Art by Sandra Smouha: Geneva
Emily Smouha
How I best express myself? With anything but words.
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How to Enter a State of ‘Flow’

By Emily Smouha

Flow manifests in us a state of complete focus.

There are patterns, processes, organisms and movements that carry on forever. These never-ending patterns are called fractals, and are created by repeating simple processes over and over in a never ending feedback loops. I am interested in this flow and its manifestation within everyday life. We are fractal beings with dynamic infinite systems. What happens, then, when we get into ‘the zone’ at work or when making art? More specifically, how can our relationship with technology, in conjunction with our actions in ‘rhythm’ create the form of a flow, as inherent within our fractal nature?


Consider the hypnotizing state of watching the waves pull in and out of a tide – the water current carrying you along induces a state of meditation. This was the recurring metaphor used by those interviewed by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, the world’s leading researcher on positive psychology and a pioneering architect on the notion of flow. He uses the metaphor of the ebb and flow of waves, how their infinite nature in pattern and continuity triggers a stimuli in us to be ‘entranced’ – the literal flow manifests in us a state of complete focus.


In an article published in the New York Times, University of Pennsylvania Professor Kenneth Goldsmith explains why, ‘It seems that the surrealist vision of a dream culture has been fully realized in today’s technologies.’ He is teaching a course called ‘Wasting Time on the Internet.’ This course, rather than shunning the idea of ‘time wasting,’ embraces the concept of getting lost in time, being curious and ignoring the ticking clock. In his course, Goldsmith focuses on the 6 key factors, described by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi as the invocation of this state of flow. In allowing his students to experience pure ‘intuitive searching’ they begin to actualize the 6 key factors:


  1.  An intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. A merging of action and awareness
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  6. An experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as an ‘autotelic experience’ enabling them to enter a ‘digital haze’, a ‘collective dreamspace.’


Aimless and active drifting has a critical place in art. Carl Jung explains how the free and random expression of creativity, say through a pen on paper, has the capacity to enable flow when the person holding the pen can actively focus to maintain their flow state.


Similarly to the artistic process, our flow-inducing online behavior is an act of creation. In art, the pen on paper creates lines and shapes as proof of process. Online, our number of page tabs grow and become ever more interconnected, contributing to the dizzying intricate network that is the world wide web.


The internet, like the galaxy, is almost impossible to map. Rather, we have to navigate it to discover what it looks like. Like our life, we have to live it to learn it.


In the surreal cult-classic I Heart Huckabees, Mr. Huckabee says to his ultra-apathetic clients, ‘Because everything you could want or be, you already are or have.’ The point being, you, me and anyone in the world are a part of a flow that continues and grows exponentially. We live in a fractal state in which all of our processes are interconnected and inherently dependent.


Final note: I listened to this mix whilst writing this article and it helped me to experience Flow.

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