Flow

Had a lovely work day on Tuesday. Holly was here and Glo visited too, it’s been a couple months since we had everyone together. Then my friend Amanda visited in the evening, so I carried on pearling then too. Got close to a little bit of a flow. Whether with corsetmaking or horses or studying, I’m always seeking out that flow state. I suppose we all are.

The state of flow happens under very specific conditions – when we encounter a challenge that is testing for our skills, and yet our skills and capacities are such that it is just about possible to meet this challenge. So both the challenge and the skills are at high levels, stretching us almost to the limit.

If challenges exceed skills, one can become anxious. If skills exceed challenges, we usually become bored (like bright kids at school). Neither of these two cases result in flow.

My work is about both creating an aesthetic – a picture – and experiencing flow. If a design doesn’t fulfil both of those needs, I find it unsatisfying. Ultimately, this is why I downsized my work this year.

Autotelic activities. Intrinsically motivated experiences where time distorts, the self dissipates, you’re functioning at the edge of your abilities, you have clarity of purpose, focus, control, and your actions and awareness are merged. That is, you inhabit your body in a different way to usual. I wonder if non-human animals can experience something like flow. Perhaps when they’re playing or perhaps, for those horses who do genuinely love their jobs, when they’re functioning at capacity going cross-country and the like.

Oh, which reminds me, I never officially mentioned on the Sparklewren blog that I am now a horse owner once again! I found Skye at the beginning of the month and quickly decided that I liked her enough to take a chance on the whole thing. I had been looking, but hadn’t really expected to buy something until winter or beyond. But there she was, quiet and aloof and a tiny bit wild, having done next to nothing for the past few years (save a couple of foals and very occasional riding), and I just really liked her.

Three weeks on and she’s settling very nicely. We’re taking it all very slow. Lots of general handling and in-hand work in a bid to get her weight down, her posture improved, and her mind calm. I feel like it’s working, but it’s early days.

“Nothing ever is, but all things are becoming.” – Plato. And what was that principle about knowledge I heard recently…? That if you’re not actively improving you are sliding backwards. There is no such thing as stasis. So for my work I need to be doing projects that continue to have me operating close to my limits. And for Skye, we need to be doing activities that gently challenge her physical and emotional comfort zones. But that’s the crux in both instances, letting the challenge be only gentle. Too far beyond your skill level you will become disheartened or anxious. Too far outside of your emotional comfort zone you will panic. Knowing when to push and when to let up, whether with yourself or another living creature, that’s the trick.

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