When I recall the first time I read about flow, I remember craving immersion in the zone referenced by the text. Little did I know, I was mere months away from discovering hoopdance. The timeless, thriving sensations of flow were soon to be my movement meditation!
Still now, as an instructor in the art of flow, I look to Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, the Hungarian psychologist who studied happiness at the turn of the twentieth century. In his study of engagement with everyday life, and in considering maximizing optimal experience (wellness), he researched both a general population sample and also many creatives and high performers.
He described the concept of flow as a “mental state of complete absorption in the current experience” [source]
The term flow came from observing answers his research subjects gave when talking about how an activity came easily, naturally, without struggle when they were free of distractions. According to his philosophy, flow influences our ability to increase our own levels of happiness, leading to exploring a connection between flow and productivity, as well as the role of creativity.
He recognized creative personality types may be inclined to romanticize happiness as a destination, but describes it instead as a journey that begins with your actions. Feelings are part of it, but without “goals that give meaning” to your life, then “good feelings fill just a fraction of the potential we possess” (Csikzentmihalyi, M., 1997).
I will not describe his 8 characteristics of flow here, but I do want to explore how I see the connections in my life between creativity and flow, how challenge and goal-setting allow me to pursue greater flow, and the part hoopdance plays in it all.
“Serenity comes when heart, will, and mind are on the same page.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow, p. 28
Hoopdance is a cultural wellness phenomenon guiding women to find their mind/body/spirit connection through movement and community, and is enhanced through goal-setting.
Consistent goal-setting naturally leads to a more cohesive sense of self by giving direction and purpose to my activities and movements. This is what I found in hoopdance, constantly working on new creative movements, illusions, and tricks – and through practice, I began to understand what put the FLOW in flow arts.
Flow tends to occur when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. p. 30
Hoopdance is unique in that it is accessible, regardless of how out-of-shape you think you are. When I found hoopdance, I had poor stamina from leading a sedentary life. Plenty of concepts and skills lay within my reach, and it was easy to immerse myself in the activity, while challenging myself to more growth – consistent with the author’s conclusions.
But overcoming challenge is only part. Producing flow in your life also requires activities with “clear goals, clear rules, immediate feedback” because they provide an “external demand that focuses our attention and makes demands on our skills”. He distinguishes purposeful activity with leisure time which does not have these qualities (Csikzentmihalyi, M., 1997).
Learning to manage one’s goals is an important step in achieving excellence in everyday life. p. 25
Practicing hoopdance is, for me, conducive to personal growth and achieving excellence in my life. My hoopdance practice refreshes my mindset, by changing my focus from the at-times anxious chatter inside my head toward sensations of the external environment; and my interactions with it through movement and prop manipulation. I cannot grow or thrive without establishing a clear path from where I am to where I want to be.
Choose goals that will provide order to one’s consciousness without causing too much disorder in the social or material environment. p. 25
One of my goals as an instructor is building community through hoopdance. Across the study, respondents reported feeling best not only when they had goal-setting activities, but also when they had socialization. I feel supported through my connections to the community with online and in-person meet ups!
The Triangle is home to an abundance of movement classes, hoop & flow jams, and special events.The hoopdance community offers social reinforcement, and organized times spent in pursuit of skill acquisition. It is important to note that although the social world studied by the author still exists, in our modern times, we are no longer limited to proximity community building.
Before the turn of the century, researchers could only imagine the impact of the internet on socialization. Online today, hoopers post in social media groups, sharing their thoughts, insights, and videos with one another. We find that building community and camaraderie through shared experiences and passions for the flow arts is expansive! Socialization enforces goal-setting by keeping you on track, and I’ve found when these work together smoothly, flow comes naturally.
To make a creative change in the quality of experience…experiment with [your] surroundings as well as with activities and companions.
Would you like to work with me? Together, we will improve hoopdance skills, unlock confidence, and find flow! In my upcoming 8-week class series, we will discover together how hoopdance can uncover your mind/body/spirit connection. We begin our journey in May! Learn more click here.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997) Finding Flow. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.