Flow Through Different Worlds: Writing, Sharing, Loving

A couple of things you mightn’t expect when you first get to know me: I have a subscription to the Jesuit weekly magazine America and I check the entire college football schedule so I know how to plan the weekend.

My husband and I fell in love with versions of the other that were not totally representative of the sort of mates we would turn out to be. I partied a lot more and wrote a lot less and I lived in a cramped basement apartment without cable. Never did I realize what an autumn would really be like when I would have to share the man I love with a screen covered by giants in tight pants. Then again, he couldn’t realize the number of evenings I would spend with the door closed, constantly typing away.

In hopes of understanding my husband’s passion for watching sports on t.v., I opened the latest issue of America that is dedicated to “The Soul of Sports.” The article failed to enlighten me as to why someone can be so passionate about a game he cannot influence, but it did introduce me to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of Flow Psychology.

“Flow” is described as the “holistic sensation present when we act with total involvement.” Csíkszentmihályi equates it with the Buddhists samadhi, or one-pointedness of mind. Though this article focuses on team sports and then turns to Ignatian spirituality, I thought about how I experience flow in my writing.

I write in two worlds, the pages of my novel and in this space. My writing group and select friends are great cheerleaders as my story progresses, while I rely almost exclusively on the comments of strangers when it comes to my blog. The delayed gratification and the lack of the dreaded blog stats page make crafting characters and plot seem like more like Flow, which is said to be marked by “egolessness.” In terms of this article, maybe working on my novel does fit the bill because it is meant to be about being in a space where the “explicit reflection on the self stops.” My experiences are wholly enmeshed with my fiction, but at least I feel like I am writing for the sake of the people I have cast on the page. The desire to write my way out of a day job is usually held at bay when the inspiration takes over and the words just come.

I cannot find an equal amount of selflessness in blogging, however (especially when I mention the word “self” at least once per post!). It’s more difficult to find that effortless movement of ideas in a genre that exists to be read and replied to immediately. Flow was the world of private journaling. Blogging is constant performance.

That said, I am making the connection: I read about Flow not as a commentary on the psychology of sport or writing, but in a religious publication. This piece puts the wisdom in Christian terms, which I still feel vaguely uncomfortable with, but I have to remember that Flow is yoga, Flow is the goal of meditation, Flow is something I have studied in so many different worlds. Flow could be sharing my thoughts with a simple goal of serving the reader with some ideas that may sweetly color her day.

I keep writing about my quest for wisdom, but I think it is time to remember that the process of writing and communication my vision of wholeness is an essential part of the journey.

Because the Ego is a Fragile Thing I Have to Waste

I started blogging a year ago as a result of one of those allegedly profound conversations in which, yet again, I experienced the ultimate breakthrough and uncovered an enlightened new relationship with Self and the Divine, and pretty much the entire planet.

Wryly, I scoffed to my friend, “Listen to me! I’m the girl who cried epiphany! Why do you even listen to all this narcissistic drivel?” And so I started committing these thoughts to writing and explored a public voice.

Then I stopped posting because my obsession with whether anyone was reading seemed unhealthy, I started writing fiction again, and it didn’t seem that inspired spiritual progression should invite voyeurism. Now, six months later, I think I have found my way back to the original purpose of these pages – to name those little epiphanies, both pedestrian and profound, that inform and spice this business of living, and could, with a bit of attention and intention, lead to an expansion of consciousness.

This need to start writing here again came to me today while I sat through a conference of librarians. I had organized the event, yet sat at the periphery because I am not really one of them, but instead a creature who lacks the information science credentials, and, frankly, the interest to truly engage in the conversation. For two days, I had been trying to explain to the participants my role in the college library at which I work – I’m a professional with an assistant of my own and I do actual intellectual work when I am not worrying about caterers and janitors’ schedules, honest! When I took a moment to listen to myself I realized that the lady really did protest too much. I balked at the fragility of my ego, that I had to allude to the novel I am writing and my graduate work in Ireland and actually say “yeah, but I am not actually a secretary.” See, I even had to include my credentials here so that my readers will realize that I am not just some hack whining about her day job!

My difficulties with position and title have plagued me for years both in the professional and existential sense. I think I am finally in the place where I can admit the tyranny of this need to prove myself and the longing for a ready-made description of who I am. Of course, being able to recognize that this brittle shell of identity I feel compelled to defend and describe is light years from my true self is only the smallest of initial steps. Still, it was epiphany enough to stop and hear my story as it spiraled from my lips and realize that the tale I was telling had nothing to do with me.

After such silence, I certainly have not begun to fulfill the mission of what this blog was meant to do, but perhaps remembering the long, arduous process of self expression is revelation enough for one evening.