Written by Kari Allen-Hammer, Ph.D.
Stop resisting the inevitable and prepare yourself properly.
Our lives have abruptly and drastically shifted. For some, this means the ground is shuffling beneath you now and you have to alter your positioning to avoid falling.
For others, you may get a much-needed respite from the demands of an over-scheduled, stretched-too-thin lifestyle, but the stuckness of inactivity is beginning to set in.
We’re in the midst of a significant transition, which means uncertainty and change are afoot. Unfortunately, many prefer sameness to the unknown, so fall back on reactive patterns of resistance rather than optimally respond to change. If you are scared, angry, confused, touchy, or jumpy, you are in reactive patterns of resistance.
Reactive patterns commonly fall into two categories, rigidity or collapse. Excessive rigidity is like glass, and any hard hit will shatter that glass into a million tiny little pieces. Excessive collapse is like warm jelly that slides right off a slanted surface to the next lowest ground and stays there. Whether rigid or collapsed, a flexible spine is absent.
Change, when it happens upon us and provoked outside of our intentions, can feel like being blindsided. Depending on your orientation towards such experiences, change activates resistance and struggle, or anticipation and readiness.
When drastic change is imposed upon us, as it is now, maintaining balance simply is not enough. Maintaining balance can leave you sorely ill-positioned when this transition settles us into our new baseline of normal.
Why? Because you would miss out on developing the skill and agility that comes with learning to master the experience of becoming wildly awake and present in your life. Balance is overrated and too much of it leads to complacency.
This post is about developing your sea legs. When the ground moves beneath you, you’ve got to learn new ways to navigate your terrain. Learning to fall, being in dynamic stability, and using flow state consciousness are ways of meeting change as a conscientious participant in this adventure we call change.
Learning to Fall
Most people avoid falling at all costs, even while falling. Bracing for impact is a reflexive behavior. But it is a behavior that can cause injury or harm.
Skateboarders, surfers, parkour athletes, dancers, martial artists, specially trained military groups, and stunt actors all learn to fall when developing skills for their craft. Why? So, they can fall without injury. We could learn a lot from these expert fallers, especially if our aim is to apply some of their engagement techniques to our lives.
It may seem counter-intuitive to lean into the fall but learning to fall without injury is a fundamental survival skill for all of the groups mentioned above.
Why would that not apply to you and I as well?
Falling well is a skill and an art form. It’s technical and creative. Two purposes of a skillful fall include avoiding or limiting harm from the impact of the fall and using the momentum of the fall to bounce into another position of readiness.
Notice, it’s not just about getting back up. It’s about bouncing into a position of readiness for the next move.
Flexibility and agility develop when learning to fall well. In resilience literature, flexibility is ‘the capacity to adapt’ across four dimensions; time, space, intention, and focus (Golden & Powell, 2000). Agility, on the other hand, “is the ability to thrive in an environment of continuous and often unanticipated change” (Sarkis, 2001).
Adapting to change is rolling into the fall.
Thriving in change is bouncing back up in readiness for the next move.
A wildly responsive way of being, results from adapting to change and thriving in change.
Dynamic Stability in Flow State
To be dynamic is to be acutely responsive to the feedback in an environment.
Most people are familiar with the idiom in the zone. It turns out being in the zone is a critical factor in dynamic stability. It requires a flexible structure, of which an actively used and well-functioning spine provides. It also requires a dual form of attunement, whereas an individual is intently focused and aware of peripheral phenomena in the environment. The flexible structure of the spine comes into play when responsiveness is necessary.
An open, receptive mindset is essential to enter into this ‘zone’, one that accepts the phenomena presenting in the environment. There is no resistance, not even judgment whatsoever.
Only total acceptance and willingness to ‘play’ with whatever emerges in the environment. Notice, this ‘play’ is primarily offensive and moves forward with whatever presents [though to tuck and roll in a skillful fall is also a defensive move. It closes up holes and sidelines extremities, so they don’t end up in uncomfortably twisted positions].
Most individuals “accidentally” experience flow when in a highly concentrative state. Along with this optimal level of functioning comes a heightened state of awareness both personally and environmentally. Along with rapid-accurate decision-making, which propels movement figuratively and literally.
Another way to think of this idea is improvisational acting (Steven Kolter Interview, Mar 17, 2020). In improv, the actors must accept whatever other actors present and just go with it.
This ping-pong effect of responsiveness builds energy and momentum. The best time for a tuck and roll (in other words, falling), is when momentum is present. Use the momentum to bounce back up into a position of readiness for the next something.
The formal term to all this explanation is the flow state, coined by Hungarian Psychologist and University of Chicago researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I, 1988).
Develop your Flexibility Every Day
An active spine is strong, yet flexible. Remember those stretching exercises from the 1980s? One and two and three and…. These are basic, but complexity is not needed here anyway.
Just stretch your body daily; morning, noon, and night.
Keep it, simple sweetie. Release the kinks and stuckness associated with immobility. Shake, move, undulate, rotate, extend, curl in. Just move and stretch.
Music is Your Companion
On this journey, it’s nice to have some helpers. Music is often a great companion for entering into a flow state and being in dynamic stability. Are you noticing the relationships unfolding here? Flow state is a companion to falling well. Music is a companion to entering a flow state. The music you listen to needs to have two qualities. First, you must enjoy it. Second, it should not be distracting.
For this reason, many people choose music without lyrics, though that is not a hard and fast rule.
A simple search using the words “music for concentration” on your music platform will return many useful options for exploring what works for you. As will a search on You-Tube.
You may find musical artists from a variety of genres that activate your interest and curiosity without it demanding your attention. If the music demands your attention, it is not suitable for this work. It will distract, instead of support concentration. Save that music for another time.
Breathing is singularly transformative when it is used purposely (Ramaswami, 2005). Breathing releases tension and focuses attention.
Deep, steady inhalations through the nostrils, and steady nostril exhalations for low-level activity, such as writing or designing something, support a concentrative mental state. For high-level activities, maintain nostril inhalation, yet, exhale through your mouth.
Breath is vital because it keeps the parasympathetic nervous system activated, which is a calm state of being. The openness and ability to accept whatever comes so you can respond to it calls for a calm and steady nervous system.
Conscious breath is your ally in being dynamically stable.
Falling to Fly
Learn to tuck, roll, and spring back up into readiness. Create the conditions to flow state and cross the threshold. In a short time, you will be in deep.
Remember your companions; music, movement, and breath. Each time you enter, you make the path a little brighter for yourself, and it gets easier to access. You are within the world of your optimal level of experience, and you will be generative and creative.
Again, each time you enter, your level of optimal performance improves. Your flexibility, functionality, responsiveness, clarity of vision, and sense of wholeness all improve when you enter the world of dynamic stability.
Fall well, my friends.
See you in the sky.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. (1988). Optimal experience. Psychological studies of flow in consciousness. Cambridge University Press.
Divine, M. (2013). The Way of the Seal: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed. Reader’s Digest: New York, NY.
Golden, W. & Powell, P. (2000). Towards a definition of flexibility: in search of the Holy Grail? Omega 28, 4, pp. 373–384 doi 10.1016/S0305–0483(99)00057–2
Mylett, E. (Mar 17, 2020). How to get into the flow state: Steven Kolter Interview
. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjXZNvdVs04
Ramaswami, S. (2005). The Complete Book of Vinyasa yoga: An Authoritative Presentation — Based on 30 Years of Direct Study Under the Legendary Yoga Teacher Krishnamacharya. Da Capo Press: Philadelphia, PA.
Sarkis, J. (2001). Benchmarking for agility. Benchmarking: An International Journal.