Stealing Fire

“There’s been an awakening…have you felt it?” — Snoke

When I listen, I hear the voices everywhere. They are the voices of my parents, my family, my colleagues, my friends and neighbors. There is a constant soundtrack playing with overlapping and contradictory patterns. The voices have different agendas and are often competing.

But sometimes I hear a more subtle voice. Not the voices of a lunatic (well…maybe), but voices that are in tune with the underlying patterns I align with but have been buried under layer after layer of programming. Voices that are so delicate that they are only whispers, easily drowned out by the sound of opinions and fears. Have you ever noticed that, in a crowded room or a noisy restaurant, you become immediately aware when someone calls your name? Why? Because what the mind pays attention to what if focuses on. That is, what it has been trained to concentrate on. It has known my name for a long time after years of repetition. It knows I like certain things, such as drinking Perrier on ice with lime. So it picks up on them quite easily and subconsciously, seeks them out.

As I grow, the question I have for myself now is: what if I tuned into the things I wanted most and turned down the volume on the other (outside) voices: the noise? What could I pick up on then?

“If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

And this guy should know since he essentially started this whole idea of going with the flow. The term “flow” is getting drawing a lot of interest lately and authors are cashing in not only monetarily, but consciously (and subconsciously) due to the fact that this flow is accessible to everyone and many of us are seeking it, whether we know it or not. And even better, it can be taught.

Flow is a term first coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist and former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago, in his aptly named 1990 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. After World War II encroached into Hungary, Mihaly’s family was torn apart and displaced by the war machine. This turmoil galvanized his interest in human attitude as he began to look deeper into the human consciousness to better understand what made some people survive, and in fact thrive, and some crumble to the enormity of the unwanted actions pushed upon them. Mihaly describes “flow” as:

“…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

Since the 1990s, flow has probably been best associated with extreme sports such as surfing, mountain climbing, the X-Games or pretty much anything Red Bull produces. It is much more subtle than this, however, as flow is being sought after by weekend warriors and soccer moms via meditation, yoga, caffeinated beverages, and the nightly glass of wine. There is something, somewhere out there, that we seem are looking for. Something outside of ourselves. Ecstasis.

And even though success in society is usually defined by the amount of money you make, that ain’t it.

The results of study after study comparing income to happiness conclude that there is no relation to additional income to happiness after certain level. Once the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (below) is met, we’re pretty stoked. More things don’t make us happy. In fact, they make us less happy. The Beatles said it best with “Money can’t buy me love”. We KNOW this. Right? And yet (thoughtful pause). And yet we still fight and scrape for that damn brass ring. Which will probably be gold or platinum by the time you reach it, so you will still have further to go.

The place I want to play more and experience more fully is further to the top of the pyramid. In this area, there is a higher vibration of learning and living that is described in Steven Kotler’s book “Stealing Fire”. That area that is outside of ourselves. The space that’s transcendent.

On a side note, I was listening to a Rich Roll podcast yesterday with Jessica Lahey and they were discussing college students and how the education has so battered the creativity out of them, that they were, as Julie Lythcott-Haims puts it: “existentially impotent”. Ouch!

The repression these kids faced in grade school and college will follow them into the workplace as well, dooming them to live a life in such a state of fear, all they become are workers. Good for business but not good for creativity, art, love, life. Drones to the Machine.

“Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I should know. I am one of them.

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