I experienced a flow state for several hours the other day while doing some carpentry. I was wrapping up the wellhouse at the Be Well Retreat and had about a day’s worth of work left. I was overcoming an illness and still not 100% which forced me to work very mindfully. There was a fresh foot of snow on the ground, turning into ice as I tromped a path from the truck to the wellhouse over and over again. Every step required attention to avoid a spill. The remaining work required custom cuts of siding, lots of measurement and some ladder standing. The snow and my fatigue forced me to be deliberate and thoughtful with each action. I started by laying out all my tools onto boards in the snow and setting up a table and sawhorse for cutting boards. Got my batteries charging and assessed the situation. The work was pretty straightforward, no hard decisions to make, just execution. I wrapped the siding on the front of the wellhouse and turned the corner to the more complicated cuts on the sloping side. This is where effort became effortless and things just worked. The sun was shining, the snow was melting off the roof, and the cuts were perfect. At one point, I looked up and I was done with the side and it seemed like I had just started. I had to re-work some work from a couple weeks’ prior as the boards had expanded and shifted. I would normally be disappointed in myself for a while and complain while doing it and, instead, I calmly started removing boards that took me hours to put up until I got to the problem boards. Motion took over and my mind was not attached. It seems I met the characteristics for flow:
- Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
- Merging of action and awareness
- A loss of reflective self-consciousness
- A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
- A distortion of temporal experience, as one’s subjective experience of time is altered
- Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience
Before I knew it, the sun was started to go down and I realized all I needed to do was wrap up the trim and I could put everything away and call this project completed. I really enjoyed that last hour, watching the sun (and temperature) go down, providing urgency to the work. Putting the remaining lumber, tools, and scrap away was particularly joyful. I was covered in sawdust and soaking wet. I celebrated with some tea, warm clothes, and warm dinner.