Flow – The River of Serendipity
Flow: The alignment of people, places and things that precipitate unimpeded action toward a specific goal, either personal or communal.
Now let’s look at a better known example of the concept of flow. In 2000, Brain Channel’s Thinker of the Year Award was awarded to Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago who has devoted his life’s work to the study of what makes people truly happy, satisfied and fulfilled.
We might consider his work similar to Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, only instead of studying the great business leaders, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has uncovered the riches of personal experience, of a connected source to flow that leads us toward fulfillment.
FLOW: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE
(Steps Toward Enhancing the Quality of Life) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The knowledge – or wisdom – one needs for emancipating consciousness is not cumulative. It is not a cognitive skill and, as well as intelligence, requires commitment of emotions and will. It is not enough to know how to do it, one must do it consistently and it is a painfully slow process to modify our own habits and desires.
Pleasure by itself does not bring happiness. We can experience pleasure (e.g. eating, sleeping, sex) without an investment of psychic energy. Enjoyment on the other hand, happens only as a result of an unusual amount of attention. Pleasure is fleeting and, unlike enjoyment, does not bring complexity (growth) to the self.
If one only invests energy in new directions solely for extrinsic rewards, one may end up no longer enjoying life, and pleasures become the only source of positive experience. Without enjoyment, life can be endured and can even be pleasant. But it can be so only precariously, depending on luck and the cooperation of the external environment.
Eight Components of Enjoyment
- Confronting tasks that we have a chance of completing.
- Concentration is possible because the task has clear goals.
- Task provides immediate feedback.
- A deep, effortless involvement removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.
- Enjoyable experiences allow one to exercise a sense of control over one’s actions.
- Concern for self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.
- Sense of time is altered – hours pass by in minutes.
When experience is intrinsically rewarding, one’s life is justified in the present, instead of one being held hostage to a hypothetical future, but we must constantly re-evaluate what we do, lest habits and past ‘wisdom’ blind us to new possibilities.
The flow experience – like anything else – is not “good” in an absolute sense, but only in that it has the potential to make life richer, more intense and meaningful. One must distinguish between useful and harmful forms of flow, making the most of the former and limiting the latter.
Commencement of learning something is a flow situation – everything is new and flow absorption is present as one struggles to master the skill. As one progresses, either boredom will ensue because there is no more challenge (the skill has been learned at that level) or anxiety occurs because a bigger challenge than we can cope with presents itself. Either way, one wants to get back to flow, either by overcoming the anxiety challenge by becoming more skilled, or taking on a challenge that will overcome the boredom, thus getting back into flow at a more complex level.
The excerpt above presents a more in-depth understanding of how to exercise our ability to utilize flow in our quest for excellence in everyday living. Our challenge is to be conscious of this activity within ourselves as we greet each new experience or moment in daily life. Mastering our emotions and capitalizing on the choices available in the moment are significant components of living more consciously in a holistic mindset.
Creating flow has to do with moving beyond your weaknesses: emotional and mental barriers or bottlenecks. Awareness of these bottlenecks is necessary to facilitate removing them. Let’s use an example of a jazz musician seeking to flow with other musicians, to improvise.
Thinking about playing still separates the musician from the music, in a sense, even though the sound is there. Playing their instrument with the feeling and passion of improvisation, beyond focusing on the notes, allows the musician to enter the flow of the music. Think about examples of flow in your own life.
Here’s a challenge: Try listening without thinking to this music I’ve recorded: Outcasts and Social Misfits – Phire It Up
Life is improvisational. Sometimes it flows, sometimes not. We experiment and observe the results. Gaining awareness of new choices is significant. The awareness of these choices must be accompanied by action to garner understanding and wisdom of the new options.
In daily living, we seek optimal experience. We seek to move beyond the constrictions of insecurity, needing approval or security to achieve our desires and a sense of fulfillment. We are our own worst critics, yet we want to be secure in our ability to perform and achieve results.
Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem. Krishnamurti
Gamma Brain Waves
Brain wave research has long been a staple in quest for understanding how we operate in various states of consciousness. Most recently, the Gamma range has been found to be the fastest in frequency at above 40Hz (some researchers do not distinguish Beta from Gamma waves).
Although little is known about this state of mind, initial research shows Gamma waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing. Research into peak-performance in sports shows that the Gamma wave arena is pronounced when an athlete is ‘in the zone’ or performing at levels beyond their expectations from being in their own ‘flow.’
What if you could consciously tap into the ‘flow’ in your daily life? Practicing the concepts in this coursework could very well take you there, but it is up to you to become aware of what it ‘feels’ like and use your own mind to produce these states in your daily living. It is as simple as choosing to do so.