Go with the flow. This has become not only a New Age cry, but an accepted phrase in daily parlance. It's a good philosophy if lived correctly. It's not an excuse for doing nothing and living chaotically in the misguided belief that taking it easy and trusting in the Universe is an invitation to be lazy. When we let go of control and live according to the natural rhythm of life, then we are indeed in the flow.
Lessons from an ex-control freak
Being an ex-control freak, I used to find this one of the most challenging of life's lessons. For years, I grappled with the confusion of being told that we should let go of control and just trust, but on the other hand, we must be proactive in realising our dreams. "Which one is it?" I wondered. This is related to the other great contradiction - we're all spiritual and that's the key to our existence, but hey, we're here on the planet in a physical package and have to get on with human things. Again, which one is it? I'm proud to say I tackled these questions head-on and after many years of cogitation, have arrived at a workable understanding.
Trust in action
How do we trust and be bold in chasing our dreams at the same time? I finally worked it out clearly for myself. Once we formulate our dreams and goals, we then need to set a plan in motion. Let's say it's a job we want. An application has to be written, mailed or emailed, possibly an interview process gone through. The desire has then been put out there, the action taken. Now comes the hard part - the waiting and the trusting.
We can actually have anything we want within physical possibility, but there are two things we absolutely have no control over - the "when" and the "how". If we believe we can, we can. But we never know where the realisation of our wish will come from and certainly not when it will arrive. It could take 40 years! The secret is to not invest in the outcome. Living in the flow means it's good either way.
Have you ever missed out on something you really wanted, only to discover some time later that you had a lucky escape or simply ended up in a better place? It's about letting go, doing all you can, then turning your face away and focusing on something else. Sweating on a decision and second guessing yourself will only cause stress and make little difference either way. Going with the flow is not ignorance or avoidance but informed belief.
The natural rhythms
In considering the flow of life, the obvious aspect that comes to mind is Nature, especially water. In the Bible we read, "To everything there is a season". Seasons come and go. They have their own rhythm - the cycles of animals and every tiny microorganism, the ocean tides, the tallest mountains, the coldest and the warmest places, the rains and the flowers. We humans think we're in charge, but we're kidding ourselves. The less input we have, the better. Even in our own lives, maintenance, not control, is the key. Our bodies are full of involuntary actions, like the beating of our hearts, for instance, that go on without any help from us, day in and day out until we vacate our physical form. Nature is indeed a wonderful thing and if we stop to think about birds that migrate towards warmth, salmon that swim upstream and the great whales that cross the oceans for thousands of miles, how can we doubt the natural and magnificent flow of life?
Just stand and watch a stream for a few moments and therein lies the answer to all mysteries. We are one with the Universe, and this does not make us a tiny speck of nothing, as many would have us believe, but instead, a part of the majestic whole.
The tricks of time
What else flows? Time. Though many would say it flies.
Flowing is a slower movement, calmer and luxuriant even.
Wouldn't it be great if we could live our lives at that pace, with time flowing instead of flying? If, like sand slipping through an hourglass, or water pouring gently from a hand, our daily lives could move easily from moment to moment. Well, of course they can, but we have to want it and aim for it. It takes practice for us Westerners to live in a gentle way. We're not trained to think and speak and live quietly. We feel the need to fill every moment and it's only getting worse with more and more technological advances.
Young people today know little of entertaining themselves, with mobile phones clamped permanently to their ears, their fingers forever twitching with texting, and their music less melodic and more aggressive. I'm sure teenagers the world over are the same, but in general, people in Eastern cultures understand their connection with spirituality better than we do. Meditation is about inner flow and even if we can't practise it in a formal way, we can spend a few minutes every day just being, emptying our minds and relaxing our bodies.
