I find that certain words and phrases come in handy when I’ve been knocked off my center. Lately, I’ve been reminding myself to ‘flow with life.’
What does it mean to flow with life? This could be explained in myriad ways, but here’s one. When we flow with life, we experience what life brings us then we let it go. Good or bad. We don’t cling or resist. We experience, then let go.
Here’s an example we’re all familiar with. Someone cuts us off on the highway. That’s an experience life has brought us. Flowing with that incident doesn’t mean saying to yourself, “Cool! Somebody cut me off. I love it when that happens.” That’s lying to yourself.
How to flow with life
Flowing with it would be, “Okay, somebody cut me off. That’s annoying. Maybe they’re a terrible driver, maybe they just screwed up. Doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.” That’s experiencing the incident and letting it go.
Not flowing with life would be leaning on your horn and screaming inside your car, to nobody in particular, “Nice job, asswipe!” Then ruminating about it for the next five minutes. And cramming those bad feelings into your lower self such that you will be more likely to blow up at your wife/kid/friend later in the day. That would be experiencing it and holding on to it.
Flowing and Taoism
This flowing with life concept has much in common with the basic tenets of Taoism, my favorite spiritual tradition. Taoists see humans as just another manifestation of nature. Trees, flowers, birds, humans…we’re all part of nature.
I find this useful because I look at how these other manifestations of nature flow with life. Let’s take geese, for example. When my five-year-old daughter runs like a banshee after the geese at the park, they run away from her. That’s natural. They’re protecting themselves. That’s the geese version of flowing with life.
Geese don’t remain flustered
But once those geese arrive at a safe distance from my marauding daughter, they stop, chill out and get back to doing whatever it is they do (search for food mostly). What they don’t do is freak out and remain flustered and antagonized. In other words, they experience my daughter chasing them, take care of it, then let go and get on with their lives.
Unfortunately, that’s not how most humans respond to stressful situations. Someone cuts us off and our insides go crazy, which then manifests in our outsides going crazy (horn honking, screaming and all the rest). What we don’t do is experience the incident and then let it go. We let it knock us off our center and into the talons of our voracious egos.
Next time someone cuts you off, or some other daily annoyance befalls you, try simply focusing on your breathing and say, “Flow with life.” Flow with the incident. Which, again, doesn’t mean you say it’s fun that someone just cut you off. You simply acknowledge that these things are part of life.
Just as a feral five-year-old chasing after you is part of a goose’s life. And rain is part of a bird’s life, so it seeks shelter. And so on.
When something stressful happens, imagine that you’re the goose running away and then promptly resuming your center and moving on. Or that you’re a tree swaying with the heavy winds, back and forth, just flowing with what nature has brought it.
Constantly flowing with life. Not resisting it or fighting it or complaining about it.
Just flowing with life.