In the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympics, four-time gold-winning gymnast Simone Biles removed herself from the competition for mental health reasons, stating, “After the performance that I did, I didn’t want to go into any other events second-guessing myself. I thought it was better if I took a step back and to let these girls go out there and let them do the job.”
Many people applauded her honesty and courage. And if we dive deeper into her brave decision and her autobiography, Courage to Soar—A Body in Motion—A Life in Balance, Biles has much to teach us about how she allows God to direct her life as she moves in and out of “flow.”
The term “flow” has become a buzz word for athletes who describe themselves as being “in the zone” when they’re immersed in their sport. Artists, writers, and other creatives speak of “being in the flow” when their art pours out with effortless joy.
In his book Flow—The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi defines flow as a state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity. He suggests we can experience flow by focusing on the pleasures of our senses such that the mind sinks into the body.
To date, the conversation about flow has been limited to psychological theory and research focusing on the mind and body interaction. What’s missing is the understanding that flow also has a spiritual element to it.
Flow involves our whole being—mind, body, and spirit.
Is There Such a Thing As Divine Flow?
In my upcoming book, Finding Flow—Spiritual Practices to Reclaim Inner Peace, Balance, and Wholeness, I define flow as, “Being one with the Divine Spirit who opens our hearts, allowing us to experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.”
Christians call this Divine Flow the Holy Spirit. Other faith traditions call it Karma, Wisdom, the Great Spirit, or Divine Love.
Franciscan priest Richard Rohr in Breathing Underwater writes, “It is no surprise at all that our common metaphors for the Holy Spirit all honor and point to a kind of flow experience: living water, blowing wind, descending flames, and alighting doves.”
Whatever you call it, however you describe it, flow points to this universal truth: the Infinite Being—our Creator—loves and guides us with unconditional love and wisdom, and we can connect with this Being.
It’s this sense of Divine Flow that Biles’ life models and that she writes about in her book. Her faith, family, and passion continue to give her the direction and wisdom to persevere and overcome the many challenges she has faced, including being adopted as an infant and being sexually abused as a college student at the hands of her coach.
How Do We Get Into the Divine Flow?
When I was studying to become a spiritual director and obtain my Masters in Pastoral Counseling, we were tasked with the assignment to create a personal Rule of Life. As I pondered, I looked to the spiritual giants we studied. I noted how each man and woman—Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, Julian of Norwich, Saint Teresa of Avila, Jesus, and others—had four common lifestyle practices that shaped their lives.
First, they took daily time for solitude, to be alone with God—time to meditate and listen for the Whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Second, they read the scriptures and writings of spiritual masters to gain insight and learn wisdom.
Third, they surrounded themselves with people who inspired them to grow, people who nudged and encouraged them to take another step outside of their comfort zone.
Finally, they did the inner work to discover their unique talents and gifts, to figure out what made them come alive. They then used those talents in life-giving ways for themselves and others.
I shaped my Rule of Life around the ancient wisdom of the spiritual masters. The following are some of their quotes and the summary of what became my Rule, the guiding principles through which I seek inner peace, balance, and wholeness:
Solitude: taking quiet time each day to connect with myself and God. In the words of Mother Teresa: “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.”
Spiritual Reading: studying the writings of others further along on the spiritual journey to discover the wisdom and guidance they offer. “Just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.” Pope John XXIII.
Community: surrounding myself with people who inspire and nudge me to grow. “We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors to one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course . . . we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom, and healing.”– Wayne Muller
Spiritual Gifts: taking a spiritual gifts inventory to discover my unique talents, then using them in life-giving ways for myself and others. “May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.”– John O’Donohue
I call the above Rule of Life, Finding Flow. I wonder if that’s what Simone Biles was pointing to as she realized she wasn’t in the flow and needed to step back to regain her center. Maybe her inner voice, the Spirit within her, was pointing to a deeper wisdom—one we can all connect with if we seek it.
While there’s no magic formula that can get us into the flow, the above time-tested lifestyle practices are ones we can incorporate into our lives as a roadmap to inner peace, balance, and wholeness.
The spiritual practices of Finding Flow are a pathway that opens the door to reclaim our Divine Image and obtain Wisdom to guide us. It’s a path Simone Biles has walked all her life—and in doing so, she has become one of our wise teachers.
—brian j plachta
Want to Dive Deeper Into Nature?
Join me for our August Zoom Webinar
Our August Zoom Webinar will on Tuesday, August 31:
HOW DOES GOD SPEAK TO US THROUGH NATURE?
-nature as spiritual practice
A Finding Flow—Simple
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
7:00 pm – 8:45 pm (Eastern US Time)
- How is nature medicine for our souls?
- What Wisdom does the Creator wish to reveal to us through our experiences in nature?
- How can we learn to understand what nature desires to teach us?
Join me for this free Zoom Webinar to explore these questions and others.
During the webinar you’ll discover:
- How to become aware of Nature’s divine presence in your life
- What makes an ordinary experience in nature extraordinary
- How you can listen and understand the language of Nature
- Spiritual practices that can help you hear God’s Wisdom revealing itself to you through nature
Click the link below to learn more and register.