“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao-Tzu
Each day of life is an unfolding mystery and many of us find comfort in the structure we have created by our own routines, habits, and plans. We thrive in a state of blissful serenity when the day smoothly unfolds according to how we planned and therefore take pride in our ability to control and live the life we want. But no matter how much structure or how many good ideas, plans or habits you have there will always be things out of your control. But much like Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling, we have a mistaken belief that when life changes course we are facing impending doom and neurotically panic trying to control external forces.
When there is a sudden upset in life like car problems, traffic jams, canceled flights, lost jobs, financial debt, unexpected accidents or health crisis’s we react like a demanding child having a tantrum. We feel angry, frustrated and desperate simply because we are not getting what we want and this validates our belief that life is unfair and no one cares. But in reality this resistance to change is a fear that you are powerless against this massive source that is in control, called the universe or life itself. Like a child against the authority of his/her parent we realize how very small we are compared to the entirety of life. We keep ourselves attached to what we wanted while catatorphizing or complaining about the inadequacy of a situation as a way of managing what we believe is unjust. Yet this is exactly what keeps us unnecessarily bound to our suffering it’s not the situation.
Instead of demanding that life be the way you want, begin to command the life you want by “Going With The Flow,” The art of flowing in life requires inner strength and is about taking what life gives you instead of trying to make life be exactly the way you want it. I was humbly reminded, when unexpectedly challenged in a yoga class, with my own difficulty of “getting into my head” and not flowing with life. Yoga is a peaceful practice that involves various postures and is best described by Yogi BKS Iyengar as a “…method by which the restless mind is calmed and the energy directed into constructive channels.” In the practice of yoga a “flow” involves synchronizing the movement of postures and breath to produce a flow that leads naturally from one posture to the next, much like a dance. The intent is to help focus the mind, increase flexibility and build strength and stamina. When the student maintains inner focus and a peaceful core they are able to embrace the freedom inherent in the creative, fluid, and liberating sequences. However if the student, like myself, gets caught in the quagmire of the mind the illusion of fear, anxiety and discouragement restrict and prevent the flow.
Although I have practiced yoga for years I was not familiar with “flows” and much like in life, even though I diligently practice living in the moment, being mindful and accepting life as it is. I realized that when a situation unexpectedly “throws you off” how very vulnerable, fragile and easily disturbed the inner world of a person can become. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” wanted to figure out “how to live life as a work of art, rather than as a chaotic response to external events.” He describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Life is big and encompasses vast territories but instead of being absorbed and immersed in the beauty of what is before us we become entranced by our fears believing we are to single handedly force life into the container of what our mind perceives. The problem is that you are trying to use your mind like a lasso in an attempt to contain and control the external world to meet your expectations. But the mind is an incapable instrument that limits, constricts and inhibits the creative flow of life’s infinite possibilities. When you stop thinking life can begin.
Living with awareness, self control and drawing inward allows the limitless wisdom of your heart to guide you through anything unbound by the restrictions of fear, resentment and humiliation. So instead of reacting negatively to a sudden change, emotionally detach, have no resistance and just go with it. As we say “Make lemonade out of Lemons.” When it rains still go for your walk. When in a traffic jam turn the radio up and sing, when a flight is canceled go read a book or enjoy a free night in a hotel. When a project bombs learn and move on to a better project. Being anxious and angry during a period of change is not going to help it will only create suffering. Riding the big wave of life requires that you remain poised, centered and never swayed while in the midst of all activities even dreaded chaos.
Bio: Colleen Mondor LPC, NCC, owner of Orchard Hills Counseling Center in Washington Township, MI, is a licensed and nationally certified psychotherapist This article is meant to provide information and suggestions-only.