• Katlyn Cornelius

Inception Story: How I got hooked on Flow

After University and three years of working in Washington DC, I moved my life to South Korea in 2011 to teach English to four year olds. I wasn't pursuing a career in Education or preemptively interested in Korean culture, rather I was searching for something deeper and impulsively took an opportunity to live and work on the other side of the planet.

I arrived in Seoul, Korea with two suitcases and an open-mind. I knew only one other person in a foreign city that spoke a different language with a totally different value system than the one I was accustomed. Wide-eyed, I pushed forward into the unknown. Yes - I was scared, but if anything, I was resilient (I had to be). For me going to Korea was throwing myself... no... LAUNCHING myself so far out of my comfort zone that I had to be resilient, I had to push forward without fear since I, myself, had locked myself into this ride and I was going to see it to the end.

After months of acclimating to my new life in Seoul, Korea -- how to respectfully communicate with the natives, learning the currency system, where to find palatable foods, how to get to work on the subway/bus system, being a good kindergarten teacher -- I started to focus on my interpersonal needs. I was extremely isolated from my normals and became aware of my loneliness. This inspired me to use my digital resources to find people like me in this international city. And I found a group of expatriates (English-speaking people my age) that met every Thursday night on the Han River and played with hula-hoops... my first Flow Jam.

This Flow Jam produced some of my closest friends from Korea and exposed me to the wonderful world of Flow Arts.

I remember watching this Australian Man pull out his set of glow poi -- the first time I had ever seen anything like them -- and start effortlessly spinning them around his body creating excitingly illuminated light trails around his body. He was amazing -- so smooth -- so free -- like the world melted out of his mind... and mine. After that moment, all that mattered to me was that I wanted to be able to do what he was doing: Flow.

I met my new flow friends every Thursday after school and played with all of their props. "Props" are inanimate objects that Flow Artists use in their flow dancing. There are many kinds of props that require different disciplines and each can illuminated via LED or fueled with fire. At that time and in South Korea, props were difficult to acquire as the art form was still underground and only craftsman in other countries made and sold flow props.

Enter ShinMaster: A Korean who could ABSOLUTELY crush poi.

I heard about the famous ShinMaster in our flow jams but only met him after he expressed interest in helping me finance and plan the second year of the Korean Burning Man event I started. Shin would eventually adopt and continue running the Burning Man event after my two years in Korea were over.

Shin was a focused force when it came to flow arts. He was hooked just as I was and we bonded over it. He provided me props to play with and a space to explore my obsession with flow arts as I brought in the expatriate. Together, one Korean and on American, we hyped up the flow community in Seoul. In the years after my departure, Shin has organized and executed flow festivals in Korea, exposing their culture to this underground art form.

Even after all of the flow adventures and friendships of Korea, the power of the flow was deeper than interpersonal -- it was enlightening. After evolving past the struggle of learning the basics and becoming familiar with the extension of my body, flow gave me a feeling of effortless confidence. I mean, it shut down my judging mind and set me free from all the restraints of this world. I wasn't worried about anything - not even when my props we on fire because I became the strength of the fire. The power of the flow gave me a control unlike anything I have ever had in my two hands... a feeling of mastery over the moment.

After the hook, flow followed and will continue to follow me everywhere for the rest of my life. It is depression mediation that improves my physical body and mind. It is a mindfulness practice that chisels my awareness. It is a grounding technique that brings me straight to the present moment. It is relatively cheap art form to practice. It does not require a teacher, but a mentor. Someone to show you how they flow, not tell you how to flow - to inspire resiliency within you until you personally connect with yourself in the flow zone. There... you will become free.

In 2014, I returned to the United States and connected with the flow communities on the east coast and found my love for contact staff. Below is a trip down memory lane as I play with the prop for the first time. <3

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