The feeling of flow is that feeling you get when you are at your ultimate and you feel your body almost disappear in a spontaneous yet automatic type fashion. For example, a sportsperson running or high jumping or swimming at their peak; an artist’s moment of inspiration and clarity; a writer when it almost feels like a stream of consciousness directly channeling the right words in the right order from some otherworldly place.
One can feel flow when they play music, or when they make love, or share a deep conversation with another human. In moments of nature. When the camera snaps “the shot” there’s often a feeling in the air – whether you are in front of the camera, behind it, or an observer to the side – you can somehow sense everything was right.
I stumbled across this TED Talk about “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:
Csikszentmihalyi explains this feeling:
“Well, when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, as this man is, he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness, because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time to feel that he exists.”
Csikszentmihalyi draws a connection to “Ecstasy”, which comes from an ancient Greek word that meant to “stand to the side of something. And then it became essentially an analogy for mental state where you feel that you are not doing your ordinary everyday routines.” That is, “stepping into an alternative reality.”
In that state, you feel:
He goes on to tell us: “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.”
The final question we are left with is: how can we put “more and more of everyday life in that flow channel?”
There are times in my life where I have been in flow, not only in the sense of the flow of a particular moment, but also in the sense of a wider life-encompassing flow. You might say “flow” in the sense of feeling aligned with one’s “optimal trajectory”…
I’d love to put both more of my everyday life and my life story in general “in the flow”. I believe this is where the greatest joy is found. Feeling part of something larger. If anyone has tips on finding flow and staying in it, please do share. This I am definitely keen to find out.