I listened to a TED radio talk this morning, an amalgamation of TED talks that expanded on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At the top of his need pyramid is self-actualization, for which they used bits of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's talk about "flow" - what Maslow called a "peak experience."
Both men describe the experience as losing one's sense of time and place, one's very sense of existence, in the pursuit of creation. Or of perfection.
In order to understand flow, Csíkszentmihályi first studied creative people - artists and scientists - then moved on to athletes and other peak performers, and then to assembly line workers and more ordinary occupations. He believes that thousands of hours of practice are necessary before anyone can experience flow.
I've not found this to be true. I've had beginning students who experienced flow. A decade or so ago, I called it "baring their souls" because that's how it felt to me, as an observer. They were visually transformed - they glowed. I lost any critical capacity as a teacher, was caught up in the moment myself. I have a beginning student now who has experienced flow three times. Each time he's amazed, talks about "losing a sense of time," about "losing myself in the music."
So what is flow? Is it the physiological sensation of creativity?
To be continued.