I was thinking this weekend about those activities in which I become completely immersed. I lose all sense of time, as I am completely absorbed in what I am doing, reading, thinking at that time. It came to mind when I was texting with a friend about what she’d done that day, which turned out to be a craft project with her father. I replied that I had gone on a hike for the first time all year, and that it was just lovely not to think about work during the few hours that I was out there.
And that made me pause for a moment. I never thought of hiking as an activity in which I become immersed, mostly because my thoughts on the matter have typically centered around how I love my work, and can become immersed in it to the point of losing track of time.
The same thing happens when I hike. I got back in the car, heard my stomach growl, and looked at the clock, only to realize that more than an hour had passed while I was out in the woods. (Side note: it was an awesome hike to this really cool natural limestone bridge…short but steep hike, and completely worth it.)
Back to the texts with my friend. She then went on to say that she used to quilt a lot – before life got so nuts – and that she loved it for how it distracted her. I’d argue, instead, that she was completely immersed in what she was doing while she was quilting.
For me? I realized that the list is longer than anticipated. For me, immersive activities include my work, particularly when I focus on one thing for a decent period of time. Reading a good book. Counted cross stitch, which I did as a child. (Side note: I love cross stitch, but cannot find kits like I used to find as a kid… also, I kind of hate cutesy images and that seems to be what the majority of kits have you make. All of that to say, I’d love to pick it up again but don’t think it’ll happen unless there’s a revolution in cross stitch kit design. Ha.) Hiking, obviously. And baking.
All of these activities take all of my attention – get distracted while hiking, and you could break an ankle. For baking? Distraction = major recipe fails. Trust me on that one. This might not apply to something like meditation, if that’s an immersive activity for you. Unless there are dangers of which I am unaware related to meditation?
Finding that immersive state is such a gift. The mental engagement combined with the silencing of the incessant list of to-dos and issues and challenges and I-have-to-reply-to-100-emails is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of being human.
I feel fortunate. I’m into the summer now – freed to focus on my research projects, and preparation for fall courses (yes, already). I look forward to more immersive days than I’ve had in the last few months, although there have definitely been moments scattered here and there.
The other term for this immersive state is “flow”. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
Time to stretch my mind (my body was already stretched by my workout this morning, thanks). I hope you have a similarly excellent start to your week.