The Law of Attraction as told by Abraham, aka Esther and Jerry Hicks and William Walker Atkinson creates a complete framework for manifestation through meditation, focus, awareness and joy.
These are some really valuable psychological takes on the phenomenon. But what would a neuroscientist say? Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, who’s done some of the leading research on how meditation affects the brain, offers an interesting analogy for our usual way of being: “The simplest metaphor is that it’s like driving a car with one foot on the break and one on the gas,” he says. “In the analogy, the gas is our brains’ the natural function, and the brake is self-referential processing. If you take foot off the break, the brain functions more effortlessly. Our brain is like ‘thank god, you got out of the way.’” And that’s when we get into the flow.
Brewer has talked about this phenomenon (see his TEDx talk here) and his research, which has shown that meditation quiets the areas of the brain that are the equivalent to the “brakes”—the default mode network (DMN)—which helps us get into a flow state very quickly. He adds that to get out of our own way, and even out of more significant states, like depression, you have to utilize other methods besides your usual mode of thinking: What got us into this mess can’t get us out, he says. “Here’s the paradox: You’re the problem. You can’t solve the problem with the same consciousness that created it. Saying to yourself, ‘I’m going to make myself one with the universe’ is a futile task. It’s just like someone telling you to relax. It doesn’t work. We naturally let go, when we see how painful our usual process is.”
He acknowledges that there’s a place for “the universe prompt,” as he calls it—the idea of consciously giving in to something bigger. “Every religious tradition that I’ve seen has something like this, just with different words. It’s letting go of the small self, so grace of god can flow through us. ‘Advaita vedanta’ [from the Upanishads]; in Catholicism, it’s emptying so god can flow. The universe prompt is helpful,” he adds, “where I realize I don’t need to do anything. That can be part of the work, but it’s not all of it.”
As to whether flow is our natural state, or the product of being in tune with something greater, he says this. “Does something (like the universe or God) need to be creating something that is our natural propensity? In other words, what makes water flow downhill (instead of uphill)? Our brain has evolved for efficiency. 'Flow' is likely a manifestation of the brain working in optimal conditions.”