The Fire Stealer

Photo by Gary Lopez @garyllopez

Photo by Gary Lopez @garyllopez

Eyes on the finish, mind lost in flow

States of ecstasis flood the veins.

Selfless, timeless, effortless, rich

I am Promethean by nature,

A fire stealer at heart.

Inspired by the Flow Genome Project and one of my favorite books on achieving peak performance, Stealing Fire by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler.

Flow has been the focus of this fight camp. Bruce Lee's "honest self-expression" is only found in a flow state, ecstasis. It presents itself when you feel selfless, the moment is timeless, action becomes effortless, and you experience a richness of life unlike any synthetic high. But how does one achieve this flow state?

Finding it in day-to-day life is difficult. Try to be present, think about nothing, meditate on your breath without thinking any thoughts... it's near to impossible to force yourself into a flow state on demand. At least it feels that way if you never train your "flow muscle."

Maybe that's why I chose to fight. The adrenaline rush of stepping into a cage opposite a trained killer forces you into the present moment. You're not thinking about what's for dinner when a man is trying to knock you unconscious. It's difficult to remain in the flow state for an entire fight but damn it feels good. In preparation for LFA 45, I've been determined to master ecstasis. Here's what I found works best:

1) Find balance between order and chaos

While listening to Dr. Jordan Peterson, I came across this idea that felt quite similar to flow. You will know exactly where you are supposed to be when you stand one foot in chaos and the other in order. It's quite Taoist coming from a modern, individualist Western philosopher but it makes perfect sense. The world is harmony, and flow feels like harmony between yourself and the world. You can find it when you push just beyond your boundaries where things are new but not too overwhelming. You're stable enough, but still interested. You'll know when you hit this sweet spot when you are totally engaged in the action (aka flow state). I highly recommend watching this video on chaos and order: 

2. Adjust training to expand boundaries of stability

Once I got a knack for discovering the balance, or hitting the flow state, we pushed training to a higher degree of difficulty (but not too high). Compare increasing MMA skills to lifting weights. You don't throw 300 lbs on the bar if it's your first time lifting, and you also don't bench 50 lbs if you're used to benching 400 lbs. Apply this principle to skill training, sparring, cardio etc. Take on new sparring partners, roll with new bodies, but don't overdo it. As the camp progresses, shape and slowly expand your flow state territory to match that of the actual fight speed. Use marginal increases in resistance to help peak your flow capacity come fight time.

3. Create a trigger and meditate

Life is a bitch. Sometimes the outside world will come creeping in and rip you out of flow. Did I  pay the bills on time? What was I supposed to grab from the grocery store again? Ouch, that left hook hurt. When you catch yourself thinking, use a trigger (deep breath, mantra, bounce on your feet etc.) to help pull you back into flow. I found that regular meditation helps tremendously to re-center your mind and focus on the moment.

If you're an athlete, try these three tips out. Your best athletic performance doesn't come when you're thinking, it just happens. The flow state = peak performance. Ecstasis is the key to unlocking your potential. More importantly, ecstasis is essential for living a meaningful and engaging life.