Finding Flow

Several (well, many) years ago, I said I wanted to learn how to play the piano before I turned 40. The piano has always seemed like one of those impossible mysteries, like speaking French. Or dancing.

As my 43rd year looms, I’ve started piano lessons. I got a free ($200 to move + $200 to tune = free, my partner points out) piano and found a spectacularly over-qualified Russian-conservatory trained instructor.

And I’m making music. My left hand and right hand can do completely things, at different speeds. As long as I do them slowly.

At my lesson last week, my teacher played the harmony to the simple, beautiful tune I had practiced all week. It was so beautiful, this music I was a part of, it took my breath away.

Every evening after dinner I practice my piano. I look forward to it. I crave it. I’ve been thinking about why.

Partly it’s because of the beauty. It’s wondrous to create something beautiful.

Partly it’s the thrill of slowly mastering a piece of music that was impenetrable at the beginning of the week. I can practically feel new neuron connections forming in my brain. That’s got to be good.

But I think it mostly has to do with flow. I’ve been reading Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow and the value of losing yourself in an activity, “…the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter…”

Csikzentmihalyi writes: “… in the long run optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery—or perhaps better, as sense of participation in determining the content of life—that comes as close to what is usually meant by happiness as anything else we can conceivably imagine.”

“You were practicing for an hour,” my partner said last night.

I was?