Neural Plasticity and Flow

How many times have you said or heard someone say: “I wish I would have learned how to…” play a musical instrument, learn a second language or surf, do gymnastics, what ever. The idea being that once you are an adult it’s too late to learn new things and too hard. Children learn and retain information differently building deeply rooted neural pathways that they can pull from their whole lives but just because you’re over 18 doesn’t mean it’s game over. As adults we have more focus, patience and if you dig deep I would argue more motivation, especially as you begin to consider your own mortality. My grandmother started piano lessons at 88 so what’s your excuse?

The simple fact of science is that adults have a great capacity to learn and if you look after your well being physically, mentally and spiritually (religion, humanity, community, however you define spiritual) you might actually learn something new and teach those kids a thing or two. Diving deep into these three aspects of well being I discovered “flow state” which I mention in my first blog post:

Bubbly Toes
Find your flow state, mine is beach walks and bubbly toes

Flow state research and the science behind finding the optimal state of mind for performance in sports, music, arts, writing and more has been around since the early 1900s, this Time article breaks it down nicely for the masses:

The Science of Peak Human Performance

Time - The Science of Peak Human Performance
Time – The Science of Peak Human Performance

In the summer of 2018 I decided to dive even deeper into finding flow by learning the flow art of fire staff, here’s some excerpts of my training at LA Burn Club a private practice space for fire performers:

Searching For Patterns In Nature from Michael Angelo Media on Vimeo.

I purchased my very first staff from Fire Groove Gear (other fire flow tools include poi, fans, darts) and thanks to owner Lester Mooney I headed to the Ignight Fire Festival in Joshua Tree only 5 days later. Immersed in a world of flames and wonder I was surrounded by like-minded fire people all hungry to learn and explore this incredible primal experience. Fire staff has it’s roots in martial arts but the flow arts reaches well past martial arts especially with “contact staff” a fascinating foray into the world of balance and staff performance with it’s roots bound in Chinese Fei-Cha. When I saw staff instructor Nema Nematollahi perform contact staff at the Ignight Festival I was blown away and completely hooked:

Ignight 2018 – Nema Nematollahi AKA The Kraken

It took me a while to learn the basics of spinning the staff but learning contact staff is much harder so I recommend finding lessons, local “flow jams” through social networking, I found Venice Glow Flow in Venice and LA Burn Club in Culver City or watch YouTube videos like this one:

Contact Staff 101 – Beginner Tutorial – Pinch Points, Wraps, Conveyor Belt

I’ve been improving and thanks to Jazz at Trick Concepts as a beginner I added weights to the ends of my staff making contact staff much easier and now after getting the hang of it I’ve taken off my training wheels and the lighter staff is actually much easier after you begin to familiarize yourself with the inherent patterns in natural alla fibonacci. Trick Concepts also built me a custom breakdown staff that fits into carry on luggage for travel which I brought to Russsia to perform at a wedding, kids don’t try this at home:

From Russia with Love - FilmmakerFitness
From Russia with Love – FilmmakerFitness

I stepped up my contact staff game further by going to Fire Groove Gear and adding silicon “fire flowers” to my staffs, suddenly the darn thing was rolling all over my body like a caterpillar!. Staff flowers create drag slowing the speed of the staff but most importantly once I started to spin the staff like the axle of a car the staff sticks to your body and all of these patterns start to emerge so you can learn much faster:

Fire Groove Gear - Fire Flowers
Fire Groove Gear – Fire Flowers

The biggest break throughs come from lots of practice and simply learning to “let go and let flow”, stop over thinking things. I spend less energy breaking down the “moves” and simply feeling and visualize where the staff is on your body, where the center is, it’s weight, it’s momentum and building a relationship with the natural patterns I discover. I’ve got a long way to go but hopefully this can help any other newbies out there.

Learning fire staff has changed me and I’m finding new ways to apply flow to every day life doing my best to “Let go and let flow”. It’s hard science that there are natural patterns in physics and in nature. Flow science, flow state and flow arts are tapping into those patterns which in turn affect your brain chemistry so it’s nature’s “meds” with only positive effects on your body, mind and well being. As our species becomes more sedentary and tethered to our digital devices learning new skills involving multiple senses will keep the mind and body active, growing and flowing. Consider learning something new at any age and turn “I wish I would have” into “I’m loving doing something new”.

Ciao for now,

Filmmaker Fitness