Scandinavian Summer Nights | Day 160 of my 2023 Journal
It is overwhelmingly beautiful in the Forest in Sweden in the summer. The summer solstice is just a few weeks away; the trees are so green, wildflowers are blooming all at the same time, and birds are singing. The sunset is at 10 PM, and the sunrise is just after 4 AM. We are tired and uplifted at the same time.
When we first came, we were full of things to do. Ten whole days in the forest would give us space to get things done. Instead, this happened: When our car was parked, all ambition, efficiency, and focus evaporated and left us napping, cooking, talking, and reading.
While doing my yoga, I listened to a podcast about the book: “Your stolen focus” - a very interesting perspective on our modern society. The podcast was a conversation between Steven Fry and the author Haris, and it got me thinking.
The title could suggest opposition to my recent coming to terms with computer gaming, but that is by no means my takeaway. Instead, I find it interesting that technology is only one of the 12 different ways modern people lose the ability to focus. I also find it soothing that the author argues against blaming the individual and looks for structural problems.
Interestingly there are findings that mind wandering is as important as meditation and sleep for our ability to focus. When I was seventeen, I read “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Happiness by the Dalai Lama.
Where Happiness is what we think we strive for, it seems happiness is not something we can achieve. Rather, we can lay out the base for it and feel this state of mind as a lack of suffering plus mental presence plus a frequent state of flow. Flow, on the other hand, is achievable by personal effort and one of if not the most rewarding ways of spending our time.
The rub is it takes focus, and the modern person is not good at that. The book, which I have not yet read, states our cultural context makes it very hard for us to stay focused. It will be the next one I read.
Three important dots to connect are Happiness, Flow, and Focus. See, happiness is hard to grasp and might not be a goal in itself.
Happiness is a state of mind, a concept hard to define and maybe even harder to achieve. There are many things we can do to enhance the chances for happiness to enter, but it is probably impossible to aim directly for it.
Instead, Flow is a great state of mind where we are productive, alive, focused, growing - and oftentimes feel happy. So the first two dots are Happiness and Flow. Connect them and aim for Flow as happiness can not be aimed for; it is too flimsy, too unreachable, not something we can work for, but something we can have if we strive for a balanced life. Flow, in contrast, can be achieved with our own effort.
But here is the rub: It takes focus.
When we are in flow, we do one and only one thing; time flies, and we grow because the one thing we do is challenging. There is no way to achieve this state of mind if we can not focus. Diving deep into playing music, reading books, cooking, renovating, building, singing, writing books, dancing, and studying can only happen if we can focus long enough to reach the state of flow and if we do not let ourselves be interrupted.
But it is not about ticking boxes, getting up at five, running fast, multitasking, and accomplishing more and more. It is very much about laying out the ground for a good life, respecting our brains’ needs, setting up a context ready for the life we want, and taking good care of ourselves.
We need enough sleep, no distractions, mind wandering, meditation, simple chats, simple spaces, and the ability to choose the one thing we focus on. It is not about efficiency, nor is it about achieving more than the neighbor - it is about the good life.
Love and light
Thank you for reading
I would love to hear from you. Listen to your thoughts and reflections - or praise :) It is often emotional to share our life like this, and we get very happy when we get feedback from you. So feel free to share a comment below 😋
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