In the early 1980s, I attended a summer school in Dallas, Texas. My uncle lived there and while going to school, I also practiced martial arts. It was around this time that I was first introduced to the writings of the Japanese Zen Master and swordsman Takuan Sōhō.
The writings still mean a lot to me and sum up the concept of being in a state of flow. I try to achieve a state of flow whenever I am climbing a mountain, practicing martial arts, in a creative brainstorm or in business negotiations.
Around the same time, I stumbled upon the papers and writings of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The Hungarian-born Chicago-based psychologist is considered the modern father of the theory of flow. Founded in positive psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has a ‘to the point’ approach. His writings, and especially his first book, meant so much to me that when the first book was published in Danish, around 1990, I bought 15 copies and gave them to most of my friends.
A flow of consciousness occurs when you engulf yourself in activities that challenge you. When you are in flow you lose yourself, or more specifically you lose your self-awareness of what you do. Your mind directs all of its attention to the task at hand. You become engulfed allowing yourself to become better at the activity in which you are engaged.
The more you experience flow, the better you become at reaching the state of mind. It is the place you go to lose or find yourself.
The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.
- Master Takuan Sōhō