flow stories

In summer 2013, we reached out to our Facebook community to share our stories of finding flow and asked others to share their own stories. We got some powerful responses, testaments to the amazing things that pursuit of a state of flow can do. We've excerpted some of these stories below. Have a flow story to share? Send us a note and we may include it here!


...and from our founders: read Sean and Prisna's flow stories.


Health and lifestyle transformation

"Last January, I had a bit of a scare. I ended up in the emergency room with stroke symptoms (I'm 34 years old, btw). The doctor examined me and decided it wasn't a stroke. Never gave me a real explanation. He blamed it on caffeine toxicity, despite the fact that I had 1 caffeinated drink all day. I was 342 pounds, had high blood sugar and cholesterol, an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and pretty much everything else an unhealthy person deals with. I decided that this year had to be the year things changed for the better. I have a wife of 12 years and a 14 year-old stepson who depend on me to be alive. At the beginning of March, I went hunting for a physical activity that would get me moving, but would also be fun and uplifting. I don't remember exactly how I ended up at your site, but I left having made a decision. I started small, with some sandbag cone poi from Home of Poi. Within a month, I was back buying my crystals.

I had watched some videos on YouTube of other people spinning Flowtoys products, and it was obvious that if I was going to be able to do it all and make it look good, I needed to lose a lot of weight. I dropped almost $1000.00 on a gym quality elliptical, started eating healthy, exercised every day, and constantly challenged myself to go harder. Since March, I have lost 105 pounds, my labs are all normal, and I'm off the cholesterol medication. I feel 30 years younger than I felt then (20 instead of 50). Back and neck pain has been brought down to a manageable level (had surgery on my back 10 years ago). I had plenty of reasons to get healthy, but your products were the final nail.

If I only had the benefits above, the money spent this year would have been worth it. But it was the tip of an overwhelming iceberg. Psychologically I was a wreck. Working a temp job fearing every Friday was the last day I'd have a job, dealing with low self-esteem, no confidence, and dwelling on every little thing; every day was a mix of deep depression and wild anxiety. I was living in a vicious cycle of inability to sleep and the lack of sleep bringing my psychological well-being down further. All of that changed as I started to improve with poi, and I have never poured so much passion into something. I honestly believe at this point, that with enough dedication, ANYTHING is possible. Your disclaimer on the website, you cannot tell people that and have them fully understand it. They have to live it, as I have, to know what you mean. Good to warn ahead of time in case someone wanted to continue a miserable existence.

9 months of pouring everything I have into this, money, time, effort, daydreaming, playing the rain, heat, cold, snow, and ice, and I finally came out of my shell. Everything I've put into this came to a head with an experience I have never had until this past weekend. To look up and see smiles and the look of amazement on people's faces, and know that I somehow made their night just a little bit better, is a feeling that cannot be described in words. I'm addicted.

When I say my life has changed because of your products, it is no exaggeration. I have a lasting reason to stay healthy, a skill for life, and all of the benefits I have mentioned. I still have a long journey ahead to reach the level of skill that I want, but I haven't been happier with the person that I am in my entire life. Thank you a million times over!"
-Stephen W.


I landed on this crazy California ride a little over 11 years ago, hailing from a tiny little town in Southern West Virginia. I was awkward. No, really - biggest dork ever. And lordy did I have about the worst body image ever. I had this deep passion for music as I had studied it intensely for the first 18 years of my life, and my body wanted SOOO badly to be able to move to it. But, aside from marching band I hadn't done much in the way of coordinated anything - And I hated the way I looked in the mirror so I never danced. Hell, I never wanted to do a single thing to draw attention to myself because I thought I was fat, uncoordinated, and quite frankly an eyesore.

I saw Shpongle in 2004. He came to San Francisco and I, the biggest dork ever, got my whole dorky costume together and headed over to Space 550 to ring in Halloween 2004 to some bangin' good ol' Hallucinogen style Psytrance. Dude was dressed as the Mad Hatter and threw down an epic set. At 4am he came on as Shpongle, and the vibe of the whole party changed. It got kinda grindy and a lot of clothes came off of a lot of people. And there, in the crowd, was a cleared piece of dancefloor real estate and the most epic dude ever spinning glowing balls on strings. Holy crap - I nearly fell out of the mezzanine trying to mob the guy. I hugged him, kissed him, and thanked him for the info on what it was and how I could make some.

