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What Made Me Cry This Week – Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

I just finished reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Csiksz.). Let’s just say I got into flow while reading it.

Serious though.

The first thing that struck me was in his introduction. He had a quote from Viktor Frankl: “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.“ From there it didn’t stop, because while the book is somewhat old (it was published in 1991!) the ideas are super current. No wonder every now and then I see an article, artist or blog, mentioning flow.

Halfway through the book does start to get a tiny bit repetitive, but there’s enough variety and new information that it’s worth going. Around this area I really liked the chapter on loneliness, or solitude, and relationships, family and friends. I’m still planning on scanning this chapter and sharing it with a couple friends. This section on loneliness and relationships was essential for my understanding of flow. I’ve been struggling somewhat with the idea of being by myself. The book offers great advice about how to organize yourself as a whole person to keep inner demons at bay.

Another highlight of the book is just the plethora of stories from real people, experiencing real joy in their day-to-day life. The stories were very moving, especially stories like Reyad’s. An Egyptian guy “[…] who currently sleeps in the parks of Milan […]” From Egypt he hiked all the way to Italy and now lives there homeless. A small part of his testimony:

“It has not been just a trip, it has been a search for identity […] Everyone has his own fate, and we should try and be like the lion in the proverd. The lion, when he runs after the pack of gazelles, can only catch them one at a time. I try to be like that, and not like Westerners who go crazy working even though they cannot eat more than their daily bread.”

I fell in love with Reyad and his story. There were so many other stories though that also touched and moved me. And they all had one purpose: to encourage, to instruct and help the reader grow. The notion of “flow” has been swimming in my head ever since I read this book and I can’t stop thinking of it. Trying to find ways to get to flow in different parts and aspects of my life. It’s a book that reminds, and helps, you to challenge yourself and find joy in the small things.

P.S.: I couldn’t help but to think it was funny how he also relays how Dante’s Divina Commedia was helpful for a seminar that the author organized. Made me remember the wisdom of Dreher’s book, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and the review I wrote on it.

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