Being in Flow

In order to argue the benefits of physical activity, it is vital to understand the ‘in the zone’ feeling, interchangeably called flow. It is through our being that we achieve wellbeing and are able to experience flow through action-motion.

Embodiment as a philosophical concept has often tended to be overlooked in the western tradition whereas in the writings of Zen Philosophy, our embodied states engaged in flow are constant. When we are in the Zen space we have a constant flow all around us. Time is flowing, nothing is static. You are in the moment, which encapsulates the past, present and future. The Zen space is the same as the world around us, and everything is interconnected so our embodiment is linked to our actions, which are connected to our wellbeing. There is a strong pull of a connection between others and ourselves. When you meditate, for example, you place your connected mind-body in the moment and it is a process.

The mindset of Zen is to work at a deeper understanding of the infinite. Time should be valued, for we are connected to time, to who we are. Action-motion takes time. All of the moments that make up flow are boundless, limitless, and holistic creating an inherent experience. Zenning in the moment is to see, to forsee and to retrosee. To be the activity in the moment is Zen. So action-motion is another word for Zen.

The state of being in the zone is called many things, such as flow. In order to achieve wellbeing we need to be able to master the mindset of being in the zone. Flow allows us to combine our mind and body in an equilibrium state for the embodied being. Flow can be described in many ways. Flow itself has a structure. Flow is the point of equilibrium. When mind and body are in harmony we reach the CS balance, where Challenges and Skills converge. It is necessary for us to be challenged in our activities so we can learn a skill set and improve. This is partly a mental state where we recognize our potential for growth. We have to feel confident in our abilities to pursue flow.


               Recognizing our embodiment helps our understanding of wellbeing through the concept of being in the zone, or the flow state. This is key for forming our wellbeing values, necessary for establishing the connection of movement to cultivating our minds and bodies to the best of our abilities. The explanation of sensations can be further developed when pleasure is added to show how movement can be thought of as a type of sensation, which relates to the concept of how exercise fits into the model of the mind and body connection and our embodied states.

The philosopher Merleau-Ponty from the start portrays the connection of the mind and body. He writes,

The union of soul and body is not an amalgamation between two mutually exclusive terms, subject and object, brought about by arbitrary decree. It is enacted at every instant in the movement of existence. We found existence in the body when we approached it by the first way of access, namely through physiology (Phenomenology 102)

This is an important conception where the recognition of the embodied state is one shown especially through movement. This will be useful to understanding the context of why movement helps to cultivate this connection even further.

            A holistic view of the body is fundamental in this day and age. Reforms to healthcare should recognize this connection in order to provide opportunity for further advancements to be made in the societal context. Wellbeing demands preventative care and doctors who work together to form uniform, collective opinions and diagnoses rather than sending a patient from one specialist to the next with no communication between the specialties. The concept of wellbeing can be extended into the need for schools to reevaluate the importance of physical education and health programming for all students, as well as for government to recognize the preventative value of healthcare for all citizens. Health is an integral aspect of living a good life and a measure of success; the importance of wellbeing through action must be recognized.

            It is through the process of moving that people gain more benefits than just wellbeing. A side effect is that people gain new skills such as time management (following through on priorities), or responsibility (doing what is good for themselves for a higher cause). If people walked around engaged in a constant state of flow they would feel genuine connection with their state of being.

            There are misconceptions about physical activity and what is good and what is bad. While there are levels of movement, exercise is also something personal and individual in respect to the outcomes. No matter what activity people choose to engage in they have the opportunity to achieve flow. If people learn to enjoy what they do, and to enjoy their actions then they can achieve flow and experience it both mentally and physically.

            It is necessary to establish a common language to clarify the meanings or definitions that describe terms used in advocating movement. Words such as exercise, physical activity and even movement have associations that may carry stigmas that could detract from understanding. For this reason I introduce the term, aware-action, which I define as an intentional action that one undertakes, which actively engages the body and aligns one with the potential to achieve the state of flow or being in the zone. Aware-action is my word for a movement that is physical. Aware-action is essential for wellbeing. Aware-action can only be achieved through a mindset that acknowledges that one must actively engage their embodied state and recognize that flow is the way to ultimate wellbeing. It could be going for a walk for an older adult or running a marathon, competing in a sports event, playing Frisbee in the park or attending a Zumba class. Aware-action cannot be achieved through an action like brushing your teeth or going to the refrigerator to get a beer.

            Wellbeing is a state of being that depicts what it is for a human being to live a good and meaningful life. Wellbeing integrates the body and its movement with the mind and acknowledges the importance of embodiment. Wellbeing is the ultimate goal. It can be achieved through action-motion, which activates the flow possibility. If you achieve flow then you definitely achieve wellbeing. 

As embodied beings, in order to achieve wellbeing, it is necessary for us to engage in aware-action, specifically achieving the “in the zone” flow mentality. The concept of flow explains the means to achieving wellbeing through our actions. Total wellbeing requires aware-action and it is a mistake to avoid intentional movement. 

Movement Mandate

               Exercise is important for a person’s wellness and the body’s overall health. The body is crucial to our being as a person, so embodiment is essential. Movement is vital for one’s health as well as for happiness and the good life. Since we are embodied beings, taking care of our body is not only optional but also mandatory for us. My argument for a holistic view of the body is tied to the idea that the mind is an active bodily thing that cannot be separated from action. I believe that bodily engagement is necessary for the mind.

Understanding how our mind and body are connected will aid in understanding how exercise affects us. People typically tend to view exercise in two ways: as a chore or as a part of living life to the fullest. Viewing exercise as a chore is an inferior conception of the body and movement. This view is mechanistic and sees the act of exercise as not only a chore but also the body as instrumental. I believe the latter view, that exercise is needed for one’s wellbeing.
“Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy.” This memorable quote from the pop culture movie Legally Blonde (2001) resonates with my viewpoint. You cannot separate your body from your movements, your bodily chemicals from your brain; therefore, your brain from your body. They are interwoven and interconnected. The nature of your body when you exercise holds such power – it can help you de-stress, relax and strengthen your body. Scientific studies show reports that mental alertness and focus can improve through hand/eye coordination or different forms of movement. Research in neuromuscular junction and brain chemistry has proven movement connection. The connection between your mind and your body is vital for your daily life but especially in regard to how movement helps cultivate that connection.

Embodily Connected

My theory of Physical Philosophy builds on the concept of the embodied self as mind and body connected, addressed in my senior thesis for Bryn Mawr College: Physical Philosophy: A Mandate for Movement. Our intersection as humans within society influences our behaviors, and by recognizing our moral obligation to care for our selves, we can achieve wellness and thereby increased potential for happiness.

In his introduction to The Philosophical I: personal reflections on life in philosophy [Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield (2002).], George Yancy writes of the self embodily shaped by our collective history:

Embodily Defined

Express your spirit to embody wellness!

em·bod·ily Adverb
1. Express or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling).
2. Provide (a spirit) with a physical form. 

Embodily Defined

Express your spirit to embody wellness!

em·bod·ily Adverb

1. Express or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling).

2. Provide (a spirit) with a physical form.