Flow and Empathizing

Apr 4th 2014 12:55pm ET

Dear Dr. Csikszentmihalyi

It occurs to me
that the sense of “oneness” we feel
when we empathize
may be related
to the sense of “oneness” we feel
when we’re in flow.

Have you ever wondered
if they were related?

Would be an honor
to hear from you,

with much gratitude


Apr 4th 2014 2:33pm ET

Hi Slim,

That feeling
is something you can experience
as a result of different ways
of organizing your attention:
By feeling a sense of awe
looking at the ocean or the starry sky,
by meditating,
or by engaging in an activity
that produces flow.

I don’t know
whether these are exactly the same
— we have no way to measure “oneness”
except by relying on subjective accounts —
but they sure sound very
similar . . .


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Two Different Uses of Force

First time we snowboard,
we tend to use a lot of force.

When our snowboarding,
pencil marks,
are not to our liking,
we may apply even more force.

Years later,
when we snowboard,
we may feel more relaxed.

When we have to stop abruptly,
make a bold mark,
assert a final decision,
we may still use force.

But these are different uses of force.
In the first case,
it was probably because we were afraid of falling,
making a mistake,
being judged.

Once we can empathize with
the snowboard,
our drawing tools,
our teammates,
fear can vanish for a moment
in the experience of oneness
beyond “I” vs “them.”

Force used in fear
Like two opponents wrestling.
Force used while empathizing
Like two partners dancing.