Do you ever have a sense of complete engagement, where time and space don’t seem to matter, when you reach heights of creativity and competence that amaze you? And that, in retrospect, you did this without thinking consciously and arrived at an “outcome” well beyond your everyday ability and capacity?
Such moment can arise during acts of concentrated mindfulness–in sports and play, say, or during meditation, art-making, acting and performing, problem-solving, psychotherapy, prayer, deep listening, creative writing, or spiritual-sexual rapture.
I was reminded of all this while re-reading yesterday’s hospice log. As I recall, time went by as if in a trance, with everyone moving from task to task, making decision on the fly, thinking laterally, shifting from minute details to large pictures, calling up cognitive, psycho-motor, emotional, and spiritual resources as needed. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has studied people with extraordinary achievements of creativity, intelligence, and inventiveness; he calls this phenomenon “being in flow.”
“While in flow, we are too involved to be concerned with failure. Some people describe it as a feeling of total control: but actually we are not in control, it’s just that the issue does not even come up. If it did, we would not be concentrating totally, because our attention would be split between what we did and the feeling of control. The reason that failure is not an issue is that in flow it is clear what has to be done ….”
source: Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: HarperPerennial, p. 112. The author was born in a part of Italy that is now Croatia and teaches in the USA.