It was poi. And my first pair was a pair of my then-boyfriend's socks with about a dollar's worth of nickels and dimes dropped into the toes. I spun madly, hosed my roommates with change, broke lights, cussed, cried, and after 6 months I learned the 3 beat weave. Yes - it took me that freaking long!!! I also lost a lot of weight. Like, a whole lot, and for the first time ever I needed poi friends! So I got in touch with Isa and began a beautiful friendship. I was soooooo inspired by her because her journey with her self image was so close to mine, and her happiness with herself was exactly where I wanted to be.

From there I found hoop and lost about 100 pounds, learned to move my hips, and got in incredible shape. I lost an entire human being off of my body! After being ashamed of my body my entire life I could look at myself in the mirror and not feel shame. I could dance and move in front of others and LOVED IT.

Another big change was the discovery of the Burning Man culture and how I was employed. Over the last 6 years of my life I've moved from the normal corporate world to making my money entirely in the flowarts. I volunteer most of my free drawing time, and a lot of my downtime,to the flow arts, and various other flow-themed events across the Bay Area like Temple of Poi's annual fire show. Yes - I was definitely your stage manager there. I also taught for a number of years for Temple of Poi so there's a good chance that I may have taught you at some point. If I did, you inspired me and pushed me to be my best every single class. And sometimes you even brought me wine and after class we got our drink on as we got our spin on.

Below is the first picture I ever saw of myself where I thought - Wow. That's me?! - and it happened at a Mark Farina show at 1015 Folsom. I was in the basement with my Oggz, grinning like the freaking poi dork that I am.
-Bevin


Meditation and peace

"When you find peace through movement you have found flow. That movement might be breath against vocal cords producing a sound that is so beautiful it causes your heart to skip a beat. Seeing a person move their lips apart to create a smile can touch your soul. Even when the sun moves across the sky it gives energy to all it touches. We can get lost watching a butterfly float around the yard. The greatest thing I've discovered about flow is it can be shared. I've walked into a hospital room of a child hurting so much they can't stop crying. Then I'll bring out a lighted flow tool and for a moment the whole room is at peace mesmerized by the movement of light. So find your gift, your way of bringing peace to others, and share your flow with the world."
-Mark T.


Personal transformation and development

Since I was little I read stories of superheroes: Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man. As a kid, I could relate to them, I mean, who couldn't? They were there when no one else was.They were my friends, my teachers and my family. I grew up wanting to be a hero that people recognized and came to for comfort. I realized there was something different, though.. I could relate to Clark Kent, Tony Stark, all of them, but I couldn't relate to the hero.. I never had any super power. I couldn't fly, couldn't teleport, couldn't read minds, I was just Jonathan. Then I saw glow sticking at the age of fourteen. Intrigued by it, I had to know more. This was it! They were bending light! They were moving and shifting, creating patterns. I knew that this was it. This was the closest I would ever get to becoming a superhero.

I've never been one to have great confidence, and at the time, I had been fighting great self-esteem issues. Who was I to learn this? I was just some kid. I didn't have the looks, nor the coordination. With a heavy heart I turned it down and told myself I could never do this, until my mother, having heard about my fascination with this newfound "super power," went out and bought me twelve glow sticks. I remember the feeling, cracking them for the first time and seeing the light that I created, that I brought to the Earth right then and there. This was me. This light was an extraction of my soul, even if it was store bought. This was my release. That night I spun and spun until all of my glow sticks went dim.

Slowly, I was reaching my goals: learning, training, discovering, whilst all the long smiling and being the truest form of me that I had never seen. Then I saw fire poi. Instantly I knew I had started and gone too far to go back.

I could bend fire.

Years of practice in the future, I finished high school and knew that I was destined for far more than the little town of Lake Park, Georgia could offer me. I packed up my bags and $400 and moved to California, unsure of what the future had in store. I found myself without a home, without any money and anybody to go to, but I knew it would be okay. "Follow your heart" my parents told me, and I knew my heart resided here. It was a month into moving, I found a job, an apartment and friends that I now consider family. I have had the most amazing support and love from the flow community that I consider myself the luckiest spinner of all to discover this love and support in such a short amount of time.

