|Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Q: Who is this book for?
A: Everyone who wants to learn more about the true meaning of happiness, and building a fulfilling and meaningful life. Scientific based timeless wisdom!
"What you are as a person is what you will be as a guitarist"; I have noticed that this is one of my most often quoted sayings. I am glad this phrase is sticking in peoples minds, because it is one of the most fundamental understandings I have always tried to convey to students. It is why I have always endeavored to understand each student as a person: so that I could work with them at the level of their essential personhood, and thereby create the best guitarist possible.
I often found that in pursuing this, I ended up understanding the student much better than they understood themselves! With many people, this is not very difficult, because they are not trying, even a little, to understand themselves. Those that truly understand the meaning of my opening statement also understand that the dictum which hung at the entranceway to the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece, "know thyself", should be taken as a lifelong commandment.
There are certain books which have the power to change our lives, if we are ready to receive their message. There are certain books that can deepen our understanding of what it is to be a human being, and our understanding of ourselves. I came across one recently, and I want to tell you about it.
"Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience" was published in 1985, and created an instant sensation. I did not read the book until recently, and I found that the primary conclusions put forth by the author paralleled my own experience.
The book is basically a study of human happiness. It is an extensive examination of thousands of people, reporting on their experiences of the highest states of satisfaction they have experienced in life. Although the work is scientific in nature (actual questionnaires were given out, and the results tabulated, and conclusions drawn and tested), the conclusions reached by the authors research and analysis are fully consistent with much of the worlds traditional spiritual literature.
Of course we all learn when we are young that "money doesn't buy happiness", but that does not prevent us from growing up and spending most of our lives trying to get a mountain of it anyway, and sacrificing much of the (free) pleasures of life along the way.! What is refreshing about this book is that it is not a bunch of debatable sentiments that can be nodded at and ignored. It is as close to an objective pronouncement on the subject of Happiness as you will find, and better than that, descriptions and prescriptions for increasing your own level of fulfillment in life.
I was very interested to discover that many of concepts in the book have already been integrated into my understanding, and my life, and for that reason, many of them will be familiar to those using The Principles. There will be new ideas as well, and in any case, you cannot hear the truth too often!
The author begins with an examination of the supreme importance of, guess what, Attention! Yes, one of our favorite subjects around here! People living happy and fulfilling lives are people who have learned how to focus intensely on meaningful goals, and generate great attention while doing so. He found people reported the greatest satisfaction when actively involved in a challenging task that stretches abilities, to the extent that time, space, and self-awareness become secondary to the accomplishment of the task. All Principled Players who have reached the necessary depth in the "bottom of their practice" have at least begun to discover this. He then goes on to demonstrate that happy, fulfilled people, living lives they enjoy immensely, are the people who have learned how to create meaningful goals that challenge them to bring out new and untapped inner resources. However, the goals must be known and felt to be ultimately attainable, or frustration and despair will set in.
Well, you can see why I wanted my readers to know about this book: it ties in perfectly with everything we do here at GuitarPrinciples. We show you what guitar goals are meaningful, and how to choose the right ones for yourself, and then we give you the knowledge to achieve those goals, so that hope, rather than despair, accompanies your efforts to learn the guitar.
What Is Flow?
"Flow" is a specific mode of functioning, characterized by great attention and focus on a task, that creates "order in consciousness". This "order" brings a feeling of euphoria, because it decreases the pain of "psychic disorder", which the author contends, is an inevitable occurrence in the mind, due to what he call "psychic entropy".
"Entropy" in physics is the tendency of energy to spread out and disperse rather than staying concentrated, i.e., localized in one place. This means that any system, left to itself, tends to "break down", to move to a state of lesser organization. Energy must be put into the system for order to be re-established. The author contends that this "disorder" happens naturally in the mind, and creates a feeling of stress when it does; a feeling of stress we seek to relieve in various ways. These ways range from watching TV, to reading, to playing sports, to practicing and playing guitar. All are ways of re-establishing psychic order through the process of the intense focusing of Attention.
While all of these activities have in common the focusing of our attention, they certainly differ in the amount of attention required, and what we get for the attention we pay is at the heart of the matter. People who have mastered the art of Flow learn how to move continually toward higher levels of complexity in the challenges they undertake. The book is full of examples of people who live their lives this way, and the author contends (and I agree) that these are the happiest people to be found.
One of the most important characteristics of this superior individual is this: they have chosen to arrange their lives so that they are involved in a pursuit they love, that they have a great and natural passion for. Well, I hope that sounds familiar to my readers! Desire, as all Principled Players know, is the first word of the first chapter in "The Principles", and is at the heart of our entire artistic life.
The author gives the name "auto-telic personality" to the type of person who pursues their own desires. This means they are "self-determined", they have decided to discover the meaning of life, and of their life, for themselves. They have decided to tell the world who they are, rather than have the world tell them who they should be. This is a theme we touch upon constantly at GuitarPrinciples, as we deal with so many people who are examining the path they have taken in life, and are making a renewed commitment to their aspirations with music and the guitar.
There is much, much more of great benefit in this book that should be known and thought about by everyone. The sooner you realize the truths about what it is to be a human being that are contained in this book, the better. I recommend it strongly for those wishing to be the best person, and the best guitarist they can be.
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