The Art of Flow

Organic abstract of flow experience

©  The Art of Flow

“There are moments in a day when we seem to see beyond the usual… moments of our greatest happiness… our greatest wisdom.”. ~ Robert Henri ~

We need more moments like this in our lives. More flow. When time melts away and clarity is profound. The Deep Now.

Henri goes on to note that allow though it is the nature of all people to have these micro experiences, it is only a rare few who can continue to experience it and find expression for it. This blog is about how we can be a part of that rare few.

We’ll start with the first triplet in this symbiotic circle, flow (the other two being mastery and creativity).

What is flow?

There are many definitions and I’ll try to add each on my vocab page as I find them. Really the better we map the outside edge of what flow is, through our individual experiences, the better we can tease out the details and triggers to get flow to fire on all cylinders for us. But first lets use Mihály Csíkszentmihály’s definition:

“Flow: A state in which you are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is so enjoyable that you do it for the sheer sake of doing it. Consciousness is harmoniously ordered. Your attention is singularly focused like a laser beam.”

Csíkszentmihály, often considered the father of flow, is a Hungarian psychologist who coined the term after hearing it used multiple times in interviews on positive, feel good activities. The concept, of course, has been around for centuries. I myself chased flow experiences for years before I even found out others were experiencing the same thing, let alone the amount of literature and research done on the concept. Robert Henri, the painter and teacher quoted above, lived (1865 –1929) long before the flow was coined.

So we have a definition, how do I get some…

The following ‘essential points for experiencing flow’ are taken from reference material accompaning the book Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities by Csíkszentmihály

  1. Clear Goal
  2. Feedback
  3. Challenges Match Skills
  4. Concentration
  5. Focus
  6. Control
  7. Loss of Self-consciousness
  8. Transformation of Time

You’ll find this list or hybrid of it peppered through out the web when talking about flow. They’re helpful, they add structure. Takes us a few more steps along on our journey. But consider this quote by artist Paul Klee:

“Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off. My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will.”

To compare these cold institutional bullet points with such a profound experience… Klee wasn’t following a list of bullet points.

Hard to believe Klee and Csíkszentmihály are talking about the same thing. But they are and the truth of it is there, in both perspectives. That’s what we will explore in coming posts. Tease out those details that’ll help us experience what Paul Klee wrote of.

As a creative though, we need to add other aspects to our pursuit: mastery and creativity. Truly symbiotic in their overflow effect with one another.

Effortlessly merging our creativity and mastery with flow for high octane performance. As seductive as that sounds though, it is misleading. The art of flow really is completely immersible focused energy where everything vanishes but for our vision and it’s accomplishment. But… mastery is hard work. Creativity rarely shows itself when we’re looking for it. There is a process. Ironically enough, it requires effort to get to the point of effortless effort, of doerless doing. But that’s OK too. Because once you taste the deep now, you’ll be chasing it the rest of your life, and find the cost of admission well worth it.

These are just a few introductory thoughts and be assured we’ll be digging in the details in some posts to come.

Bite down on the Deep Now

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