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day 39: let it flow/let yourself go/slow and low/that is the tempo

March 12, 2011

I’m later than usual writing about Day 39’s gift.

My excuse is that I spent the morning running in the Carolina sunshine.  My husband and I are training for a half-marathon next month, and after weeks of enduring frigid temperatures, today we were given the best running weather North Carolina has to offer.  Clear, sunny, just cold enough but not too cold, and canopied by pine trees on a perfect trail.

For me, weather is just a small part of what makes a run enjoyable.  On a less-than-optimal running day, I am a buffalo, heavy-footed and clumsy.  Distracted and cold/hot/bored/sore, I just want to get my run over with and get a hot cup of coffee.  On a great running day, I barely feel my legs.  I am fleet-footed and exuberant.  I could run 30 (okay, two) more miles without a backward glance.

Hungarian psychologist and author Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (say that one time fast) calls that state of fleet-footed exuberance “flow.”

I find that I achieve flow, or what Csíkszentmihályi describes as a complete and total absorption in the activity at hand, when I allow myself to shelve my worries temporarily. Indeed, focused attention on the present — mindfulness — is necessary to attain this intrinsic energy.

During my run today, I wasn’t thinking about this:

or this:

because I was flowing.  But the devastation visited upon the people of Japan weighed heavily on my mind (as I’m sure it did yours) yesterday.

I knew my gift on Day 39 would be a donation to the Red Cross to aid in disaster relief efforts.  Given the news out of Japan, given the tragic images with which we’ve been bombarded, it seemed like a no-brainer.  The Red Cross made it unbelievably easy to donate online using my credit card.

To both offset the cost of this donation and to increase its meaning (and because I know some of you are sticklers for this project’s rules), I decided to forego one of my own little luxuries.  Once a week or so, I treat myself to a coffee shop coffee — even though I can make perfectly lovely coffee in the comfort of my own kitchen.  From now until the end of my “a gift a day” project, I will skip coffee shop purchases and brew at home instead.  It sounds like a ridiculous “sacrifice” positioned alongside so much loss, but I am committed to doing it.

I hope today you shelve your worries for a while and just flow.  Thank you, friends, for showing up.

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