Time has always been my personal demon. Having grown up an only child with tracts of time that were mine alone, now, being an adult with a thousand demands on me every day, is a constant challenge. Certainly, for me, time does fly and I'm like a madwoman running after it with a butterfly net, trying to harness its energy and stop its frantic pace. It causes me a lot of stress and I'm never happier than when I get to do nothing. This was another life lesson it took me some years to learn. I don't have to be busy all the time; I'm not more valuable when I'm being productive; there is just as much value in dozing in the sun and daydreaming peacefully. What bliss to feel time flow by and your heart beat to the tune of life's energy.
On a practical note, this whole business of time and trust is tested every day and I find I'm much better at time management when I let go. Wearing a watch is essential when your life is dictated by counselling appointments and writing deadlines (as mine is), but time really does have its own rhythm and the more I let go of control, the smoother it runs.
One example of this that sticks with me occurred a few years ago when I first began experimenting with surrender. I had dropped a friend off for a hospital procedure and then took myself off to the shops where I had a number of things to do. I found I had forgotten to put on my watch (Freud would call this "unconscious motivation") and immediately grew anxious about collecting my friend on time. I decided to just do what I needed to do and trust that I would be finished exactly as required. As I did my last chore, I picked up my mobile to phone the hospital to check on my friend and, at that very moment, it rang. It was the nurse from the hospital saying my friend was ready to be collected. I remember a deep sense of contentment pouring through me that day and perhaps that was the first time I felt the music of life guiding me in a tangible way. I felt one with the spiritual forces that I know surround us always. But tuning into them requires consciousness and choice. It's about listening to the whispers and not letting them be drowned out by the harsh loudness of our own voices and egos. It's a soft, sweet sound, like the tinkling lilt of water flowing. Time can indeed stand still then.
Detaching from outcomes
Another skill required for achieving natural flow is detachment. As long as we attach to outcomes, the way things should be, our ego-pictures and scenarios, our need to be in control, our fears, anxieties, addictions and desires, there can never be flow.
The whole point about flow is a lack of resistance. Where there is resistance (control) there will be obstruction and obstacles. We are indeed our own worst enemies, sabotaging the flow of our own happiness. To love without condition, to give without limits, to want without greed, to live without fear and to be happy without boundaries - this letting go is the way to blend into the flow that's all around us, seamlessly becoming a part of it. American University lecturer, Randy Pausch, spoke of these matters in his famous "last lecture" which he gave after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Instead of giving in to self pity, he spent his last months passing on his positive message about living your dreams and valuing each day. If we can embrace his brave philosophy, we can indeed flow endlessly.
Trusting enough to live in the flow is necessary for true happiness, but trusting the flow itself is even more vital. Like the example of the time/watch issue, synchronicity becomes commonplace when we feel able to take off our watches, stop running our lives by clocks and cease constantly seeking answers and asking questions.
Most importantly of all, let people love us and let happiness come to us. Love and happiness are two areas where flow is most evident because they are totally uncontrollable. They are natural and direct sources of life. Love is a gift and happiness is our birthright. In these, we must be passive receivers. Then we will have it all.
Creativity and the lifeforce
Creativity is linked to the lifeforce and comes directly from it. The only way to connect with creativity is to let go and not try to control it - there's that word again! Whether it's painting, writing, making music or sculpting, the only way to unleash the muse is to step out of the way. If you stop to critique yourself after every sentence, splash of paint or note of music, you'd never get anything finished, or even started.
All art, in its many forms, comes from the subconscious, the inner self. We need an intellectual understanding of words, paint and music, but the process itself is emotional and spiritual. I know, as a writer, that when I let my words just flow, magic happens. It's as if I've stepped outside of my ego and another part takes over. This always happens when I trust and quieten my inner critic. There's time later for editing and improving but first, get those words on the page, the paint on the canvas and the music into the air.
So, many things in life flow and we can go along for the ride simply by choosing to. Let your laughter, joy, love, creativity, sense of fun, spirit of giving, adventure, dreaming, daring and love of life flow from you like a river, clear and pure. All is love anyway.
To quote from Eric Clapton's beautiful song "Let It Grow":
"Let it blossom, let it flow. Love is lovely. Let it flow."