Time

We approach timelessness in the moments when we feel most at home with ourselves. When we are being true to ourselves and existing in authenticity, we are not measuring ourselves against time or anything else. We are simply being, and this opens a doorway to flow.


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My son, Kai, deals with a lot of physical pain from his medical issues, so it's always quite easy to tell when he's "not himself." As a toddler, he has not yet learned to edit himself or pretend to be something he's not. On a recent day when he was having one of these not-himself afternoons, it occurred to me that it's often more difficult to identify when we, as grown-ups, "aren't ourselves." Ironically, our own authenticity can be challenging to grasp. Perhaps it's because we have so many "selves" that we don't know which one is really us. Martin Luther King wrote, "Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves," and I think that modern society certainly perpetuates this division. Or maybe it's because we're so used to just "getting by" in our day-to-day routines that we forget it's even possible to remember who we really are.

If you can relate to this odd paradox, I invite you to try a simple exercise and see if it makes a difference. Stop throughout the day and ask yourself, "How much do I feel like me...the real, true me?" I've found this simple question to be so helpful in getting in touch with the essence of when I am happiest, most productive, and most centered.

A good place to start is to think about your life, pinpointing the times when you have felt most whole and the most comfortable in your skin. Using those moments as touch points, look at your current life; and for the next several days, check in with yourself often to become aware of when you are feeling more, or less, authentic to your true self. Sometimes questions arise when you aren't sure if you are really being you at any given time or if you are trying to be the you that you strive to be. Generally speaking, as long as the intended you is coming from an authentic place in the current you, then you are on the right track.

One particularly helpful technique is to plot points on an informal graph that you can quickly sketch as you go about your routine. Ask yourself throughout the day if something feels right to you and feels true to you, and mark it on a graph, chart, or map. This practice creates an authenticity meter of sorts and allows you to start recognizing patterns in your life.

Be gentle with yourself in your explorations, and view your insights with curiosity rather than judgment. As we all know, development and growth have their awkward, even clumsy stages; this is applicable not only for physical growth but also as we settle into our constantly evolving emotional, spiritual, and mental "skins." Sometimes inner growth is smooth and easy, as many books and gurus make it out to be, but often it just happens one little halting step at a time. In spite of our awkward fumblings, day-to-day life doesn't have to be drudgery. When we connect with flowing authenticity, life can be a dance — a dance with the most daring and exciting partner of all, your true self.


What Gets Us in the Flow?

When we get lost in time, there is actually no loss at all; as parts of us are found, it becomes an expansive experience. Circumstances that trigger a flow state are different for everyone, but several common circumstances tend to promote this state. For example, flow often happens for me when I step away from my normal environment. When we are in new settings, we are separated from the usual context of our routine, and so we temporarily are displaced from time. For this reason, much of this book was written in different places: on note cards at the lake, on a laptop in cafés. Even in my own home, I find it helpful to move away from my desk and write on the living room couch or on the playroom floor. For me, flow seems to be attracted to new locations.

New environments and circumstances might inspire a flow state, but flow doesn't require expensive supplies or fancy settings. Nor does flow require a lot of time. My friend Jill Badonsky, an author and creativity coach, wisely advises, "One of our biggest blocks is thinking we need to spend a 'block' of time on our creativity. Show up small and notice that you sink into a spell of timelessness and your Muse won't let you leave." I wholeheartedly agree; flow doesn't seem to know or care if we have five minutes or five hours to lose ourselves. It's our judgments about lack of time that get in the way.

Go with the Flow

Flow happens when we are:

  • Engaged
  • Introspective
  • Aware
  • Connected
  • Invigorated
  • Positively challenged
  • Curious
  • Involved
  • Comfortable
  • Giving or serving
  • Connecting to ourselves
  • Connecting with others
  • Feeling the meaning in what we are doing

Of all the things that get us in the flow — the element of meaning is perhaps the most important. Creativity, meaning, and time dance together in an unavoidable, and rather effective, cycle: the more meaningful your projects are to you, the more likely you are to engage in them. Then, the more meaning you are experiencing, the more creative ideas you'll have for more meaningful projects. Meaning creates more meaning, and creativity begets creativity! And, of course, regularly making the time for meaningful acts cements their importance in your life.

Next: Finding Flow in Everyday Life