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Flow

January 16, 2012

From Big Boy’s room come the muffled sounds of spells being cast and Harry Potter scenes being reenacted.  Big Girl is at the dining room table, humming little made-up songs a la Francis to her paints as she mixes colours on the palette.  I’m peeling the skins off roasted yams and tossing chunks in the blender to make baby food.  The energy in the house is calm as each of us engages in our favourite activity.  I read an amazing study once (darned if I can remember where, or I would share it with you) where the researchers hooked artists up to EEG machines to measure brain activity as each focussed on their craft – painting, sculpting, composing, whatever it was.  Then the researchers hooked up kids in the middle of intense play, and saw the same patterns of brain activity.  In each case the connections being made and the number of neurons firing was amazing.

Since my job right now is raising children, I seek out professional development in the form of reading about parenting.   I just read The Bright Child Challenge, by Andrew Fuller.  It was full of good ideas on how to parent my Big Boy,  but I would recommend it to anyone because it’s the first time I’ve read about this idea of seeking the feeling of FLOW.  It says the goal of parenting is to teach our kids how to live a fulfilled life.  A fulfilling life must include times where we are truly happy, and people are happiest when we’re “unselfconsciously involved in a mindful challenge”, the book describes.  As parents, we know our children better than anyone, and we can help them discover what makes them enter that blissful state of engaged brain activity where they can tune out expectations.

Kids live so much in the front of their brain, as I think of it, where they have to be aware of rules, and wonder if others are going to take away a toy, shove in front of the line to go to gym, or tease you for what’s in your lunch.  Kids wonder if teachers are going to call on them, when they might get to get a drink or use the bathroom.  Their brains are often on, thinking one step ahead.  As adults we are using the front of our brain when we’re driving, composing an email, making small talk…we’re anticipating others’ reactions and planning our response.  But don’t we all, kids and adults, need to find that space to just FLOW, to live in this one quiet moment?  Or to find a quiet place in your brain to experience this chaotic moment and just see it for what it is, not cloak it in our expectations or think about how to react?

The book gives a list of examples of FLOW for kids – running barefoot, doing a jigsaw puzzle, learning a joke, drawing, riding a bike, looking after a pet.  Truly there are hundreds of examples.  The key is that there needs to be some skill involved, so you have to practice and master the activity enough that you have to concentrate, but not too much.  It reminds me of the breathtaking first chapter in The Family Virtues Guide that describes our human longing for “mastery and meaning”.

When my marriage was on the rocks my ex and I went to an amazing counsellor who helped bring my ex’s affair to light.  When it became clear the marriage was unsalvageable, he asked, “How are you going to deal with this?’  I asked him what he meant and he said, “You need an outlet to deal with all this pain.  Do you paint, or play an instrument?  What can you do to get through this difficult time?”  I had never thought of my hobbies as a way to stay sane in the face of tremendous upheaval, but of course what I did was go home and write and write and fill journals and notebooks and the backs of receipts with my thoughts until I gradually found myself again.   Even now that life is blissfully balanced, finding FLOW is crucial to my identity, keeping me sane and balanced in the middle of looking after others’ needs.  What brings you a sense of FLOW?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. seethesea permalink
    January 16, 2012 6:11 pm

    Wow…..is all I have to say. What a great post !

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  1. How Did I Get Here? | Mairi King

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