You need not see what someone is doing
to know if it is his vocation,
you have only to watch his eyes:
a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon
making a primary incision,
a clerk completing a bill of lading,
wear the same rapt expression,
forgetting themselves in a function.
How beautiful it is,
that eye-on-the-object look.
–W. H. Auden
A man named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (and you guys thought MY name was difficult) spent some time in an Italian prison camp during WWII. In this hellacious environment, he discovered chess. He found it an excellent way to divert his attention away from everything going on around him. It was his strongest, most deeply held conviction that chess helped him fare better than many of his fellow prisoners. At the risk of sounding like an overplayed Rihanna jam, it was in chess that he found love in a hopeless place.
He named this chess-induced euphoria “flow.”
Later in life, as one of the century’s leading psychologists, he described flow as:
“…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
While I was first introduced to this term in high school, I’ve known the feeling my entire life. I’m betting you have too. I’ve retrospectively noticed that as free time gets more elusive with age and the name of the game is “prioritizing,” I tend to trim the fat by cutting out seemingly superfluous pursuits to make time for ceaseless “important responsibilities” but SHREYA, HOLD ON A HOT SECOND, THESE ARE THE IMPORTANT ONES. The things you do where you find flow – these are what make you human, make you alive. So what, really, is more important than partaking in any and every one of these things?
Bottom line: I promise myself time to cultivate flow like the bountiful crop it is. And I challenge myself to find breadth and depth in the activities within which I try to discover flow. (Yes, one of the easiest ways for me is rollerblading. No, I am not jesting you.)
When was the last time you forgot yourself in a function?
When was the last time you experienced flow?
If the answer is earlier than today, hasn’t it been far too long?