EDEN, Utah — One morning last month, a group of roughly 60 people, including doctors, CEOs and internet entrepreneurs, gathered under a big white dome to hear the mission statement of their host, a 45-year-old man named Jamie Wheal.
As he paced back and forth in front of an altar bearing shiny Buddha heads, Mr. Wheal talked about the perils of information overload in our content-rich era. "A literate person in the European Middle Ages," he said, "consumed the same amount of content in their entire lives as we do reading a single edition of the Sunday New York Times."
Sinewy and tanned from a life of outdoor pursuits, Mr. Wheal was offering attendees the chance to "upgrade" their nervous systems to meet this incontrovertible information overload. How? With "flow."
But what is flow?
First popularized decades ago by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is an elusive state cultivated by artists, athletes and others, that of being so absorbed in what they're doing that they lose track of time and thought, finding themselves guided rather by instinct and intuition. It has also been referred to as the Zone — not to be confused with the diet of the same name — or just "being in the moment." And for those who have experienced it, there is no denying its magic.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, who turns 83 this month, is a deeply philosophical academic formerly of the University of Chicago (now at Claremont Graduate University) and still publishing. In 2004 he gave a TED Talk that has been viewed over four million times.
Mr. Wheal has taken a somewhat brisker, more commercial approach. He has advised members of the United States Navy Special Operations, top-ranked athletes and executives of technology companies on "optimizing performance" through flow, receiving six-figure fees for some of his consultations.
His five-day retreat, at a sprawling, privately held property known as Summit and convened the day before the solar eclipse, cost almost $5,000 and was a sort of beta test for spreading his gospel to a larger public audience. (He also offers free assessments and videos on his website.)