Have you ever been in that space of trusting life so much, that you “go with the flow”, or “are in the moment”? That you can follow whatever happens, and adapt to any circumstances, easily and effortlessly?
Or is it something you aspire to, as it is so trendy these days in the self-assessed spiritual sphere?
On going with the flow, being in the moment, flowing, planning, respect, intention…
Being in contact with the “spiritual” community for a while, I heard more than a few times this “I am going with the flow” statement. Usually associated with a pinch of “being in the moment, living in the present, letting go of control”.
Most times, the person was meaning some variation of:
“I am living so totally in the moment that I cannot know what will be the best for me tomorrow, or even in two hours. So right now, I know I had said I would meet you, but as this moment have come, I realize that — this other thing — is more important in the now. So I am following the flow and trusting that even though maybe it doesn’t seem like making sense, it is the way to go.”
What did this person really communicate?
“I have a fear of missing out. I am afraid of committing 100% to anything, because it would mean that I say no to all the rest. And you never know what can show up between now and our eventual commitment, right?
So, even if I am a lovely and caring person in general, I am not really wanting to take responsibility for my actions and will use a kind of spiritual bypass in just calling it “going with the flow”.
And that makes me not respecting your time and / or efforts.”
Apparently going effortlessly in the moment, when you zoom out and see a bigger picture, can look like going in any direction that presents itself in the moment, without necessarily having a clear direction.
Can this be interesting?
Actually yes, if you are a control freak, you might want to go to the other extreme and experience that even if you don’t know everything that is going to happen, there will be a solution and everything will be fine.
And this, you can know it, but you can only trust it is true after having experienced it. Traveling is one of the best and safest way to do that. There will always come a time when the plane / train / bus isn’t on time, or like me in Istanbul boarding a bus “going to the airport”, that leaves you one hour later nowhere near the airport; and then there will be your equivalent of this old man showing up, and miraculously understand one English world (Airport), walking you to there out of pure kindness, and refusing any kind of reward.
One caveat though is then, if you choose to deliberately experience this kind of wandering, you should make it clear that you are not committing to anything, so that you can have the full experience and still respect others (and feel good about yourself, staying aligned with your “caring self”).
Traveling through the river of life
Lao Zu was giving the image of us being in the river of life, and moved by the current. And he was using this to show resistance, and trying to control things, as trying to go against the current: possible, yet really tiring.
In the contrary, when we allow ourselves to go with the flow, life is much easier and we can spend our energy on things that are actually important.
And of course the image is brilliant; I mean, come on, this is Lao Zu! 😉
Floating or swimming?
I would add that you can go with the flow in two main different modes though:
- The first one, letting yourself float in the water, pushed wherever the current goes, in a constant adaptation to what shows up, making the best out of everything as it comes.
- The second one, swimming, steering your way with the intention of going where you want, using the current to get there with the least effort, while recognizing when and where you have to change route; because there comes an obstacle you couldn’t see before and the current suddenly changes.
Two modes of “going with the flow”
Floating in Chaotic flow
I would name the first one the chaotic flow, and here comes another image, from Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: When you are in constant adaptation, always on the lookout for what is coming next, it is like a phone, with the GPS on, always looking for its location; it is using a lot of energy, the battery doesn’t last very long!
And this position of “something better might come my way” also doesn’t feel very satisfying. There was a study where students where getting rewarded with a frame. Both group would choose their frames, but group B could change it afterwards; they had a few weeks to change their mind and go back to choose another one. Group A reported being very fond of their frame, and liking it very much. The tendency in group B was a lot more about having doubts of making the right choice, and regrets, and in the end not being so satisfied with their frames. The only difference was they could compare it afterwards, whereas the students in group A would make one definitive choice.
Staying in a mindset of comparing what I have to what I could have, is a recipe for fear of missing out, and not enjoying what is.
Swimming in Intentional flow
What about the second “go with the flow” mode?
Could we call it intentional flow?
Setting a direction, an intention, lays some stability, allowing to rest into this certainty, while staying flexible enough to adapt to changes.
So that we can steer our way towards where we want to go, and let the route be shaped on the go.
Are you going with the flow?
What kind of flow are you following? Are you immersed in a chaotic flow, or are you swimming your way through an intentional flow?
Let me know in the comments.
Also, do you have a question you would love me to answer? Let me know, I might just pop in and make a podcast episode out of it 😉