It was Friday. I was in the garden, performing the necessary tasks of pruning, planting and weeding. When I realized that 3 hours had passed. Three hours! I even went inside to check my clocks because I didn’t trust that so much time had actually gone by. But it had. Such is Flow.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist with an unfortunately lengthy name, created the term. It’s when you are so absorbed in something you are doing that you are literally in a trance-like state. You are so fucking immersed that time literally stops. No drugs involved. Seriously. For me, as for you, this happens when you are doing something that feeds your soul. The thing about flow is that you have to feel both highly challenged and highly skilled at the time. You can’t sleepwalk through flow. You have to feel like you can get some tough stuff done, but also love the idea of diving into what you are about to do. And when you start, and the puzzle pieces start to fit together…you keep going…even though it might be hard.
This past weekend, I attended a work conference with my colleagues; all women, all smart, all really cool. There were 12 of us in addition to the other attendees, about 30 in all. After the first day, despite it being a beautiful fall day outside with our families largely going on and having fun without us, we all were saying to each other how fast the day went. Our inspiring teacher challenged us, validated us and got us excited about our work. We couldn’t wait to use this new information on the job with kids (we work with kids who have motor, sensory and social difficulties). I wrote notes upon notes, shot videos, turned ideas over in my head, fretted over what I might have been doing wrong and asked questions. The day flew by. That, my friends, is flow.
Sometimes I feel flow when I am doing yoga. Yoga, after years of practice, has become my body moving while my mind is stilling, not the other way around (like a lot of life). When I am writing and it’s going well and it feels like all pistons are firing, then, hell yes, I am in flow. It can also be when reading or cooking or even just encouraging your child when they’ve had a bad day. Some would say, myself included, that flow is what makes life worth living. It’s the sheer joy of being alive, being presented with a challenge and taking it happily. It’s feeling like you kick ass. Without the hang-ups of things like carpools, keeping up with the Joneses and cleaning up dog shit.
Here in suburbia, there are more than a few of my friends and neighbors who are doing hard things, hoping to find the flow. Some are competing in hard-core fitness challenges. Some are packing up and moving where new adventures beckon. Some are taking courses, starting new careers even. Some are making a fresh start with new partners. All are attempting to find the flow. Navigate uncharted waters. It’s no coincidence that the word “flow” comes from water. Like life, it’s fluid, rambling, changing and prone to having to change course once in a while. And it can’t go in reverse.
Maybe you love knitting or scrapbooking or carving wooden ducks. Maybe it’s a crisp walk with your dog at daybreak that you love. It’s wherever you lose yourself, lose track of your watch, your phone, your calendar and your to-do list. It’s letting go of the busy-ness of your day and peeking into the wayward journey of your life. What could be better than that?
Where do you find your flow?
Thanks to Barbara Paulsen for the inspiring photos. We can see where you find your flow, girl.
“The river is one of my favorite metaphors, the symbol of the great flow of Life Itself. The river begins at Source, and returns to Source, unerringly. This happens every single time, without exception. We are no different.”
― Jeffrey R. Anderson, The Nature of Things – Navigating Everyday Life with Grace