The Things That Make Us Feel Alive

We all have those *things* that make us feel so very, very alive, right? Years ago, when I was coaching sailing, I read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow, about the “flow experience” (no surprise there, right?) and “optimal experience.” I, and others I coached with, discussed bringing these ideas into our young athletes’ approaches to racing their boats.

Now, occasionally, I still consider these ideas. And tonight, I’m thinking about them in the context of this past year, which has provided me with many flow experiences, especially as I’ve been on the road and water.

The Bosun, Boat Dog, and I just had a long walk around our camping loop at Cedar Hill State Park, between Dallas and Ft. Worth. The Bosun and I are full of Tex Mex, and Boat Dog is full of kibble. Earlier today, we had an adventure exploring the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station. We took in grand bronze horses galloping across piles of Berlin Wall.

Then we headed north and snuggled into our camping spot at Cedar Hill. The Bosun snapped our water system into place (quick-release hose fittings sure make setting up camp easy!). He even plugged in the water-softener system. While the Pryde was less than half the size of Traveler, she actually took a little more effort to settle into place. Hydraulic leveling jacks, quick-release hose fittings, and handy basement storage for the electrical cord sure make life easy with the bigger unit.

With campfires blazing all around us now, and twinkling lights strung across dozens of picnic tables lighting up giggling kids on scooters, I’m feeling that optimal flow experience. It’s not about a perfect balance of stress and stimulation, challenge and reward. It’s not about applying my talents to solve a perfectly congruent puzzle. It’s even beyond all that—a simple flow of feeling, of sensing, that I’m so decidedly human ... and so decidedly connected with my world. Connected to others and the stars, to the smokey scent of the darkness and to the scraps of conversation gliding over the uneven road in the thick, still night air. Or maybe it’s not truly “flow.” You could call it an experience of mindfulness. You could call it any number of things.

But yeah, it’s that.

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