Tao abides in non-action’
Yet nothing is left undone.
If kings and lords observed this,
The ten thousand things would develop naturally.
We’ve been brought up to believe that to have a successful and happy life we need to work hard, be disciplined, organized and focus on our goals; but we rarely ever stop to consider that there might be a better and easier way.
We do our best to manage or eradicate the ‘negatives’ in our busy lives such as lack of focus, procrastination, being stuck, and the stress of dealing with all the interruptions and lack of balance but we don’t really ask ourselves why these negative feelings are there in the first place. We seem to take as a given the idea that success takes effort and dismiss the ‘miraculous’ as being from the world of fantasy and myth.
Resistance or Flow? Pick one.
Behind our good intentions to manage our lives and many of the ‘time management’ and ‘getting things done’ type of techniques is the subtle yet debilitating belief in powerlessness – that things happen in our lives that we have no part in creating, that we must wrestle what we want from life in order to make ourselves safe and happy, that to get into ‘flow’ we must block out a period of time without distraction or interruption. When we organize our lives in this way it’s as if we are telling the universe to ‘get out of my way’ because ‘I know best’. Then we wonder why we get stressed, have to expend so much effort to get what we want, deal with ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and life often seems to be against us. We battle against life and then wonder why it’s such a struggle – talk about a self fulfilling prophecy!
Whatever we give our attention to we get more of. By the same principle and as Carl Jung observed, ‘whatever we resist persists’. The idea that ‘flow’ comes from being disciplined and focused is a myth. Flow comes from non-resistance – a still mind from letting all things be exactly as they are. It comes not from managing the events in our busy lives or resisting negative feelings or emotions but from a willingness to be open to receive – a quiet, effortless, playful, open receptivity to the guidance, the support and the gifts that our intuition and the universe long to give us. We don’t need to manage our days – in ‘flow’ we receive instead of plan.
Our intuition knows exactly what we need in every moment and every situation when we remain present and attentive. If there are plans to be made then we are told. Even the achievements of the ones we think of as the most successful and happy amongst us on this planet, pale into insignificance against what we are capable of when we learn how to consciously and effortlessly shape each day and create our hearts desires by harnessing the power of the Love within us. The term ‘self development’ becomes a meaningless concept when we recognize and access the perfection and the power that are an immutable part of who we already Are.
Scientists have been telling us for some time now that when we look really closely at matter all we find is energy and it is us, the Observer, that calls the tune that this energy appears to dance to. When we see how easy it is to create an abundance of flow, creativity and joy into our lives, then there is nothing left to organize and manage. All of life bends to support us when we choose to step back and let our own Self shine because, I believe, this is life’s only purpose.
Trusting the power within us.
Life delights to set us free from our fearful illusions of separation and powerlessness. When we step back and let our intuition guide us, instead of being hostage to the ego’s limited thought system, we are choosing to call life friend – and that is what it becomes to us. When we allow the Love within us to nourish us and shine upon our world then everything in the world reflects that Love back. As an effect it can do no other. No-one and no-thing is missing that we need, no-one meets by chance and we can’t help but be in the right place at the right time.
Although it appears that we have infinite choice, in reality the choice is always between these two:
To remain hostage to our everyday thinking mind that seems to tell us what to think and is grounded in illusions of limitation and weakness.
Radical Self-acceptance; to let our attention return to where it came from and allow our true Self to run the show.
What do we want to give our attention to, fearful illusions or the Love that we Are? That’s the choice. The world is simply a reflection of that choice. It’s the best of teachers. Life just wants us to be happy, to teach us what we really want as opposed to what our ego has us think we want. If we ignore life then maybe it has to knock a little harder next time to help us hear, but that’s never a bad thing. When we do step back and allow all things be exactly as they are, we can recognize that our Will and life’s purpose are the same thing – to restore to our awareness our natural, loving and miraculous creative abilities.
Instead of resisting what seems to be happening in our life we can choose to let every experience be a vehicle to bring us closer together and deeper into our natural and permanent flow state. We can choose to let ourselves be changed. Or, more accurately, we can let who we think we are be changed. Here’s a way to do this:
Letting all things deeper into Flow
Life shows us all the ways in which we hide our light, deny our genius and rationalize our erroneous belief in powerlessness. You could call it a process of disillusionment – helping us replace our fearful illusions with the recognition of our own love and power. Once we see this, the trick is to allow ourselves to become defenceless – not to avoid any ‘negative’ feelings or event but to seek the gift of learning in each of them. Turn to them, see what it is that they have to offer us and accept the gift. Then we are free to move on wiser, richer and untroubled, having resolved ‘the problem’ at its source once and for all.
