Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created the notion of “flow” to describe the experience which we have all had — but all too rarely for most of us — of becoming so immersed in and challenged by an experience that we lose track of time, our own self-concsciousness and feel most fully engaged in life. Interestingly, he found, this has little to do with people’s most enjoyable leisure activities. Folks love to watch TV and movies, eat dinner with friends and so forth, but rarely does that achieve a state of flow. Doing work or an avocation we love, or — for some of us, reading a really good book 🙂 — creates flow, where the experience is just challenging enough that it pulls us beyond our usual limits.
“While humankind collectively has increased its material powers a thousandfold, it has not advanced very far in terms of improving the content of experience.”- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow
This book has a lot of parallels with Eastern mysticism which I’ve studied for some years. I love the fundamental thesis: your only true moments of transcendental happiness in life are when the “I”–the mind-intellect-ego complex–is completely dissolved. You’re so absorbed in an activity that you forget yourself. This is consistent with Eastern thought where the complete dissolution of the self is the goal of human endeavor. I was very impressed with how well researched and how clearly presented the thesis was.