“So She had Outdanced Thought”…Go with the Flow

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I was listening on National Public Radio this past week to a discussion about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk theme of “Flow” (http://www.npr.org/2015/04/17/399806632/what-makes-a-life-worth-living).  The neuropsychologist explains that the brain can process no more than something like 120 bits of information at a time. The more closely we focus on some activity, the less we are aware of many surrounding conditions or facts that might otherwise vie for our attention. When we are working with great concentration on something we dearly love—like a work of art, giving a performance onstage, writing, or competing at a sports event, we enter “the Flow,” effectively transcending space and time altogether while absorbed in this all-consuming activity in the Now.

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The NPR journalist associated this transcendent experience of “flow” with Abraham Maslow’s notion of a “peak experience.”  I know this concept quite well both as a writer and from when I was a competitive Fencer. I recall quite well one fencing tournament in Tucson, Arizona. I was so focused on being centered and fencing from that Center at that particular tournament that when I fenced, I won every bout 4-0 (and the tournament) and yet I hardly even knew what had just occurred when I stepped off from the fencing strip. The actions themselves had become almost “automatic”: advance/ retreat, attack / parry-riposte, etcetera were not consciously engaged but happened spontaneously from that Center. …”What a rush!” one might say, when this happens!

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Poetry is a medium that brings out my own artistic nature or my ARTIST Archetype Ally, that part of Self that I gratefully share consciousness with to better appreciate form, color, balance, and Nature.  One of my favorite poems from my favorite poet, W. B.Yeats, expresses poignantly the transcendent Flow of the Artist; in this case, in his dream of three Figures: “A Buddha, hands at rest / Hand lifted up that blessed; A Sphinx, head erect, in triumph of intellect… ; and “right between these two a girl that danced”.  Here are the relevant verses from part II of “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes” (from http://www.yeatsvision.com/Doublevision.html ) :

II
On the grey rock of Cashel I suddenly saw
A Sphinx with woman breast and lion paw,
A Buddha, hand at rest,
Hand lifted up that blest;And right between these two a girl at play
That, it may be, had danced her life away,
For now being dead it seemed
That she of dancing dreamed.Although I saw it all in the mind’s eye
There can be nothing solider till I die;
I saw it by the moon’s light
Now at its fifteenth night.One lashed her tail; her eyes lit by the moon
Gazed upon all things known, all things unknown,
In triumph of intellect
With motionless head erect.

That other’s moonlit eyeballs never moved,
Being fixed on all things loved, all things unloved,
Yet little peace he had,
For all that love are sad.

O little did they care who danced between,
And little she by whom her dance was seen
So she had outdanced thought.
Body perfection brought,

For what but eye and ear silence the mind
With the minute particulars of mankind?
Mind moved yet seemed to stop
As ’twere a spinning-top.

In contemplation had those three so wrought
Upon a moment, and so stretched it out
That they, time overthrown,
Were dead yet flesh and bone.

III

I knew that I had seen, had seen at last
That girl my unremembering nights hold fast
Or else my dreams that fly
If I should rub an eye,

And yet in flying fling into my meat
A crazy juice that makes the pulses beat
As though I had been undone
By Homer’s Paragon

So what about you? When are you most in the Flow? How can you use this experience to channel your inner Artist and to accomplish your deepest ambitions?

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images from pixabay.com

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