Regardless of our cultural origin, when people are asked to describe being fully emerged in an activity, they can all apparently refer to this state as ‘being in flow’ – it is a universal experience. Could it be that this state of flow is the secret to happiness?
The well-known scientist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfilment and the notion of ‘flow’. For him, flow is defined as a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work. I first became aware of his research and work some years ago and was fascinated by his studies, discoveries and conclusions.
The Optimal Experience of Flow
Driven by the question of finding out what the secret to happiness really is, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s studies led him to conclude that happiness is an internal state of being, not an external one. His popular book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is based on the premise that happiness levels can be shifted through the introduction of more flow. Happiness is not a rigid state that can’t be changed, on the contrary, happiness takes a committed effort to be manifested. After the baseline point, there is a percentage of happiness that every individual has the responsibility to take control of. Csikszentmihalyi believes that flow is crucial to creating genuine happiness.
Personal Development and Empowerment though Flow
I have been accompanying people as a practitioner, in their desire to heal, develop and find themselves so as to become more of who they are, for more than 20 years. The questions around why some people handle certain situations and struggles better than others, what makes one person heal and others not and what can I do to support that, have been leading themes in my professional life. I find it wonderful that we have it in our hands to do something about it! Our healing is not only a question of time, but can be supported if we create the right circumstances for ourselves. Our struggles can be empowering and bring us closer to who we are, if we can find the right attitude in ourselves to refer to them as such. I can draw strength from being invested in something that will contribute not only to myself but to others and the world.
When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says “Happiness takes a committed effort to be manifested”, he also says that part of it lies in our hands. If I know how, I can do something about it. It is not the money, it is not the fame, it is not the outside that will decide how I am and how I have access to my own powers, strength and abilities – it is me.
As a Pantarei practitioner, in every session that I give, I connect my client to more of themselves, their abilities, strength, powers, wishes and inner wisdom. I’m honoured to give them a hand in their personal development by teaching them to learn how to create an internal state that they are happy with. It is truly powerful what we can discover when we meet ourselves.
The 8 Characteristics of Flow
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes 8 characteristics of flow, that appear when people are doing what they love. He speaks about:
1. Complete concentration on the task
2. Clarity of goals and reward in the mind and immediate feedback
3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down of time)
4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding, has an end itself
5. Effortlessness and ease
6. There is a balance between challenge and skills
7. Actions and awareness are merged losing self-conscious rumination and
8. There is a feeling of control over the task.
When I describe the space that I enter and create in a session with my client, I can relate very easily to these characteristics. There is a concentration on what the client wishes to achieve and what we are aiming for, which is communicated and creates a clear goal. Touching and creating a profound unifying experience for the person – of body and mind – leads to a transformation of time. Being connected more with ourselves, presents the person with their whole life learning skills as a pool of options and possibilities, that can meet any challenge and leave them with confidence that there will be a way forward for them. The whole experience in the session is one, there is no self-consciousness and nevertheless we are in control of the situation. The client is connecting to themselves and to their own flow and I join it in a beautiful dance. This flow is magical, as if by connecting to ourselves, we are connecting to life. Pantarei means everything flows and this underlies why we teach our clients to connect to themselves – to become part of the flow of life again with all of its powers and wonders.
Flow is Bigger Than All of Us
When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this sensation of flow, he says that it is normally a temporary state. I would look for a bigger version of this flow, that can be there and be connected to, by being ourselves and part of the world. I can create that while I’m sleeping, eating or doing something – being content, happy and fulfilled myself, while encountering everything else as well. And in case I’m unable to create that on my own so easily, I would ask for the help of a practitioner to connect me to this space and flow.
What are your thoughts on what the secret to happiness might be? I’m curious to learn how you connect to your flow and when? I’m totally inspired by this subject as you can probably tell, so here’s some eye candy for you to maybe get hooked as well – the famous Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his great Ted talk.