Repost from our previous blog site hooptricks.org - originally published on July 7, 2015 at 2:19pm
This article explains the predicament that hooping teachers sometimes have with their students. It also explains some ideas about the flow experience. Can the experience of flow be taught? There are several factors involved with this question. The truth is that the answer is both yes and no.
You can help your students with everything that leads up to their first experience of real, genuine flow. You can set them up for success by teaching them their moves, and teaching ways to achieve smooth transitions with the appearance of advanced skill. For example, you can teach them the difference between horizontal planes and vertical planes, and to keep clean, straight planes. You can teach them how to do plane-changing transitions that are smoother and cleaner. You can suggest they practice yoga and meditation along with their hoop practice. You can even instruct them to stop learning new tricks and just try working with the ones they already know. You can try to explain to them in your best definition of what flow entails. You can tell them that constant, dedicated practice is essential to reducing drops, hesitation and mistakes.
Teaching others to experience mindless, effortless, spiritual and genuine flow may not be within possibility. Even the large number of people who have tried to explain the true essence of flow do not agree on what it means. Everyone has a different definition or description of what they think flow is. You may have run into some new beginner hoopers that insist they experience flow, and you may be skeptical. This is where it gets sticky and hard to put into words. You can't say "No, you're wrong. You haven't experienced that" because only that person knows how they experience their practice. It is most likely that they haven't experienced it, simply due to the fact that it takes a long period of time to get the practice hours in that reduce drops and mistakes.
Its like telling someone with anxiety not to worry, or telling a depressed person to be happy. You can't change how they feel or what they think. At this point, it is completely up to them. There is nothing more you can do or say. It is within only their power to dedicate themselves to their art, reduce mistakes through long periods of time spent practicing, find music that speaks to their soul, let down their guard, stop thinking about everything, and execute it all to the maximum extent of their ability.
Flow Killing Factors
Hesitation, drops, and mistakes are the main killers of flow experience. Flow requires a non-interrupted execution of your art or dance. It should leave you in awe of yourself and leave you wondering how you did what you just did. You won't really think about it as it happens, but you will remember most of what happened when its over. Ideally, you will be pulling off moves and tricks that you were struggling with before, one right after another, with no hesitation in between them. They will flow like water. You can tell when a hooper or hoop dancer hesitates. You can tell by the look on their faces and the way their body looks that they aren't quite sure what to do next. It may be just a fraction of a second. It may take a few seconds. To the hooper, it feels like a lifetime. Flow is executing the things you have in your brain all at once, without a thought, connected like a perfect puzzle.
Then and Now
The truth is that around 9 or 10 months in, I thought I was an expert. I was offended when people told me I didn't have flow or that I don't quite understand it. I wanted to play with the big hoopers and be among the best. I was rushing it and I was stubborn.
A couple years later, I found out that they were right. I had not experienced my true flow and I really didn't know what I was talking about back then. It took a long time and countless hours of practice to have that moment. There are so many levels of flow, too. When I first experienced some flow around my year and a half mark, it was a different feeling that was euphoric and just came so easily. My hoop was my dance partner, an extension of myself, and not a thought crossed my mind during all of the tricks and moves I was executing. It lasted for several minutes without interruption. Afterwards, I stopped to think "what just happened?" as if it was a dream I had just woken from. The best part is, I continue to reach new, higher levels of flow with each passing year of my practice. You never reach a final state of flow. It continues to grow as you grow and change during your life's struggles and victories. The meaning of your flow changes, the feeling changes, the hoops themselves may even change.