Friday, March 12, 2010

All about Flow

My friend Bek is a cultural creative.  One of the newest ideas that came from a conversation with her:  you decide what age you're turning on your birthday.  No need to be a slave to chronology.  As the ontological truism states - the self is a phenomenon that arises out of creation or a creative state.

My own personal awakening into a reality that brings meaningful creation into all areas of life follows a line that began with Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning).  And I've continued on the path, absorbing and attempting to live the lessons given by "Dr. Mike" Csiszentmihalyi's (Flow),  Paulo Coehlo's AlchemistEckhart Tolle, Taoism, Buddhism,  Landmark Education (the legacy of the much-maligned Werner Erhard).  They all share one thing in common, what psychologists call an Internal Locus of Control.

Mihalyi has spent the majority of his adult life researching and naming the type of life, peak experience described by the Flow (Optimal Experience)  .  I'm currently participating in the Landmark seminar "An Invented Life," which is based on the basic brain science of being AWARE of our rote patterns and instincts based on the past and survival.  The state of Flow or "self as creation" experience arises out of realizing that our constant inner monologue/commentary/judgments and behavior patterns do not equate The Self.  The Self is the strong and quiet voice that arises when one is observing all of our thought/action memory patterns.

The fundamental principle that draws all these ideas together:  You can choose your attitude, the contents of your consciousness.  It's the path that I follow, as well as many of today's cultural creatives like John Mackey of Whole Foods (, his friend Brian Johnson,, Oprah, Van Jones, just to drop some big names.  This is a path which require practice, especially for those of us who came from unbalanced, superficial, or outright abusive and morally deprived homes or communities.  However, the tendency to want to grow into the light, and maximize potential while enjoying oneself has neurological, writ bio-genetic roots.

And roots are an apt metaphor used by many thinkers.  I love Frankl's story about the potato which, existing in utter darkness, will send out roots in all directions until it finds light.  At that point leaves start to sprout and it takes root.  I experienced a mild degree of physical abuse and a lot of persistent psychological abuse.  I share a common psychological culture with many of those who grow up in relatively resource-rich middle-class and even materially wealthy cultures, that are spiritually or psychically poor.  While experiencing none of the depravity of famine, genocide, or decay inherent to a culture of poverty, the mind, thoughts and emotions, and even the soul can become just as twisted.  It really has little to do with class, status, or material resources.  People in rural Haiti are known for their persistent smiles that are rooted in true happiness.  While death, tragedy, and disease plague that nation, a rich culture of the mind abides.  But there are also unhappy cultures:  it's no surprise to me that Eastern European countries are some of the unhappiest nations on earth, where the best stress coping mechanism seems to involve alcohol.  However, as of 2002, Zimbabwe is the unhappiest nation polled, which follows as they've been led by an increasingly insane and dictator over the last 30 years, who has driven their relatively high level of material prosperity to a very low level.  As for "the happies," I'm not sure why Denmark is up there, but the rest seem to be places where people readily and frequently engage in communal fun like dancing; wine, beer, and food festivals.

Even pop news is getting in on this stuff, at least Katie Couric cites some good recent research in this here YouTube video.  And if Katie says it, it must be true.

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