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Rephrased question:

Sometimes we become absorbed in an activity, such as writing an article, with intense focus and absorption (intentionally). How would Buddhist principles address this state?


Previous question as definition of mindfulness incorrect:

In being mindful we are aware of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations

Sometimes we become absorbed in an activity, such as writing an article, with intense focus and absorption (intentionally). On the surface this appears to be in conflict with mindfulness. Is this the case?

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  • good interesting question; helpful that Asker provides precisely what's intended meant by the topic words of the sentence; there are diffences of opinion & intended processess & outcomes from contemplation, so that might be part of it: and material's also sometimes presented which is at a remedial level or even incorrect, especially depending on viewpoints – M H Oct 24 '20 at 2:01
  • also, specific 'interpretions' it sort of depend on the specific Buddhist persons: & there's a lot of variation, especially perhaps recently and the sort of new age type of material which has been recently marketed as Buddhism, cf Teachings of The Buddha, Dhammapada, etc – M H Oct 24 '20 at 2:17
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Although meditation/immersion is, in general, unification of the mind, one must be careful.

“Yā kho, āvuso visākha, cittassa ekaggatā ayaṁ samādhi;

“Unification of the mind is immersion. MN44

One must be careful here because there is Right Immersion and Wrong Immersion. Flow unifies the mind with a feeling of effortless, peaceful, and expansive limitlessness in the pursuit of an activity. Yet flow always ends and is therefore unsatisfactory. One can actually crave flow--let's go surfing (or whatever) for the rest of our lives. So flow can lead to suffering. A flowing surfer who cannot surf due to old age and illness is suffering. Although flow is peaceful, it is incomplete. We need to look beyond flow.

If we observe any well-practiced Buddhist monk, we see something quite interesting. The robes of a monk flow, but the monk is invariably steady, imperturbable, radiant, and equanimous. The world flows around the monk without clinging.

What is that monk doing?

That mendicant feels inspired by the meaning and the teaching in that Dhamma, no matter how the Teacher or a respected spiritual companion teaches it. Feeling inspired, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi. AN5.26

Although this sounds "flowy", notice that the focus is the Dhamma, not some random activity.

Read the suttas, study the Dhamma, learn from good teachers and good friends. May that flow lead to peace.

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Mindfulness does not mean being aware.

It means bringing & keeping Buddhist principles in the mind.

It appears the question is about fake Buddhism.

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    Thank you for the clarity. Then what do the Buddhist principles say regarding flow state? – user6106952 Oct 23 '20 at 11:11
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    if the mind has thoughts and emotions it is not a "flow state" – Dhammadhatu Oct 23 '20 at 20:04
  • good point in answer and good comments; also, may be some of the question is somewhat from more at new age type recent texts, maybe Asker try find pretranslation text and go through & consider the original words :) – M H Oct 24 '20 at 2:10
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samādhi, undistractible-lucidity, having singular preoccupation, a singular focus would be the closest to 'flow state'. What makes samma samadhi or samadhi-sambojjhanga really start to stand out, is when the passsadhi (pacification) awakening factor is properly done, so one's energy is smooth, relaxed, effortless, which gives samadhi its distinctive quality of excellence in anything it is directed towards. In other words, without passadhi, one could still have samadhi, but with strained, unrelaxed effort the result is of much lower quality. For example, picture a clumsy unathletic person running, compared to an olympic kenyan marathon runner with effortless, relaxed, pacified and perfectly efficient movement.

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The state of meditative absorption is called samadhi.

Zen master Sheng Yen distinguished three kinds of samadhi:

  • Worldly samadhi can happen during usual worldly activities, e.g. singing.
  • Samadhi of Dharma practice, leading to awakening and liberation.
  • Mahayana samadhi, which means awakening and liberation applied to helping sentient beings in usual daily life.

It's important to not get attached to samadhi. Even if it feels pleasant, it has transient nature and can become a trap, a dead end in practice.

Sometimes it's called "the trap of solitary peace", or "Mara's cave".

Sheng Yen said that perhaps the best way of Zen meditation (according to the Silent Illumination method) is to not become consumed by meditation but to stay aware.

Our actual way though depends on our abilities and conditions:

One kind attains arahatship through samadhi, and the other attains this state without experiencing samadhi.

As a Mahayana practitioner, I try to develop samadhi — to be more stable under various influences and conditions; but also I try not to attach to samadhi and keep the practice natural, not losing active karuna attitude.

"Being in a flow" doesn't seem to be a proper goal, because I imagine liberation not as being caried by a river; rather it's like hanging in the air, being attentive and open and easily able to move instantly in any direction.

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