Pixar’s 2020 Soul (Wikipedia Article or Pixar Article is a great movie that offers a fascinating picture of the flow state and obsession that can happen. I have for many years been in love with Pixar like so many people. Before subscribing to Disney Plus, which is a great value, I purchased most of them on iTunes. One of the things I appreciate, other than being able to watch them with my kids, is how they push the boundaries and offer new ways of imagining the world and concepts we have.

Soul reminded me Inside Out in that it pushes the theories of how our minds work to a manner of portraying it that is novel and elegant. I would propose that the format of animation affords Pixar to make these boundary-pushing visions. Soul dives into many aspects of what makes us people, our personality, the things that spark us, and does a similar job to Inside Out.

One of Soul’s visual representations is being in a flow state along with their theorized opposit of obsession and disconnection. Near The Great Before is a place that people go when they get the zone. Twenty-two, an ancient soul who had never been human before, described this area as “the space between the physical and spiritual.”

 Screenshot of 22 and Joe Gardner looking at souls in the flow
Pixar’s depiction of people who have entered the flow. We see 22 about to pop some people out of the flow with mischievous smile.

Buddhists have described this zone as Samadhi. In Nachmanovitch’s (2014), he explains that when somebody is in a selfless state and absorbed with absolute concentration. This Samadhi is about disappearing into the work and creation that we are doing. If you are interested in more about Free Play, you can read my short essay Free Play: Some Standouts of Nachmanovitch’s Book.

Csikszentmihalyi (2014) describes as flow experiences “the well-ordered, fully functioning dynamic state of consciousness” (p. 216). It is in this state that improvisation and newness are happening. I wrote more about this in Transformation, Creativity, and Some of the Things I Have Learned.

In the movie, Moonwind a devoted sign twirler on a Manhattan describes the The Zone and Lost Souls. He goes to the mystical astral plane during the movie, where he rescues lost souls from their uninspiring stressful lives.

Moonwind You know, lost souls are not that much different from those in the zone.

Joe Gardner What?

Moonwind The zone is enjoyable, but when that joy becomes an obsession, one becomes disconnected from life.

 The lost souls in the astral plane
The lost souls how have become disconnected from life.

Soul is a beautiful movie and well worth the watch for even kidless adults. The conceptualization they offer around flow and the potential obsession that can happen when fully absorbed is engaging.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Flow and the Foundations of Positive Psychology. Springer Netherlands.

Nachmanovitch, S. (2014). Free play: Improvisation in life and art. Tarcher.