The metaphor of flow is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as ‘being in the zone,’ religious mystics as being in ‘ecstasy,’ artists and musicians as ‘aesthetic rapture.’
Hal E. Hershfield, Ph. D
My experiences of flow have generally been real world (rather than academic) in nature. Most memories I have of complete captivation and joy in an activity, with no awareness of time and external conditions, are either hobbies or experiences that I craved.
Horseback riding I loved being able to communicate with such a big, intelligent animal to achieve a common goal. I would happily spend hours riding, with no limit to where I could go next. I felt transformed, like I was a part of history, because horses are such an enduring part of human culture. Riding was effortless and exciting.
Snorkeling Losing track of time in an underwater adventure is a perfect way to spend a day. There are always new creatures to see hiding in every crevasse. All sense of daily life drifts away and all I hear is the inhale/exhale of my breath in my mask. It’s only once I surface that I realize how exhausted I am from hours submerged.
Hiking Navigating through different terrain and unknown areas energizes me in unexpected ways. Around every turn there is some new view or trail to explore. The great expanse of possibility keeps me going and the fresh air invigorates.
In all three of these experiences, I feel a sense of escape from the effortful demands of life. There is always a new challenge to meet and the activity requires my full skill and attention, but it comes naturally. I feel very alive and connected in these activities and my competence improved each time. Just writing about flow, I’m craving to have these sensations again.