You look at me and you don't see a fire spinner. You don't see a glow sticker or even a superhero. That's the beauty of spinning, though! Super power or not, this is you in your truest form. It's learning your body through movement. So maybe I cannot fly, teleport or read minds. But I am Jonathan. That means more to me than any other super power.
-Jonathan A.


"I always loved to dance and act as a kid, and when I left home to "grow up" (oops, that still hasn't happened) I put away childish things and saved the dancing for parties. As I got older, I got bored-er, until the need to find a hobby became an imperative. A friend introduced me to hooping - close, but not quite. Then, the same friend brought me to a fire show - the '08 fire expo in San Francisco's Union Square - bingo!

I learned to spin poi (gratitude to Bevin + Isa), unlocking the dancer that had been quietly waiting for her turn since my childhood, and offering plenty of mental exercise too. From poi, I found contact staff and the flow-wand (gratitude to Aileen, ever an inspiration). All passions ebb and flow, and my flow story is no different - after a while, I fell out of my practice and grew disenchanted with the spinning scene, and the focus on tech spinning, which (although rad) has never been my strong suit.

Then, a chance encounter with a clown nose changed everything. I discovered that I can use a flow tool and be my silly, dancy, terrible-at-tech self. "Traditional" contact staff practice still happens - mostly at home, at the end of a long day - and it still feels great to nail a new move or put together a little choreography. But putting on that nose and putting myself out there is one of the most energizing, edifying, "it just feels right" kind of things that I've ever experienced. Now I've dedicated my career to the flow, too, and sharing it with as many people as possible. Whether you're at it every day, traveling the world, teaching, or just picking up your poi once every few weeks to practice and have a little fun, I think flow will change your life for the better, and I try to tell people that every day. Gotta let 'em know!
-Izzy


I've been flowing since June 28th, 2009. It all started when a co-counselor of mine at a summer camp up in Maine spun fire poi for the camp at the Opening Campfire. I was so breath-taken by the entire experience of watching him flow, and bearing witness to someone truly in their center, that I knew immediately I had to learn what it was he was doing.

Matt taught me for about 2 weeks with a pair of Jailhouse Sock Poi from HoP. He taught me a few basic foundation moves, and made sure I had my tracks and planes all evened out as best as I could have them in my first few weeks. But much more focus was placed on his making sure I truly understood the essence of flow artistry. Matt taught me about what it meant to start on the path towards not only finding your center, but living in it. He taught me what poi could come to mean to me. He taught me how to start finding myself in ways I could never even imagine. And that, more than anything, helped fuel my dedication towards flow.

As soon as I got home from my summer camp, I ordered myself some sock and LED poi, and a few months later graduated to fire. After a couple of years with poi, I started expanding the language of my flow. Now not only do I use poi, but also contact staff, double staff, fans, hoop, and buugeng. Each one has taught me something new about my body, my spirit, and my center.

It's been 4 years, 1 month, 1 week, and 3 days since I started my flow journey. It's a journey that truly will never end, at least not for me. And that's okay. Because it means I will never stop changing, never stop expanding, never stop growing, and never stop learning. And all of it is because of what flow artistry, and the community which utilizes it, has taught me."
-Aaron M.


I had only been flowing for a couple months and my friend left her podpoi behind when she went out town. At that point all I had was a pair of spin balls and the flow practice wasn't really going well. I picked up her pod poi and spun them and fell in love INSTANTLY!! I ordered a pair the next day. My flow took off after that and in a couple of months I'll actually be starting my own fire performance company. I do have flowtoys to thank for that for coming out with such a wonderful product which sent me in the right direction.".
-David R.


I started spinning when i was about 20, my friend had just started dong it and was addicted, i ended up going to a field with him and a load of other fire spinners late at night once, and i was handed a staff. I had flashbacks as a kid pretending to be a ninja in my garden, i took to it well. Next someone handed me a set of glow poi and that was it. It's all i would do in my spare time and all i would talk about. Flow and skill toys really helped me through a lot of issue's and still are helping me. At present i have just finished performing at 2 well known festivals with the fire crew i spin for, it's becoming a big part of my life and i'm looking forward to the future and how the world of flow is going to help direct it :)"
-Callum B.


