Swimming to me has become many things. It’s an escape, a reason, a passion, an obsession, a fury. And on days like today swimming gives me space and quiet amidst the noise and chaos of my life. An opportunity to feel nothing but myself, my being.
One key aspect of flow is that, while in flow, nearly all of the brain’s available inputs are devoted to one activity. This is why the perception of time changes, discomfort goes unnoticed, and stray negative thoughts don’t enter the mind. The brain is too busy focusing on one thing to keep track of all those other things.
In this TED talk Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”
This is the key text on what it means to be in flow, how flow is created and maintained.
I am in a bubble where time and the wider world have gone and all that matters is the synthesis of a body, a boat and a paddle. The bubble pops as I touch the bank to go home. Suddenly I’m tired, I ache and my leg is a pain to get out the flat boat. But just as time stops when I paddle, the time on the water stays with me all day. And I smile and long for my next return to the pursuit of perfect paddling.