Flow

“Flow” is a term I really like. It makes me think of following the natural course of things. In my Pilates practice, flow is what happens after I understand the precise execution of an exercise and I’m ready to do it quickly. Dr. Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness, describes flow as that state during which people are so engaged in an activity that they lose track of time. In her wonderful book about how to raise happy, responsible children, she cites her own example of flow – when she makes herself a cup of tea in the kitchen in the morning and finds it there hours later. She got so engaged in her writing that she forgot to drink it! Children are great at getting into flow. Adults understand it, but most of us are so distracted that it’s hard to get into flow and to stay there.

I took my children to the new Exploratorium in San Francisco this morning. It was a great morning – we got there via BART, walked the Embarcadero waterfront a bit and enjoyed some beautiful sunshine. Once there, we met some friends, one of whom is a boy the same age (5 years) as my little guy.

The Exploratorium has a great exhibit about marbles. The walls are covered in peg board and there are wooden pegs, small wooden ramps, copper pipes, rubber bands, clothes pins, marbles and tons of other simple materials. It was really fun to watch the kids use these items to build structures attached to the walls and then see how the marbles reacted. From such a simple idea, the kids were learning about teamwork, gravity, balance, weight and probably a host of other important lessons that I didn’t even imagine. It all felt like play and they were completely engaged when I suggested we make our way to the restaurant for lunch.

“No,” was the first response.

I raised my eyebrow and gave the deep stare. “I mean, no thanks, Mom.” was the follow-up.

I was starving. We had been at that exhibit for at least a half hour. It was lunch time. And yet, they wanted to continue constructing their marble mazes.

And the lesson I keep trying to teach myself sunk into my brain one more time. They were experiencing flow. This was a teachable moment – for me. This is how you experience a moment without distraction – you just let it flow.

In the time I’ve been writing these few paragraphs, I’ve read and responded to 3 texts. Clearly I have more work to do in order cultivate that meditative mindset. In the meantime, I’ll try to learn from my son.

Have you experienced flow?

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