Lent’s Compass. Day Sixteen: The Unselfconsciousness of Humility and Flow.

When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves. The Greeks had a word for ultimate self-consciousness which I find illuminating: hubris: pride: pride in the sense of putting oneself in the center of the universe. . . . The moment that humility becomes self-conscious, it becomes hubris. One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time. Therefore the act of creating–painting a picture, singing a song, writing a story–is a humble act? This was a new thought to me. Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else. ~ Madeleine L’engle A Circle of Quiet, p. 11.

I’ve been sitting with this quote. I keep asking myself the same question. Could the virtue of humility as L’Engle describes, be closely related to the Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow state?

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. i just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself. ~ A leading composer of American music

It was just one of those programs that clicked. I mean everything went right, everything felt good. . . It’s just such a rush, like you feel it could go on and on and on, like you don’t want it to stop because it’s going so well. It’s almost as though you don’t have to think, its like everything goes automatically without thinking. . . It’s like you’re on automatic pilot, so you don’t have any thoughts. You hear the music but you’re not aware that you’re hearing it, because it’s a part of it all. ~ An Olympic figure skater

How does it feel to experience flow?

1. Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
2. A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
4. Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task.
5. A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
6. Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes.
7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.

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