At the heart of flow – a word for an inner state coined by Michael Csikszentmihalyi – is the absence of emotion, of any kind of consciousness. “Consciousness and emotion are there to correct your trajectory; when what you are doing is seamlessly perfect, you don’t need them,” says Martin Seligman in his very useful book, “Authentic Happiness”, that I’m working through at present. These lines transport so much of what makes sense to me: for instance that consciousness is much overrated in contemporary spiritual culture.
But first things first: During my recent seminar in the Czech Republic (I’ve written about it here) in one of the exercises that we happened to explore we were looking into what we really, really want. And guess what, I found that I want to be rich and influential. “What for?” you might well ask. But does what we really, really want need a justification?
Not, that I couldn’t give you one: I’m already rich in most matters of the soul, and people coming into my vicinity easily influence me and I them; I call the mutual apprenticeship and what happens between us then “wefullness“. And now, as my understanding of what I want and what is needed matures, I think I cannot only handle financial riches and the influence it brings but I also know how to use it to leverage my vision: “Living in a world where everybody can make their living with what they really want to do.”
That, of course, is a world that is governed by what may be called ‘grown-ups with only minor hang-ups’, people who understand that we’re living on one round globe and together with an infinite number of living beings and innumerable non-living beings. People who also know – and live according to that knowledge – that “if we no longer imagine that objects stare back, Â then […] they are not partners in dialogue with whom an I-Thou relationship obtains. Once the soul of the world loses its face, we see things rather than images. Things ask no more of us than to be owned and used, becoming possessions.” (Italics mine, from ‘The Force of Character and the Lasting Life’ by James Hillman; p. 149).
So when I say that my path now is committed to becoming as rich, if not even more rich, as I am in character, soul, psyche, imagination, love, wefullness and understanding, I’m not talking about things and possessions, I’m talking about real images coming alive with the breath, the spirit of imagination. It’s money talking with a very convincing voice, saying, “it is my purpose to provide a living, a beautiful and meaningful living for everyone.”
I’m only have slight indications where that wealth might be coming from, but I don’t need more than that. Surely the richess will come, of course, in keeping with the vision mentioned, it needs to come about by doing what I love to do. which is saying the same things as, it cannot but come complementing what I really, really want to do. And since most of the time I’m doing just that – creating the next generation social network, designing the collaboration ecology as well as the first drafts of the UI, doing seminars on self-discovery and self-empowerment in the manner of mutual apprenticeship, writing, reading – I rest assured that my true want will turn into reality.
Now before it became as clear as it is now what I want, when it was just clear what world I want for my children, grandchildren and me to live in – yes I believe it can become a reality before I leave my darling body behind – upon deep reflection it became clear that I choose the happy path to help co-design and help realize this world. Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog-post, and the book I’m reading on “Authentic Happiness”.
Martin Seligman’s encouraging us to do what we already know is good for us (and much more, but I won’t go into that, except to say that if you are looking for very intelligent, or scientific, or just plain common sense reasons for pursuing happiness, you find them in this book), and he says that the one thing that has most influence on enduring happiness is leading a rich and fulfilling social life – and he’s not talking about the online-variant, but I guess that counts for something :-). We also all know that gratitude and forgiveness is very good when dealing with the past; being optimistic and hopeful helps when considering the future… And the above quote comes from that part where he speaks about being happy in the present.
Then he makes a very important distinction: The difference between pleasure and gratification. We all know what pleasures are, they are “delights that have clear sensory and strong emotional components,” as Martin puts it. Gratifications, on the other hand, are “activities in which time stops for us [I would say doesn’t exist for us], our skills match the challenge, and we are in touch with our strengths.” Really, gratification comes from being in the flow, where neither emotions nor consciousness are present; we simply disappear into what’s going on and what we’re doing.
Choosing the happy path in life, actually before anything else you could possibly want, makes an amazing lot of sense to me. So whatever it is that you really, really want, start doing it today, maybe step by step, maybe in one big leap. And doing so, do it the happy way.
And – you can certainly want what you already have; if so, spread your happiness.
If it needs to turn from an image into a tangible reality first, go about it as happy as you can.
If what you want cannot be reached by being happy, it might be worth reconsidering if it is what you really, really want. Because if it doesn’t contribute to your happiness moving towards (or living) it probably won’t contribute to our happiness as human and other beings.
And if you are happy about anything, or just happy without a cause, be assured that it will be a wellspring of goodness to all of us.