Flow state

When I started my journey to flow, I had no idea what was in store for me. I was 11, and at the time going through a very rough time. In the short time I have been on this earth I have always been the kid that everyone made fun of and never really liked to hang around. I yearned to find somewhere to belong, or something in my life to have passion in. Then I saw spinning.

Two local spinners came and spun poi in my back yard, and I was so captivated. I was lost in the swirling geometry and it wrapped my brain in a hypnotic embrace. This was it. This is something I could finally find a sense of belonging in. The flow state.

The very next day I filled a pair of knee high socks with pennies and went to town. Many bruises and a cracked window later, my mother bought me my first pair of LED poi for my 12th birthday. Since then I haven't been able to put them down. They have become an extension of my soul and mind. Flow is my life, and my greatest passion. Being 16 now, and going to Kinetic Fire further instilled my love for flow.

I know without a doubt the flow state is where I belong, and where I am most creative. Its where I am happy, and I love it. The best part is the best part is that the flow state isn't just one place. Its everywhere. The flow state is all around us, we just have to realize it. This world we live in is full of love and flow and just an extreme beauty that we never really take the time to stop and realize. Poi helped me see this. I can never go back now, I am addicted to flow."
-Gaige N.


"A state of Flow is the most amazing feeling I could hope to achieve in a day. In those moments of time, nothing else matters. I am at complete peace. With the world. With my soul."
-Jake D.


I found flow during my first festival during a very confusing time in my life. Traveling around, trying to figure myself out, trying to decide what I wanted to do... While walking by myself during a stressful point in the weekend I came to a guy off by himself. He was standing in the middle of this shallow river spinning fire. I watched on the beach and all the stress just left my head. All I could think about was how beautiful it was and I realized all this worry was gone. I was gifted a set of oggpoi that weekend. It wasn't long after that I ordered my first flowtoys. They blew my mind with all the settings. I didn't put them down, every time I dialed into the flow state, all my anxieties just floated away. When I'd stop a more calm angle of "do what you can do now, don't worry about what you can't." Now I find myself on stages sharing this beautiful amazing thing with people. It's beyond surreal. Thank you for contributing to that."
-Jesi R.


Sean von Stade

"I've always had a lot of physical energy, and for much of my life I struggled to find healthy and sustainable ways to let it out. Martial arts was satisfying until I realized I would probably never get in a fight. Sports were fun in high-school but strict scheduling got in the way of my other interests. Extreme sports were awesome but required expensive equipment, traveling to special locations or defacing public property and left me with many injuries that I still feel today. I enjoyed juggling, hacky-sack and juggling-sticks for a while, but they didn't inspire me deeply or really move my whole body. Traditional dance forms seem to require years of training to reach an interesting level of skill. I had seen Polynesian fire-dancing on TV, but the context was so foreign to me I could not relate to it.

Then one evening in 1997, at my first outdoor music festival, I came across some people dancing with fire. They were not professionals, just regular folks like me. I was awestruck. I thought: What IS this? Why are they doing it? Are they practicing a traditional African art? I don't see any leader, any organization, heck THEY don't even seem to know what they're doing, it was total spontaneous free-style! AND it was like martial-arts, extreme-sports, and dance all rolled into one. The moving light was the purpose, the motivation, the reason to do it. It was hypnotic and motivating. I was introduced to staff-manipulation through martial arts, but every move was limited by whether it was a strong strike or block. Just focusing on the movement of the light was like TOTAL FREEDOM! The lights give us license to flow. If anybody asked me why I'm spinning a stick around, I can say, "you should see it on fire!"

I went up to the first firedancer whose fire went out and asked how he did that - literally: "how do you keep the fire on the end of the stick from blowing out?" He told me about kevlar wicking and fuel and that one of the festival clothing vendors might have some. I bought some the next day (his personal supply) and I went into the woods with my pocketknife and cut down down a sapling to fashion myself a fire-staff and a pair of club-poi, with some cord from my tent as leashes, and wire from some marker-flags I found on the ground holding the wick on. I think I danced with fire almost every night for the week that followed.

