|Flowing down the Zion Narrows (Photo by P. Soukup)|
I found out that this mental state that I experience both out on the trail and up in the air has a name: flow. Wikipedia says flow involves being "fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity." It results loss of self-consciousness and feelings of joy and transcendence of normal awareness. It happens when the task is challenging but matches one's ability level and offers immediate positive feedback. Tasks that I enjoy most are the ones that allow me to experience flow. Things that I find either too easy or too difficult, and that don't require a lot of skill, very rarely give me the same sense of bliss.
One of the benefits of flow is that it has a meditative effect similar to what many experience in yoga or sitting meditation. It trains your mind to stay focused for sustained periods of time, and it helps you practice controlling your thoughts. I believe this is the key to being happy. When do you experience flow?