Flow & dough

I have no doubt that, for some people, making pies is a flow experience. I’m reasonably certain that my grandmothers, and sometimes my mother, felt a sense of flow when pie-making: fully engaged in the process, challenged, immersed, and enjoying the fulfillment of a task as it evolves. Making pies can be intrinsically rewarding, but–alas–for me, it is a bit too much of a challenge and the purpose is generally extrinsic (though a good pie is surely worth the effort).

Today I made pie in preparation for the Thanksgiving feast we celebrate here in the USA. But I feel more of a sense of flow when I am cleaning up the mess I made in the kitchen and stopping occasionally to gaze out the window at the falling snow and the sweet little juncos hopping along the porch railing. The actual process of rolling a pie crust involves, in my case, swearing and cussing and patching torn dough. I am positive that my Methodist grandmother never resorted to salty language while pie-making, but I imagine she may have also enjoyed glancing up from her work and appreciating a view, a fellow-creature, something aesthetic or pleasant to behold in the midst of family life.

The activities that keep me actively entranced and purposeful do not include making pies. My re-reading of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, however, has reminded me that feeling happy means making meaning in my life and continually seeking out challenges that offer me a sense of building a conscious self and a disciplined, mindful attitude toward life.

Even if I never get really expertly engaged with concocting desserts, I can find some sort of flow throughout my days through reading, art, gardening, writing, tai chi, interactions with friends and family members. And who knows what else? There is so much to learn; that is what I feel most thankful for today.

Not the prettiest pie.

Not the prettiest pie.

Here’s a TED talk by Csikszentmihalyi, if you want to hear more about flow & happiness.

3 comments on “Flow & dough

  1. Marilyn Hazelton says:

    Thank you, Ann


  2. KM Huber says:

    I love to cook but I am not a baker. I could not create a pie that even comes close to yours. For me, yours is a thing of beauty. I am thinking “flow experience” in this context is similar akin to being completely present in our every moment. For me, cooking lends itself to total immersion more frequently than other tasks or experiences in my life. Enjoyed the post, Ann.


    • Yes–flow or ‘optimal experience’ is basically just another term for awareness or being in the present moment. I find it interesting when psychologists and neurologists and medical providers essentially confirm what ancient wisdom already “knows.”


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