Spinning to flow seems like such a simplistic exercise. Start on the lower hand position, spin until you land on the upper hand position, and then wait for your partner to do the same thing. One partner moves, while the other partner listens and flows. It is so easy that the exercise bored me when I first learned it. Of course, things always look deceptively simple in the beginning. The more I learned, the more I began to appreciate the utility of starting with the simpler movements of the first spinning hands drill. There is more to the drill than just spinning on top.
Flow is the first movement quality at the point of contact. There is no retreating from the point and no resistance at the point; the point of contact is matched. As the point of contact changes, the quality of non-collapsing and non-resistance is maintained. Flow arises from the continual adaptation to match the change at the point of contact. In order to match the changes, your mind must be attentive to the conditions of the moment. The gaps where the mind wanders leaves gaps in the flow. The primary challenge in the flow exercise lies not in the relatively simple movements, but in maintaining your attention in the moment.
Assuming that the attention can be maintained throughout the drill, the body should remain unified. Awareness of the body (i.e. maintaining the 13 points) is always present, even while dealing with a changing point of contact. Then, movement at the point itself should manifest the 5 qualities of movement. While flowing at the point, the movements should exhibit absorbing and projecting; opening and closing; concave and convex; condensing and expanding; and three-dimensional movement.
Although not an explicit part of the drill, the four energies (north, south, east, and west) are still implicitly involved. The partner spinning up from the lower hand needs to manifest the four energies in order to spin on top. One common problem during the drill is the lower hand parter never manifesting any east (inward pressing) energy while spinning up. Without this energy, it becomes difficult to spin to the upper hand position since the flowing partner has no reason to go concave and draw the hands inside the body line.
Similarly, the flowing partner must be aware the direction of the energy at the point of contact to match and adapt. A common issue for the flowing partner is that the movement is anticipated rather than perceived (or the movement is rote rather than responsive to the conditions). When this happens, the rotation of the forearms is off during the transitions from north, to west, to south. The energies aren’t matched since the arm rotation is out of sync with the movement at the point of contact. The lack of attention and and mismatched energies breaks the flow.
There is a lot going on even in the simple flow exercise. Attention is constantly maintained on yourself and to the point of contact. The body must be able to coordinate the five qualities of movement while adapting to the changing point. The four energies are still implicitly present. Many of the aspects of the later spinning hands progressions are implicitly present in even the basic flow drill; they are just de-emphasized for the sake of simplicity. Spinning to flow is pretty basic, but being basic doesn’t make flowing mindlessly easy.