Recently I had someone close to me tell me in response to a personal question that they were just “going with the flow” and seeing where things lead without having many expectations, goals and dreams. This was their current belief system about how to get through life without having to be disappointed when things don’t work out. This was over a week ago and I am still thinking about it. My first thought was that this was a total deflection of the question I asked. My first feeling was that of annoyance at how cowardly and flippant this approach seemed. To not have big goals, expectations or dreams is so antithesis to so much of what I’ve learned from successful people and what has driven me to go beyond my current abilities and face my fears. To take risks like quitting the corporate world, travel around the world, face being gay with confidence, start my own business and commit to loving someone unconditionally, this is what has made me a better person today. And no it hasn’t always brought me eternal sunshine and happiness but to not dream, to not put yourself out there and fail and come back stronger… this was hard to hear.
Still I wanted to consider it and some piece of their statement felt true and so I thought and thought about what element I was so strongly reacting to. Finally it hit me that there was a related personal belief that I had lost over the last few years deep in the everyday weeds of building a stable life around my dreams. My previous belief was about the meaning embedded in the events that shape our life, their often times perfect ordering to send us exactly who and what we need at the exact moment we need it. This is not to say blindly going with the flow and feeling our way forward without goals, awareness and introspection. It is more about having faith in the flow of all things outside your control and finding the connection to what it means for you and your choices. It means asking why something did or didn’t turn out the way you hoped and seeing all that led to it both from your energy and the outside factors you attracted. It requires developing a keener outward sense of what messages we are receiving from the people and events in our lives. And not just the words because we all have experienced that words can be cheap and when there are no words all we can do is fill in the blanks with what we want to hear or our worst nightmare, either way not the truth. It means tuning in to facial expressions, closedness vs openness, resistance vs opportunity and most importantly actions. It also means looking to the flow of the world to get our lessons learned, deepen our understanding of ourselves, what we really want and with that new knowledge being able to adjust to the flow quickly and skillfully rather than continually resisting and struggling.
I have been feeling resistance and struggle quite a bit in some areas of my life and it comes in the form of stress, frustration, annoyance, and a lack of energy/space. Your body and mind both can feel these instances of resistance, but we don’t always choose to look for another way. Most of the time we continue to resist harder until something breaks. In a seminar it was said, “Whatever you resist persists” and it is so true. After a time it also led to avoidance of the situations that bring forth these feelings of resistance. But avoidance doesn’t resolve the issues either, only open talking, letting go of held positions and looking for a new way to be about it can possibly get you to a better place. Even then it ain’t guaranteed and the kicker, you can only do your part the rest is simply not in your control. You cannot change people or the complexities of the world to be and do what you want. We are only in charge of ourselves and so it is through adjusting our thoughts, our attitudes, our behaviors, our goals, our dreams, our choices and ultimately our actions that we can go with the flow.
When times are good or seemingly in your control/favor and the meanings are mostly positive, it is easy to believe in the flow of the world. This is when I discovered it, when I was completely free, owned nothing, was living from one experience to the next finding myself on a path around the world. I even started to preach this everything happens for a karmic reason and ours is to try to stay out of the negative emotions and see the guidance in them. So young and green was I then to the power of real life trauma and the negative emotions that come with them. When times are tough, when the flow doesn’t seem to be going our way, when confusion and anxiety rain, these are the moments when we need faith the most yet we have lost it. By faith I mean, faith in yourself to pull through and be better for it and faith that the world is bringing you closer to what you really want, albeit not in the timeframe or way in which you had expected. These are also the times when we need the help of a support network to continually remind us that we are okay as we are, that these harsh realities are telling us something important and that just on the other side of these rapids is the huge beautiful opportunity better than the one we sought and struggled so much to attain.
When we are deep in the midst of challenging times, the stress and emotions charge everything with negativity and fear. Those negative emotions and stressors can create a thick fog of blindness or laziness in which you loose all awareness of the signs set out before you or all motivation to take action on them. We need only pull up out of that everyday fog to see the bigger picture, the long-term view, which has a new path leading to new greater opportunities. It is so easy to get focused on your goals, even obsessed with them, whether they be career, material or relationship focused, that you keep driving down paths that do not contain your ultimate happiness or even the goal meant for you. If we are lucky we have cultivated wise friends or family members that we have invited to be deeply involved in our lives so they can pull us aside and set us straight. From my experience I see two things that hold us back. First many people are so self involved and closed emotionally that they don’t share our deeper thoughts and feelings to cultivate these types of relationships that can prevent traumatic events. And two, if you are like me, you might struggle with being truly willing to listen without defensiveness, internalize and consider what questions or advice is being offered and be open to those major consequences if they are not what you want to hear. Both are extremely challenging and take life experience to develop.
Having been blind in the fog and not been aware of the issues myself at two critical times in my life, I can tell you the other way out of the fog, pain. Pain so bad that your mind-body chemistry literally goes into shock, you cannot think logically, you might not be able to sleep/eat or that is all you can do, and your emotions pour out at the drop of a dime. If you’ve been there than you can relate and I believe that this is a crucial part of our human experience as hard as it is at the time. Depending on the person and their social network they will either sink or swim, but the fog lifts and lifts and the first gift is that of clarity. Clarity about who you really are, what is really most important to you, how you prior path was not the right one anymore and what the world is trying to teach you through this event. Getting your lessons has been a major focus for me as it is forward focused and essential to framing such traumatic events in a positive way. This is the start of having faith in the flow again, believing that each of the next bends in the river holds more answers and new gifts to refill your broken heart and dreams. The path is still rocky and littered with loss, doubt and setbacks, but living with a positive framing that you deserve better and that all good things will be brought to you in the near future has made all the difference to getting through the tough times faster, smarter and more peaceful.
While I don’t wish such heart pain on anyone, I am grateful for having this recent trauma in my life as it has improved me forever. And you need only listen to a few people’s stories to realize that what you went through could be ten times worse. I can now actually feel the pain of others, versus just know they are in pain. It has opened my heart, deepened my faith in the flow of the world, super charged my awareness and released more empathy, compassion, and sensitivity than I thought I was capable of. These are things we all need more of in our busy lives. I’m sure I will cry in movies now but it has given me a new way to relate and help others the way people helped me. No surprise that this is an extremely useful tool to become a better fitness and wellness coach, which often deals with deeper psychology and difficult emotions that take us off track. Who knows what that will lead to or the new open space in front of me.
Good luck and have faith in the flow.