Updated: Apr 11, 2019
In 1975, Keith Jarrett, a well known jazz pianist, was scheduled to perform a concert in Koln, Germany. When he arrived, the piano acquired for him was out of tune in the upper and lower registers and some of the keys were sticky. An attempt was made to find him a better piano, but he ended up performing and ultimately recording one of the most incredible albums of his career on that poor quality piano.
In the challenges presented to him, and because of his profound skills, Keith Jarrett entered the flow state. You can hear the album here. I highly recommend listening to it. It is a profound piece of work by someone who is clearly a master of his craft. As a matter of fact, I am listening to it right now as I type this post. Listening to someone in the flow state will help you discover the flow state within your own self.
What is the #FlowState? Many athletes, musicians, spiritual practitioners and artists are quite familiar with it. The flow state is defined as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” If you've ever played sports, do you remember the game where your team seamed like they played with one mind? Where you moved in unison with each other? Where you knew your teammate was going to be and what your teammate was going to do before it happened? That's the flow state.
In July I took a camping/mountain biking vacation. One of the reasons it was such a wonderful vacation was because I was riding my bike everyday in the rough terrain of the trails and mountains. This gave me daily opportunities to get into the flow state. In order to mountain bike, a person must be completely present. It requires focused concentration, effort, ridding the mind of distractions and fears. Let me tell you, some of those trails were in the mountains, on the edge of a steep slopes. Scary. I wasn't always successful in getting rid of my fear. Sometimes my fear took me off my bike, walking instead. But I kept going, kept making effort. I always find the flow state on a bike ride.
So what does this have to do with labor? Well, actually, everything. The flow state is that sweet spot you attain when making effort where you simply let go of control and flow with the energy that is greater than yourself. This...exactly...is labor.
The flow state is a state of intense concentration, where time becomes distorted, where you become so involved in your activity that EVERYTHING else falls away. It is a state of presence. It is a state of higher consciousness. It is a state where everything just clicks.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who has spent his life studying flow state. He claims that entering the flow state in one's life as much as possible is one of the key components to happiness in life. In his research he summarized how people who were familiar with the flow state experienced it.
You’re completely involved in what you’re doing: you’re completely focused and concentrated.
There’s a sense of ecstasy–of being outside of everyday reality.
There’s a great inner clarity: you know what needs to be done and you get immediate feedback on how well you’re doing.
You know that the activity is doable, that you have the necessary skills to complete the task successfully.
You lose your sense of self and all of your worries and concerns drift away.
You lose track of time and you’re completely focused on the present moment.
There’s an intrinsic motivation—whatever produces flow becomes it’s own reward.
A big part of labor is finding the place inside yourself where you have let go of your preferences, your comforts, your fears, your desires and just focus solely on the task at hand. The waves of contractions come, grab your attention, force you to breathe, and move your body to your own natural birth rhythm. Each wave brings you closer to being present as you let go and let go and let go.
Approaching the flow state in your birth requires that you manage your emotional state. You must work on calming your fears, letting go of anger, releasing sadness. It doesn't mean these feelings don't exist, it means that you simply take notice of their presence and then choose to let them not affect you. Emotions are temporary. So is the contraction. So is this moment.
As the strength of your contractions grow, your concentration becomes laser-focused so that everything else falls away. Your sense of self is temporarily gone as action and awareness merge into One. It is a state of ecstasy. It is beyond caring how you feel. It is beyond being affected by the past. It is beyond being concerned about the future. This is presence. This is how a baby is born.
I want to encourage you during your pregnancy to find ways to enter into the flow state. Create. Do sun salutations. Sing. Play music. Chant. However you find the flow state, awesome. This is perfect preparation for childbirth.
Don't forget that childbirth is completely doable. You have all the necessary skills to complete the task at hand. Keith Jarrett trained for his concert by practicing the piano. You have trained for your birth just by being you. You know how to calm yourself. You know how to move your body. You know how you respond to challenge.
And don't forget that although childbirth is challenging and almost everyone describes it as painful, there is ecstasy in the experience. Pain is ecstatic. Challenge brings you greater clarity and insight into your own self. What a tremendous gift.
Look towards your birth with excitement that you will get to experience this ecstasy. Look forward to the challenge. Look forward to the flow state. These are all the hidden gifts and mysteries of childbirth. Peace.