I have a weird name, I know. It’s too many vowels. I’ve been tempted to legally alter it to something more phonetically pleasing. Unfortunately, this is highly impractical. I mean, consider: Eeleesah? E’Leasah? E•Lee•sah? I know, right? So I’ll just settle for the old stand-by, “It’s ‘Lisa’ with a long ‘E’ sound on the front.” Any way you pronounce it, it’s spelled “Elisa”. And I’m writing a blog.
My blog experience is next to nil. But truth be told I have more blogging experience than I can claim for other things: international travel, drinking in bars and performing karaoke, to name a few. So stick with me here, you’re in good hands.
This being the “intro” piece, I should do a bit of introduction. This is hard for me because it’s always hard to capitalize on what people find interesting. I think I’m as boring as watching CSPAN on a non-election year while practicing tatting and sipping lukewarm water at my grandmother’s house.
We’ll start with the stuff to make you think I’m smart. I have a Master’s of Business Administration degree in Management and Strategy. My bachelorette is in Music, certification in K-12 Education. Associate’s degree in Science. Super smart, right? I spent 14-ish years working in a music store, three years teaching music in the public schools (7th – 9th grade band and orchestra), five running my own private lesson studio (specializing in students with special needs), and the last 6 months I’ve been having a blast starting up three new companies. No, none of them have to do with music.
I’m a mother of three elementary-age children. I’ve been married to my husband for 13 years. I’ve never smoked. I’ve tasted alcohol but have never been “drunk.” I’m vegetarian but eat fish on occasion (but I’m very picky about the quality). I practice yoga. I race triathlons and took 1st overall at a couple of multi-sport races this year. I can’t tell you which discipline I like best because I have become passionate about them all. I build recreational trail maps. I sing and play the guitar (at the SAME TIME!), though I can claim no prowess. I have played the French Horn for more than 20 years, and I can’t even count the number of performing ensembles I’ve been in. I used to be fat. I am horribly addicted to sugar. And the chai at Roasted. I can quilt but not sew. I can research family history, but please don’t ask me to read it. I find art soothing and would love to get a tattoo. I have a serious crush on Adam Levine.
Enough personal stuff. Let’s get to the goods. Initiate Flow State.
One of the reasons I love to swim is that if I am immersed in water and stop swimming, I will die. My focus is entirely on my breath, my stroke, my movement. No other thoughts cloud my mind. Nothing else matters in this moment. And when this state of mind takes over, it breeds optimal learning. Muscle memory. Euphoria.
This state is known as “Flow.” I have experienced it in many settings: conducting my 9th grade band at festival, performing Brahm’s Symphony No. 1, maneuvering my mountain bike up a technical obstacle, generating a strategic plan for a chiropractor. Now, think about when YOU have experienced Flow, the highly concentrated state.
As a teacher, I attempted to assist my students to find the Flow State. Teenagers, right? Little walking balls of hormones and thoughtlessness. But when they came into my music room the instruction was this: Leave it at the door. All your petty disagreements, all your daily stresses, all of your hate directed at your loving parents…. Cast it aside. You can always pick it up on your way out the door. But while you are here, be here. Be present. You are exactly where you belong, doing what is perfectly right.
Did this mind trick work? Not always. But sometimes it didn’t matter. The kids that took it in, internalized it and still thank me for that lesson today. So I have to ask: In our busy lives, when a click of the mouse or a touch of the keyboard can take us to any place in the blink of an eye, where are we choosing to be? How often do we leave our worries, our stress, our negativity “at the door” and open ourselves up to Flow?
I make the attempt daily. And for me the door is the trailhead. There is something like the feel of a lover’s embrace that comes over me when my running shoes or bike tires hit the dirt. It’s as though all the worries, the negativity, cannot follow me there. Let’s be honest – they couldn’t catch me if they tried. Some days, I find clarity. Some days, I just feel my heart racing and my head pounding and my stomach aching for relief. But often enough I find Flow. My body knows what to do and I let it go – focus, concentration, practiced to the point that the only conclusion is euphoria.
So I will conclude this first submission with this challenge: Find your own Flow state. Mental or physical. Dirt or desk. Open yourself up, and let it flow.
Elisa Jones is currently chairman of the board of the Grand Valley Trails Alliance. She has an MBA in Management and Strategy and offers her services through her firm, Sovereign Business Consulting. A mother of three, she is an avid trail runner and mountain biker who gets her kicks practicing yoga, advocating for strong schools and indulging in dark chocolate.