[Guest blogger Heather Hughes has us going with the flow.]
In the hooping community, “flow” is a term we tend to throw around a lot. We toss it around the internet as carelessly as we toss our hoops into the air. We describe hoop-stars like Mona and Spiral as having “flow.” We strive to cultivate it in our hoop-practice. But what exactly are we striving for? You see, when we talk about flow, we’re often actually talking about two different ideas that have become linked through digital alchemy.
On one hand, drawing on the work on Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, hoopers conceptualize flow as a mental state where daily worries, time, self-criticism and doubt drop away. The hooper enters a mind-state where s/he is completely immersed in the moment, in the movement. Many hoopers describe this state as a kind of heightened awareness where they find themselves reaching beyond their normal limitations as they become one with the hoop. Artists in all different forms describe similar experiences and Chomsky studied those experiences to create his theories about “flow.”
On the other hand, we also tend to use “flow” to describe a hooper whose skill, enthusiasm and style communicate a sense of grace or general bad-ass-ness. When someone appears to be totally blissing out or rocking out, we say they have flow. In this case, we’re describing fluidity, ease of movement and flawless transitions. We’re describing what their movement communicates to us, rather than their mind-state, because as much as a video can communicate emotion, we really have no idea what the hooper is actually experiencing.
I believe it’s important to distinguish between the two different meanings of “flow” because as hoopers we are a very visual community. We live in a visual society where Facebook, advertising, and Youtube have trained us to associate certain appearances with certain mind-states. Most wouldn’t mind being a bad-ass (flow in the 2nd sense). We may seek to awe a real or imagined audience and that’s ok. We are, after all, human, and part of what draws many folks to hooping is that it creates a space for us to be skillful, marvelous and awe inspiring. And that’s good!
However, at an even deeper level, the level that sustains our spirit, we want to experience the power and bliss of flow (flow in the 1st sense). And you can experience that blissful, psychological state at any point in your hoop journey. You can experience it dancing your heart out with the hoop swirling around your waist. You can experience it busting out super-tech tricks that transcribe intricate geometric patterns. You can experience it in the middle of a drill or practice session when the circles in your three-beat weave finally synchronize into a coherent pattern. I first tasted it hooping to Bob Dylan when I only knew three hoop moves. If I’d recorded that session, no one would have said, “That girl has flow.” But I did, because flow is in your head. Flow is in your heart.