On the go? Listen to our blog instead of reading it.
By: Mary Hoofnagle
Have you been to a good concert lately?
No, no, no…I mean REALLY been to a concert?
I typically go to concerts at smaller venues, but the last big arena show I attended was Radiohead last March. The lights came down and almost instantaneously the whole room became a sea of illuminated screens swaying along to the music. I was just dumbfounded. It’s not as though this was new to me. In fact it’s pretty common, and I’ve even snapped a shot or filmed a video myself. But seeing it begin the instant the lights came down and on such a large scale made it clear to me how depressing this behavior actually is.
Music has been one thing I can always count on to keep me in the present moment, full of bliss, without any worries. Experiencing music in any way does this for me whether I sing it, listen to it, dance to it, or see it live. When I realized that we’ve decided to capture a moment at the expense of actually being in it, I was saddened to think that such a simple joy has been lost. The moment that the screen goes up, we’re in future time. Thinking, “I can’t wait to show Sara this video! How many likes will I get when I post this on Instagram? I’ll post it now!” Even more perplexing is to watch someone post an image, and the person next to him stop watching the show to pull out his own phone and comment.
What are we doing?!
This present moment is an experience that will only happen right now, and we’re missing it! We can’t save moments. We can’t put them in a box and keep them forever. When we try to, we end up living in the past, and we covered that last week, right? We have to treasure this moment right now. It’s all we have. We need to experience it fully with our hearts. Then we can return to the feeling and the memory briefly for comfort in hard times, but if we don’t immerse ourselves when it’s happening, we miss it. I read an article this week about a growing trend of unplugged weddings and I love the way one particular bride and groom put it, “Dan and Jennifer invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology.” (More on going unplugged during your wedding)
Getting unplugged a first step to being in the moment, but staying present is a skill and takes practice. Flow activities are a great way to practice!
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains, “It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life.” This is because the result of flow is happiness of our own construction, not happiness that is dependent on external circumstances. Another article defines it at as “a state in which a person is truly engaged in and fulfilled by what is happening in the moment.”
How do you get flow? Chances are you probably already participate in at least one activity where you experience flow. I can think of many things that I do for flow: yoga, unplugged conversation with friends, martial arts, drawing, singing, writing, and I could keep going. A flow activity has several components:
It is a place where challenge meets skill. Meaning, the activity is not too easy (Bor-ring!) but just hard enough to expand a skill set without frustrating you. This graph illustrates the concept brilliantly!
When engaged in the activity, you become intensely focused on what is happening in the moment. Some describe this as being in the zone.
Participation in the activity makes you lose awareness of your ego self. In other words you stop thinking of yourself as a social actor and lose any self-consciousness. Any awareness of feelings, worries, or frustrations of everyday life gets pushed aside.
The activity offers the sense that one can control his or her surroundings because you know how to respond no matter what happens next.
The activity is intrinsically rewarding and the end goal you set is really just an excuse to participate in the process.
You lose all track of time when you are in the flow.
If you want to read more about flow, you should check out Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi’s books. If you’re looking to add some flow activity to your life, try out mandalas. You don’t have to be an artist to start! This video gives you a tutorial on how to start a mandala, complete with some tips for turning off our thinking and just getting into the zone.
Brought to you by Just Mind, counselors in Austin who are working to provide their clients with the best care possible.