"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
This month I’m thinking about flow, its importance, and how we can practice it through art.
What is Flow?
Flow is the sweet spot where we are fully immersed in an activity, losing ourselves in its rhythms, and experiencing a sense of timelessness. It's that elusive state where we become one with the task at hand, allowing our true nature to shine through.
It's a universal concept that is shared across cultures throughout time, from Chinese Taoist concepts of wu-wei (effortless effort, doing not doing) to Native American spirituality (finding harmony in the interconnectedness with nature) to Greek ideals of the Arete (achieving excellence aligned with one's true nature).
Whether we're expressing ourselves through art or simply living our lives, finding flow is about tapping into our natural selves, letting go of conscious effort, and allowing the process to unfold with ease. It's that moment when we become the brush, the paint, the canvas, and the masterpiece all at once.
Flow is a journey, a practice, and a way of life - a reminder that beauty arises naturally when we are in harmony with ourselves and the world around us.
Practicing Through Art
Here are some concrete tips for practicing flow through art:
- Practice: Learn the necessary skills and techniques to perform the task at hand. It may not feel "in the flow" at first, but this is an important step.
- Let Go: Let go of expectations and allow yourself to be fully present in the moment. Don't worry about the end result, just focus on the process and enjoy the experience.
- Play: Once you have acquired the necessary skills, allow yourself to become one with the medium. Go with what feels natural and experiment with playing and expressing yourself through your medium.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
A Wise, Old Kid
Finding flow is a practice of balancing going along with what's natural while also writing our own story. People sometimes mistake the idea of “flow” as being like a child again. But it’s not quite the same.
Children are natural, but lack skill.
Adults have skills, but have grown unnatural.
That’s the paradox we reach as we grow up. Somewhere along the way, we are also taught to be rigid, fearful, and unimaginative. This is the part we need to release, and therein lies the wisdom.
It seems the ultimate goal in art and in life is to learn the skills and then learn to let go, to ease back into the natural flow of things. As Picasso once said, "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." It's in this state of effortless effort that we can truly embody our own unique perspective and create beauty in the world around us.
I realize it’s all about becoming a wise, old kid.
In the Studio
To integrate this theme, we'll host a community discussion and offer a guided workshop teaching a few specific drawing techniques that can then be used for expressive flow.