Getting into Flow and Optimal Experience

A couple years ago I read this book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. I picked it up off one of those 10RMB fake book sellers on Donghu Lu at some point.

Flow is all about finding that thing you like to do that makes you forget everything and totally hit your zone of productivity, when you forget to eat or check Facebook or go pee or drink your coffee and you come out of your reverie and discover a cold, full cup next to your desk.

I’ve noticed I get flow through writing — especially when I give myself 20 minutes to write non-critically.

The career experts suggest you find a job that allows you to achieve as much flow as possible. Realistically, it doesn’t need to be a job, it can also be a hobby or a meditation discipline.

I like what Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear — she suggests would-be-artists often gauge success as being able to make a living off their art, rather than simply, the personal joy of creating things to feed the soul.

“Don’t quit your day job,” she advises. But rather treat your creativity as if you are having an affair. You sneak off for a few minutes or hours every day and get the satisfaction of being in bed with inspiration and see where it takes you, how it feeds you — be it pottery, finger painting, building lego castles, writing, dancing, poetry.

Don’t expect creativity to make you a living. That is no reason to stop. The reason to do is simply for you and often its your ego talking when it expects you to produce the cash as reward.

My friend Philana and I decided to try to do more daily and weekly creative or FLOW exercises and last week went to the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai for a 90 min meditation session taught by monks all in Chinese (which means I could probably pick up about a quarter of it, though I usually attend yoga all in Chinese and just follow along, no problem).

So we showed up kind of excited to try this whole mediation thing on a Wed evening at 7:30. Haha, this is our Eat, Play, Love moment of spiritual enlightenment!

When we arrived at the temple, the temple guards were smoking cigarettes and there was extremely loud construction drilling happening right next to the temple (goodbye zen mood).

They laughed when we told them we were their for meditation (rookies) and told us it actually started at 6:30 and therefore, we missed it and had to then do option B which was head to Commune Social and drink Prosecco and eat expensive tapas and give ourselves a pat on the back for actually trying to meditate. FAIL. At least we sort of tried to have a new little hobby.

However, my Chinese friend Freya, actually had the same idea a week later but did the 2 day meditation course at the temple. Wearing grey robes, no phones allowed. I asked her how it was and she said she kept falling asleep. But apparently falling asleep during meditation actually is a sign you are relaxed and have left everything go and are living in the moment. Which I guess is the point. Flow during meditation CAN involve just falling fast asleep.

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