Say you are at peace; dynamically at peace. Your mind is lit up. It is open to experience and spacious. It’s clear and quiet instead of pointlessly preoccupied with stressful thinking. This dynamically peaceful mind is naturally generating a friendly attitude in you instead of one that is contentious. It makes you flexible and creative instead of rigid. Then let’s say that neuroscience slides you under an f-MRI or attaches your head to an EEG or connects your brain to some other high tech instrument. What they would find is expanded networks that generate higher order brain function.
These networks would be larger and more fully integrated than brain scans show on the average person, with increased blood flow to the region.
There would be a high level of activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the seat of positive emotion. This means that, in your brain, positive emotion had swamped negative emotion. Emotional negativity wouldn’t stand a chance in your brain.
There would be greater activation in brain regions called the right insula and caudate, a network that underlies empathy and maternal love. This indicates a loving, understanding brain. It’s the brain you want in your spouse, your best friend, your boss, and the brain you want to parent your children.
Gamma Wave activity — signaling higher mental activity like problem solving, creativity and error detection—would also be high.
This highly developed neural circuitry would generate in you a flow of intelligence that was emotionally peaceful and positive, producing a fearlessly self-confident attitude with a clear sense of purpose, all of which would make you immune to stress.
This represents a brain operating at its absolute best. This is a person capable, not only of attaining, but sustaining peak performance. Work would not besiege and discourage such a person. For them, the research shows, work is an intrinsically rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Neuroscience has established that all these benefits are produced by a dynamically peaceful attitude. Peace is the threshold to the experience researchers in human performance call flow. Flow is the joy of excelling that we sometimes experience when we slip past stress and anxiety and enter that wonderful zone, where the full power of our skill, knowledge and ability come into play. The usual storm of demands, pressures, and doubts may have be present at the outset, but by subtle twists and turns, we manage to slip past the storm and locate the eye, where the pressure to produce becomes the challenge to excel. The only stress we feel is the desire to stretch ourselves.
As we settled in, an effortless flow of intelligence takes over, sweeping us along in its current. Time stands still. Pieces fall effortlessly into place, as if the dots are connecting themselves. At some point, our brain and mind harmonize to generate our own brand of genius that is capable of hitting a target no one else can see. Working in this way does not feel like work at all. Rather, it is a rewarding labor of love. It produces “a deep sense of enjoyment that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like,” as Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the father of positive psychology, stated.
A TOOL FOR GENERATING FLOW
Here is a simple way of establishing this sense of flow as you approach work:
Sit calmly for a moment before beginning the task. Recall the basic fact that at a mind at peace is a brain working at its absolute best. Let go of any anxiety or tension and be at peace. Feel your brain light up with power and energy to give you everything you will need to succeed. Next, just for a moment, feel the simple joy of being alive. Feel gratitude for the creative gifts you possess, which each new challenge invites you to realize and increase. See the task before as an opportunity to stretch your creative wings. Now bring to mind your goal for the task or project. Feel how the simple sense of joy and gratitude merges with your goal to inspire you with the enthusiasm to excel. Place your faith in your peaceful, joyful attitude. Imagine it forms an arrow headed straight for the bull’s eye. As you step to the task, let go of the outcome and trust the process … completely.