Why settle for pleasure when you can have everything it entails PLUS “create new order in consciousness?!”
Welcome to our sizzling summer “On the Same Page” Book-Club-Blog-Hop, Week 3.
As you recall from Life Coach Kanesha Lee Baynard’s take on Chapter 1 of the book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work is all about revisiting happiness. He began by dissecting consciousness and found its heart to be attention (Coach Amy Steindler looked at Ch. 2 last week).
Here in Chapter 3, those first two subjects dovetail. Mr. C looks at his data on people who surpass mere contentment with a deeper kind of happiness — enjoyment — and finds:
“… enjoyment happens only
as a result of unusual investments of attention.”
“Well, yeah” – I might hypothetically respond – “and what if I like to invest unusual attention in bacon cupcakes. I mean who’s to say what enjoyment is anyway?”
Mr. C, that’s who. Based on all his gazillions of research, he developed…
Eight Elements of Enjoyment (the best acronym ever)
As you’ll see on the “EEE!” tool, the final element of enjoyment is a doozy:
“… concern for the self disappears, YET paradoxically
the sense of self emerges stronger afterward.”
Here’s where Csikszentmihalyi steps right into some mighty spiritual company.
“… it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life”
~ Saint Francis of Assisi
In this kind of optimal experience, action and awareness merge.
“… all a person’s relevant skills are needed to cope with the challenges of a situation… that person’s attention is completely absorbed by the activity.”
There’s no psychic energy left over for self-consciousness.
“being able to forget temporarily who we are seems to be very enjoyable. When not preoccupied with ourselves, we actually have a chance to expand the concept of who we are… lead[ing] to self-transcendence, to a feeling of the boundaries of our being having been pushed forward.”
In this state, Csikszentmihalyi sees rock-climbers, gardeners, wonderful conversationalists, musicians, and other Enjoyment Masters “become so involved in what they’re doing that the activity becomes spontaneous, almost automatic; they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing.”
Lao Tse, author of the Tao Te Ching, called this wei wu wei – doing nothing-doing:
“Less and less do you need to force things,
Until finally you arrive at non-action.”
Tao Te Ching, #48, translated by Stephen Mitchell
This kind of experience is so amazing that:
“expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile
simply to be able to feel it.”
Mr. C Calls Such Doings “Autotelic”
As Kanesha noted right up front, flow experiences are their own (auto) reward (telos). They’re about the doing itself rather than the outcome.
“Self-possessed, resolute, act without any thought of results… This equanimity is yoga.”
(Baghavad Gita 2.48, translated by Stephen Mitchell)
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”
Tao Te Ching #9, translated by Stephen Mitchell
So here’s my biggest revelation: You know how sages are always telling us to live in the present and you’re like, “yeah, how?” And they say “just don’t think about the past –it’s over – and don’t think about the future – it’s not here yet.” And you’re like, “yeah, how?” Well, Csikszentmihalyi concludes:
“When experience is intrinsically rewarding, life is justified in the present instead of being held hostage to a hypothetical future’s arrival.”
It turns out that enjoyment IS HOW to live in the now.
And it’s not only achievable — something we can practice — it’s playful.
But here’s what I want to know:
- Worrying is certainly an unusual investment of attention – why don’t I enjoy it? No goals and rules?? No self-control?! Hmmm. Do you have any places you invest a lot of psychic energy and don’t achieve flow? What EEEs might be missing?
- Do you ever have a “normal” activity feel “like a religious experience?” Does it usually involve bacon? Baked goods? I’m starting to see which of the EEE’s made the day pictured to the right so enjoyable! What elements transform the mundane into enjoyableness for you?
- I know Mr. C’s point is that Flow can be a learned skill, but sometimes it feels like luck – like sheer grace pouring into us from the outside. Do you think any part of enjoyment is ever out of our control?
We’d love you to join our book club discussion by posting an answer to these questions, what you discovered from the EEE! tool, or any other comment on this stuff. [And if you haven’t read the book, who cares? Or even knows?? We still want your ideas!]
Next week Life Coach Kayce Hughlett helps us dig into the universal particulars of how to create flow. Until then…
… Flow on, friends.