Monday, June 4, 2012

The Flow versus the Trance

When I was a teenager, my friend Desiree would come to pick me up for school each morning, bringing a collection of stuff (books, jacket, lunch sack). Unfortunately, Desiree’s arrival coincided with my stepmother’s chores. Des would leave her things on the kitchen table, join me in my room and when we were perfectly primped and ready to go—Des’ books would be gone.
Me—Marie, have you seen Des’s books.
This happened repeatedly, until one day—we laid a trap and spied. Yep, Marie moved the things—but she didn’t remember moving them.

Have you ever noticed that you can drive to work on autopilot—your hands moving the steering wheel, your foot pumping the gas or pressing the brake—while your mind is completely engaged elsewhere? A mental conversation, a daydream, a story to tell—all more interesting than the drive you make hundreds of times a year. I do this nearly every day when I run. My body is moving, but not nearly as fast as my mind.

This trance-like state isn’t to be confused with what is called The Flow. The Flow happens when an athlete is completely absorbed in his game,  a musician is “rocking out” or an actor has become his character.

Sometimes, when I’m lucky, I’m in The Flow with my writing. There have been times when I’ve stumbled away from the computer after a long writing session, only to find that the temperature in my room has risen to a hundred and ten degrees and I didn’t even notice. But just because I’m thinking about my book and not about the road doesn’t mean I get to run red lights. 

Once while writing at the Mission Viejo library, I turned off my laptop, stood up, only to suddenly realize that a person on the other side of the glass partition, not more than eight feet away, must have had some sort of collapse. Paramedics, a gurney, and a crowd of about forty people filled the tiny room. When I left the library, I passed an ambulance pulled up to the curb, lights flashing. I don’t know how I missed all of this, but I’ve since taken it as a life lesson. I never want to be so caught up in my own private world that I can’t recognize and help someone in need.

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