Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Wikipediaflow: “In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.”

My buddy Henry has been praising this book for years and I finally got around to reading it.

The Tao of Zen: Emptying

taoofzenIn The Tao of Zen, author Ray Grigg devotes 170 pages to tracing the historical roots of Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. I find it tough sledding every time. The rest of the book explores the philosophical similarities between Taosim and Zen. Chapters on: Wordlessness, Selflessness, Softness, Oneness, Emptiness, Nothingness, Balance, Paradox, Non-doing, Spontaneity, Ordinariness, Playfulness, Suchness.

After three readings, my copy of this book has so many underlines, margin notes and highlighter, it’s getting hard to read. Here are few ideas from the final chapter:

In Taoism and Zen, suchness is accommodated by emptying. This is the process of clearing away the attitudes, the judgements, the roles, and all the conditioned patterns of thinking and feeling that shape ordinary experience. This means no questions, no answers, no explanations, no justifications, no rationalizations, no utilitarianism. It also means no moralizing, no personifying, no empathizing.

“Our existence is nothing but a succession of moments perceived through the senses.” — Jean Jacques Rousseau

(In Taoism and Zen) self is a soft and flexible persona worn for the practical purpose of identification. This was Alan Watts’ point when he said that he was not really Alan Watts, he was only called Alan Watts.

“I don’t have faith. I have experience.” — Joseph Campbell

The Way of Taoism and Zen comes of itself. “It” happens when “It” is ready.

Patterns in the chaos


“Clouds appear and disappear in disordered order. There is structure in the tumult, patterns in the chaos. Such a principle is the underlying character of Taoism and Zen.” — The Tao of Zen by Ray Grigg

No one can deliberately do it


“When (Zen) is itself, it is so uncontrived and subtle that it goes unnoticed, or it passes for luck or grace or some nameless equivalent. Like Taoism, it happens but few recognize it. And no one can deliberately do it.”

— The Tao of Zen by Ray Grigg

Autumn Leaves

The difference between those who are enlightened and those who are not “is that you don’t know the difference until you realize yourself to be no better than others, then you are better than others. But if you think like this, you are not. Here is the paradox that rules the world.”

— R.H.Blyth (The Tao of Zen by Ray Grigg)

A thousand years is but an instant

“A thousand years is but an instant. There’s nothing new, nothing different; same pattern over and over. The same clouds, same music, the same things I felt an hour or an eternity ago. There’s nothing here for me now, nothing at all. Now I remember, this happened to me before. This is why I left. You have begun to find your answers. Although it will seem difficult the rewards will be great. Exercise your human mind as fully as possible knowing that it is only an exercise. Build beautiful artifacts, solve problems, explore the secrets of the physical universe, savor the input from all the senses, filled with joy and sorrow and laughter, empathy, compassion, and tote the emotional memory in your travel bag. I remember where I came from, and how I became human, why I hung around, and now my final departure’s scheduled. This way out, escaping velocity. Not just eternity, but Infinity.”

From Waking Life by Richard Linklater (IMDb)