Right Flow

There is a moment when we forget ourselves — both seer and seen become one. We no longer sense ourselves. There is one pure experience. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it flow.

Such no-dual state was often well-known in the religious, spiritual, meditative experience. Csikszentmihalyi has expanded this scope and articulated it well. It could happen quite often even in our everyday activities. And the more we experience flow, the better the quality of life could be.

Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

For example, there is a challenge you have to engage and overcome. If this challenge is too complicated, stressful, and overwhelming, then you become anxious and worrisome. If it is too easy, then we feel bored, even apathy.

If, however, it is in-between, then you could be in the state of flow. In this state, there would be no longer such a relationship between you and your challenge. Both become one. There is pure experience alone.

The key to this experience is an immediate feedback. If a challenge is neither too difficult nor too easy, we can face it with our good effort and feel the sense of control with achievements and rewards. Such experience generates more dopamine in our brain. So, we feel better, even addicted.

Flow can provide the quality of life like sports, arts, even everyday activities like cleaning, washing dishes, and chatting, etc. It is also risky to make us addicted. People get addicted to gambling in the same reason.

Any activities could lead us to the state of flow if and when these are in an optimum balance. In this sense, the flow mode is value-neutral. In the meditative state, for example, the combination of both mindfulness and concentration could lead us to the state of flow.

If you are painting a work of art, then you are so mindful with every stroke of your brush and how it creates specific shapes and colors and the like, and you are intensely concentrating on this work at hand. When both mindfulness and concentration reach a peak moment, the self-consciousness that you are painting would disappear. There is one pure painting experience.

It sounds so creative, even spiritual. But this could also happen when you are gambling, breaking a vault, even conducting a terrorist attack. The flow model is value-neutral by itself.

Saying mindfulness and concentration is not enough. There should always be right mindfulness and right concentration. In the same manner, flow should be right flow.

Image by Elias Sch. / Image by amurca

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