“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is known for his theory of flow, which he defines as an optimal state of intrinsic motivation in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Flow provides a feeling of absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill, and during which concerns such as time, food, ego, etc. become irrelevant. Flow leads to a special level of happiness. Flow is rare.
I thought about flow this summer as I sat at the outlet of Black Pond watching the water flow under our iconic bridge and then over the dam. The double idiom and plentiful metaphors were entertaining and inspiring, especially as staff and students hopped on rocks, singing and laughing as they explored the stream below.
Our students arrive at Wediko with challenges that often feel overwhelming and restricting to them and their families. The potential of making a friend, feeling happier more often, feeling safe, experiencing multiple successes, or seeing immense pride in their parents’ faces may seem like a far reach to them. Our staff arrives at Wediko with ideas of making a difference in the lives of our students, receiving valuable training in their field of interest, making friends, and having fun. While it’s been described as challenging to staff and students, most don’t realize how challenging it will be.
Something magical happens during the next 45 days. I’ve found flow to be the best description of the state that our students and staff experience during the course of our summer program. We completely immerse ourselves in the Wediko experience, live in the present moment, help each other, care for each other, we laugh, and we cry.
And at the end of the summer program, the 45 days somehow felt like it was far less. Students have made multiple friends, they’re feeling happier than they can remember in a long time, they’ve gained more trust in others and themselves, they’ve succeeded on a daily basis, and as they reunite with their families on Departure Day, they bask in the glow from their parents’ pride. Staff and students are exhausted and yet simultaneously energized, confident that they have indeed accomplished something difficult and worthwhile and have learned and grown in ways they do not yet understand.
Plenty of water flows under the bridge and over the dam from September through June. But it’s the anticipated flow in July and August of 2018 that is in the hopes and dreams of Wediko students and staff for the months to come. Whether a return summer happens or not, we all carry with us our memories and the skills we learned and developed from Wediko Summer 2017. And for those not able to return to Wediko in July, they can visualize the flow of students across the bridge and cheering staff on Arrival Day. Everyone can recall their own flow from 2017 and use their memories and new skills to recreate flow wherever they are.
Written by: Mik Oyler,M.Ed, Director, Wediko Summer Program