Have you ever experienced the serendipity of suddenly encountering a concept everywhere you go? I’m having days like that now, as I think about flow experiences. I’ve been hearing this concept talked about in the radio, in classes, in random conversation-with different names, but the same idea. And I think that figuring out how to get myself in the right frame of mind for this kind of mental state is one of the keys to tapping into my creative self.
I first learned about the concept of flow when reading Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. While she doesn’t use the same terminology, she is addressing the concept when she talks about “Right Brain” experiences. Basically, a flow state is when you become so deeply absorbed in an action that you seem to lose track of time, the rest of the world slips into the background and the things you are working on become fluid, like water “flowing” downhill, your work is seamless and just feels “right”. A flow experience can happen anywhere, in any medium, though is particularly linked to activities involving highly stimulated senses, such as competing in sports, artistic and other creative endeavors, or in highly emotional states, such as around death or trauma. Anyone who has ever become so absorbed in a book that a whole day has slipped by, or been “in the zone” while hiking, or running, has experienced a flow state. I recently had a conversation with a girl who described an incredibly powerful flow experience she had while playing soccer in high school, when a girl she hated, and had just cursed out, slipped in goal, hit her head, and died only a few feet in front of her. Her reaction to the power of that day’s emotion was amazing, and as she recalled an event that happened many years ago, her voice shook and it was clear she was re-experiencing it over again in her mind. That day was emblazoned on her memory because of her intense flow experience.
Imagine if we lived every day with that kind of clarity. Would it be too much to handle? Do we need some sort of filter over our lives to keep an even keel?