Friday, September 8, 2017

Always in the flow

We often hear how important it is to “be in the flow” and that if we could somehow consistently be in this state, we could fully show up and enjoy our lives. We could finally take the risk of leading with intimacy, share our vulnerability, feel truly connected, and step all the way into the miracle we sense is unfolding here. We could dance in relationship with that part of the spectrum that we prefer, safe and free from other, less wanted feelings and experiences.

“Getting into” the flow and “staying in it” has become a goal, somewhat akin to “being in the present moment,” which while being poetic and potentially inspirational, is also a tool of shame and aggression for many, as they inevitably fail to live up to the demands of a conceptual spirituality. While there may be power in “now,” there seems to be very little power in the concept of now.

As we explore this in a way that is embodied and rooted in the actuality of the present, we may discover that it is not actually possible, at an experiential level, to be “outside” the flow. We are always in the flow of life. The idea that there is some “us” on one side and some thing called “flow” on the other that is the great trance that seems to be unique to the human experience. It is difficult to imagine a tree or the moon or a deer wondering if it is “in the flow” or not.

Usually, when we talk about being “in the flow,” what we mean is that we like the thoughts, feelings, and sensations arising in our experience. Or, our families, societies, and even our spiritual teachers have told us that these experiences are the “right” ones. If we have more vulnerable, intense, “unspiritual,” or contradictory feelings, we deem this as accurate evidence that we are “out of the flow.”

We have a difficult time tolerating ambiguity and in response often move quickly in the attempt to resolve it, lest we have to stay close to the paradoxical nature of reality and the fact that the emotional world is a dizzying field of alive and contradictory energies, rarely conforming to our need for control and consistency. It is from this inability to hold, contain, and tolerate the tension of the opposites that self-aggression takes root and flowers, and the dream of abandoning the “non-flow” to return to the flow as quickly as possible is born.

But if what we mean by “the flow” is a natural state of freedom, aliveness, and wholeness—the uncaused and already-existing reality of our true nature as open, spacious awareness—then this process of preference and abandonment is not the flow. It is a prison, actually, the fantasy of “returning” to a state of flow. This dream becomes the foundation of a life of struggle and unnecessary suffering.

Perhaps it is only in the willingness to fully participate in our present experience, exactly as it is, that the always already nature of flow will be revealed. Flow is not something you will one day arrive at as some sort of acquisition when you line up all of the right experiences, successfully abandoning and replacing what is here with something else. The flow is here right now, utterly inseparable from what you are, and is revealed by way of your commitment to close, empathic self-attunement, rooted in curiosity and self-care.

When you are willing to bring warmth and presence to whatever is arising in the immediacy of now, the question of how to feel more flow ceases to arise. Or even if it does appear from time to time, it passes loosely through you, like a knife through warm butter. By the time you recognize it, it has vanished and no longer lingers as yet another self-improvement project that you must first complete before you can fully participate here.

You are already fully alive, and the flow is everywhere. From this perspective, the distinction between “flow” and “non-flow” falls away, and all you are left with is what you already are, which is complete and not lacking in or “outside” anything.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

The next event, The Magic of Being Fully Human, to be held in Ojai, CA on October 14-15.