Insight comes from allowing ourselves to fully experience whatever feeling presents itself without a need to enact it, deny it or tell a story about it; – just to be still and let it flow through us. When we allow ourselves to be defenceless and sink deep into the direct experience of the feeling without an agenda or need to resolve anything, insights reveals the lessons, and these lessons are the stepping stones to a life of endless flow, creativity and healing.
We can find plenty of good advice about how to overcome procrastination and maintain focus on our goals but all of them are based on the mistaken assumption that these feelings are inherently bad and to be avoided. When we try to overcome any of these states we are passing up the gift of learning that they always bring.
In the drive for efficiency and order in our lives we pass up the myriad of blessings that come our way when we allow all things to be exactly as they are and simply pay attention to them. This attentive defencelessness is how we allow life to take us deeper into our natural ‘flow’ state by highlighting and healing ever thought that still holds us back.
There may be times, perhaps when we are stuck in the heat of an argument, or when we are feeling overwhelming emotion or stress, or our bodily condition has nose-dived, that we feel unable to step back and trust our Self to handle the problem. In these situations we need to first orient ourselves to be able to receive help. One way of doing this is to first asking a question that our ego is unable to answer: By asking ourselves, “How can I be truly helpful here”, we open ourselves to the realization that there is absolutely nothing that our true Self cannot happily resolve if we are simply willing to receive, by letting go of our expectation of how this ought to be resolved.
From here our attention can turn naturally towards the stillness of our Self and rest, allowing the problem to be resolved. Maybe we need to remind our self of the power of our choice with words such as, ‘In spite of my resistance, I can choose to let this be resolved happily and trust that in choosing it is done’. It takes no more than an instant.
Remembering how to soar
Efforts to make our lives more productive, more efficient and more ‘safe’ remind me of the little story:
The story is about eagle who got lost at birth and ended up being raised on a farm amongst a group of chickens. The gist of the story is that as the little eagle grew up amongst the chickens he lived as they did, and learnt to accept and make the most of his little chicken life as he competed with the other birds for the scraps of food that were thrown amongst them. Until one day when he saw a strange yet somehow familiar figure soaring magnificently above them. As he watched the wonderful bird soar and glide above him, the one in the sky called down and said, “I am your brother and you are an eagle just like me, you simply got lost but now you are found. You too are free to fly and roam the skies at will, just like I am; and you will do far greater things than these. Come and join me.’ Being of chicken mind the other birds urged him not to listen. “He is not like us”, they crowed, “think of your responsibilities, there are nests to make and food to be collected, you have no time for think of flying or freedom or doing your own thing”. And so it came to be that the eagle lived his life as a chicken believing in what chickens do, but having now learnt that it’s not good to look too long at the sky lest another eagle appear and unsettle him by reminding him of who he really Is.
Just like the eagle in this little story we turn away in disbelief and recommit ourselves to making the most of our little lives and to being the best chickens we can be. Some of us have been known to write stories about the eagles that fly above us from time to time, we worship them as ‘heroes’ or ‘chosen ones’ or ‘gurus’ and some hope that one day they’ll come back to save us, not recognizing that they are just the same as us and
the way to freedom is simply to remember how to fly again.
Our efforts to organize and manage our lives are sorry substitutes for trust in our innate wisdom and creative powers – a lack of faith that we might not know moment to moment what is needed, what to say and what to do, doubt in our natural ability to create whatever we truly want in our lives. When we plan and organize we set aside our natural creative power and hand over control to our limited ‘thinking’ minds and so constrain ourselves to outcomes that are by design limited to the beliefs, thinking patterns and laws of our culturally
conditioned mind set. When we plan and organize we set up future expectations that blind ourselves not only to the countless blessings and opportunities to learn and grow each day but also to the awareness of the ever present creative genius that is our own Presence. We were created to soar and yet we peck around in the dust as if we were chickens.
When we let our attention rest in this open receptivity our inner knowing knows exactly what to do with every so called ‘interruption’ or ‘chance event’, and without reference to the past or future. It uses all things for the benefit of everyone involved. In real ‘Flow’ we receive instead of plan, give instead of organize, because all of life bends to help us when we get out of our own way and invite it in. And best of all, there’s an incredible ease and quiet confidence that comes from recognizing that once we’ve learned how to step back and allow our divine spark to shine, it’s quite literally impossible to fail at anything we set our heart on.
We don’t need to organize our lives when we learn how to use the power of our intent for good because everyone and everything comes to serve us. Instead of trying to create the conditions for Flow we can learn to access it directly and bring it with us to transform any chaotic situation, bring peace wherever there is stress, bring light-heartedness to anything ‘serious’ and naturally resolve any problem for the benefit of all concerned.
This has been an excerpt from The Little Book of Flow by Nick Smith. Visit his website here.