With no instruction, no internet videos, and no one to teach me any moves. It was pure improvisation and experimentation based on what I had seen that night and in martial-arts movies, and my imagination. In the year that followed, I manage to meet some other firedancers, learn a few new techniques and impress my friends and family. The combination of the constant challenge and progress, and the positive feedback from everyone who saw it has kept me going to this day, and I still learn something new EVERY time I flow.

These days I spend most of my time developing products in my lab and managing our company from my computer, but I still spin my personal flowtoys, and even perform with fire on special occasions, and with some good music to inspire my movement, it still feels just as immersive and amazing as it ever has, and I still learn something new every time.

forever finding my flow,
-Sean


Prisna von Stade

"Who am I? What am I doing here? Many of us struggle with our place in the world. I know I do. In the early years, I took great pride in being one of the few firedancers and flow artist out there. I rocked school, work and life in general. My resume was hot. I was cool. The after glow from a stellar performance, the satisfaction from knowing that I instigated a new flow artform (flow-wand) and moved many around the world to start flow arts communities; one would think that these would have kept me in my personal flow practice.

What was an avocation became my full-time vocation, and I found myself spending most of my time dealing with the challenges of running the flowtoys starship enterprise. I stopped spinning. I attended flow arts festivals but felt shy about getting out there. The artform had burgeoned and thousands more were spinning. People who had just been practicing for 3 months were doing moves I had never seen. Once upon a time almost every firedancer in the world knew me for my style and skills. These days people are surprised to hear that I spin. I'm ok with that. Mostly ;)

Ego obfuscates and stands in the way of achieving a state of flow, but once in awhile I get to ride that wave again, mostly in the privacy of my home or when I find a little clearing in the woods. There are no more adoring fans (other than Sean and Kiro) but every time I pick up my flow-wand or podpoi, I am reminded of how powerful the flow arts is on so many fronts: movement meditation, physical exercise, creative expression and exploration, skill refining, endless room for improvement, and the learning is enjoyable. You get to love and laugh at yourself. Just when I think I have total control of the matrix, reality hits me - literally in the face. It's an artform that allows me to let go and focus at the same time. It's some of the best juju life has to offer without having to leave your home. And it's hella fun .

I sometimes feel overwhelmed and wonder what I'm doing with my life, and in some of my lowest moments I've been lifted by the stories of how the flow arts have transformed lives. The stories of how someone was heading down a dark path or hanging out with the wrong crowd, and then found the flow arts, meaningful relationships and healthy community. The stories of how someone lost a loved one, or had an accident that left them physically debilitated and how flowtoys played a significant part in their recovery. Of how young geeky men who are physically awkward, learn to love dancing and overcome their shyness through staff or poi spinning. The stories of how so-and-so found their life partner through the flow arts, of how spinning after a hard days work is the best way to blow of steam and relax.

I LOVE these stories as they remind me of the immense power of the flow arts to transform and make positive changes in our lives. And that no matter what my state of being, I can always pick up my wand or poi and be reminded that life is beautiful.

Hey you! Yes you. Your flow story can change lives. Share it!

Here's how I was inspired to flow by another:

I love moving. I love dancing, tumbling, stretching. I had seen Maori poi dancing and Hawaiian firestaff as a teenager, but it was something that *other* people, other cultures did. It wasn't until 1999 when I saw a girl at the Crucible in Oakland spin fire poi that a spark ignited in me. I could relate to her, I could see myself right there spinning fire and inspiring others. I had no idea what to call what she was doing, or where to get it. Google was barely a year old, but it was meant to be. The next day I went to the farmer's market in Berkeley and saw someone doing that thing the girl last night was doing. I ran up to him and asked how I could get some. $20 he said. I ran to the ATM and back hoping he'd still be there. I got my first pair of poi. I practiced every chance I had without knowing what I was doing until I found out about a spinjam in San Francisco. Through spinjam, Sean and I were brought together to do a poi performance and the rest is kind of history.

There are many other serendipitous moments in my life of flow; of people I saw and was inspired by and later got to meet and perform with. Of people I thought were beyond my reach, who became dear friends. Of how Flowtoys came into being. Of over a decade of opportunities that fell into place from that moment I saw that girl spin poi and realized that there is no "other people and other cultures", and that we can all embrace the best of each other and open our lives to possibilities. All of us can be that spark.
-Prisna