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How to Live in Flow

For its Own Sake- Issue #60

By Solomon • Issue #60View online

“Ask yourself whether you are happy,” said J.S. Mill, “and you cease to be so.” “It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives whether good or bad,” writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow, “that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly.” In fact, looking as Dr. Joe Dispenza teaches, means we’re feeling separate from it - happiness, joy, creation - instead of connected to it.

A few weeks ago on a Shabbat morning (Saturday), I learned about 3 levels of ways to do mitzvah (commandment) from the discourse Vekibeil hayehudim 5711 - habit, pleasure, and for its own sake (lishmah). One’s prayers, for example, can be done by habit, which doesn’t really have any life or soul to it and it’s become rote and mechanic. One level above habit is pleasure in which one derives pleasure from prayer and the benefits it brings. However, both approaches are limited compared to the person who prays for it’s own sake. Lishmah means for its own sake, for the sake of the mitzvah. When a mitzvah is fulfilled “for their own sake, not for our benefit, but because they are His will, our observance is not rooted in our sense of self, but in our surrender of self.” The mitzvah is a connection. It shares a root with the word tzavsa, which means “bond.” The mitzvahs are expressions, “limbs,” of the Creator; through performing them we bond with Him. We are always connected and bonded with G-d, so, on a deeper understanding, it means we can be more in tune with and conscious of that bond. In effect then, performing something lishmah is for the sake of Heaven.

Learning about doing things lishmah reminded me of the state of flow with which ignited my journey into coaching i.e how we can live life in this state. Since that Saturday, I have been reviewing sections from the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is about the state of flow an optimal experience. According to the author, “the key element of optimal experience is that [the activity] is an end in itself.” The activity - not the experience - is the an end itself, which I wrote about in What’s A healthy mindset toward having experiences? Testimonials of people who experience the state of flow, whether a doctor, sailor, author, athlete, or even people in conversation (like a