I wanted to share with you a profound change in perspective. On the topic of going with the flow. I always believed that going with the flow was the right thing to do. To flow with whatever came up, and that this was the destined life I was supposed to live. I still believe that everything happens for a reason, but the belief that going with the flow is how life should be lived has shifted.
What if you have a big dream, something to achieve. What if you want to do anything in life that’s uncertain. Like starting a business, pursuing your dream job, moving out of your parent’s house, starting a new study, quitting your day job, or whatever it is, how do you get there? Last week I spoke about the topic of uncertainty in a similarly named article Embrace Uncertainty this article is closely related to embracing the uncertainty of life.
Life will eventually be uncertain. No matter how hard we try to control it, run from it, or change it. Life in itself is uncertain, and to embrace this is a gift that allows us to live a more peaceful life. But what then? What if we have embraced uncertainty, does that mean we can not change anything, or make change happen? I wasn’t sure about this. I didn’t know exactly how to deal with uncertainty. All I knew was how to embrace it. Which is the first step, but what’s next? I don’t know what’s next, but I do know how to handle this. It’s not through going with the flow of life, even though I believed this for many years.
Instead, it is becoming the flow of life itself. Recognizing something profound, something that changed the way I lived, and this is what I will show you in this article. The first part of this article is about understanding why we shouldn’t go with the flow. The second about becoming the flow, and the third about a profound recognition of oneself. So you in the end will have the three pearls of wisdom that will help you embrace your personal journey.
Part One: Don’t Worry
“Fret not where the road will take you. Instead, concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.” ~ Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
This is the quote I read that made all the difference. It’s from the book The forty rules of love, about the lives of Rumi and Shams. Two Sufi mystics after the times of the prophet Mohammed. It explained to me why we shouldn’t go with the flow. The moment we go with the flow, that means we do not fully trust the higher powers in this world, either God, the Universe, Allah, or another God you believe in.
If we go with the flow, that means we deny our destinies deeply ingrained in who we are. We do so because if we go with the flow we do not care where we end up. We allow whatever life throws at us to happen. This way you deny that you have a dream, a destiny, a passion with you. Each one of us has this, and only a few of us recognize it and make a move. To go with the flow means we do not take a step towards these dreams. I have always believed that this was the way. To have a dream to become a best-selling author yet not making the first step. I was convinced that it would all happen naturally. I was going with the flow so to say.
Nothing is more untrue. As time passed nothing changed. No opportunities arose, and all I did was worry whether my dream would one day become true. That worry is inherent to going with the flow. That’s because we as humans can’t just sit around, we love to do things, most of all we love to do things that feel right. By going with the flow we do not even take the first step. We just wait, saying that we are going with the flow of life. When in truth most of us are too scared to make the first step and seeing that nothing profound will change when we do so.
To go with the flow means inherently to worry about life, for we cannot deny our deepest desires and gifts to the world. Even monks who are trained to detach from everything have taken on a purpose. They use their time meaningful. The Buddha didn’t just sit underneath a tree without a purpose. He sat there to find out who he truly was, and what life was. If he would just have sat there underneath the tree nothing would have happened. Instead, he sat there with a purpose. He didn’t worry when or how he got to that purpose, he just took the first step, and enjoyed everything that followed.
We can do just that. We can embrace uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take a step. We become the flow, we are not a victim to the flow. We don’t simply go with the flow, we are the flow itself. You can do so by recognizing your inner desire and purpose. The one thing you would die for. By embracing this, and embracing that we don’t know how to get there you are ready to take the first step. You are ready to become the flow, instead of following the flow.
Part Two: Becoming the Flow
To become the flow means to take the first step. A flow is simply a following of events. The flow of a concert is seen as the entirety of the concert, but in truth consists of song after song, played in perfect harmony with one another, playing not just the instruments but the audience as well. Making sure they do not feel bored, but neither too excited all the time, for that will become boring as well. This is what a flow is, it is not that the musicians say I am going with the flow. No, they get on stage and start playing the first song. They know what comes next, and all they do is becoming that flow. They lose themselves in the music and the concert, but not because they go with the flow. They do so because they have become the flow.
They are no longer musicians, they are the songs, the notes, the harmony, the solos, the audience, the emotions, and the energy within that given moment. That’s what becoming the flow feels like. To be one with it, not to be taken by it.
But how can we be the flow? How do we get to such a stage? There is just one answer to that question. That is, to take a step. To start, and then keep going, trusting where you, as the flow, go. A writer doesn’t follow the flow, if he does so he will not finish his book, purely because he will inevitably face resistance. The dancer will not dance his entire life if he follows the flow, because he will inevitably get injured at some point. The doctor doesn’t follow the flow, because if he does he can be too tired after a night out with friends to perform surgery. To become the flow we have a responsibility. To go with the flow we do not. If we go with the flow we do whatever comes up, denying our responsibility to our dream. The doctor can not perform surgery if he is hungover, a writer can not write if he doesn’t sit down, a dancer can not dance if she doesn’t take care of her body.
So how do we become the flow? By making the first step.
For the writer to sit down. For the dancer to dance each day and take care of her body. For the doctor to be calm and rested before his surgery. This is the first step we must take. It is taking responsibility for the flow. Not simply being taken by it.
To become the flow of life we take the first step, and then the next first step, and the next. We don’t go with the flow, we are the flow.
We then simply continue. Taking step after step. Not worrying about the entirety of the flow. We know where we want to go, but do not know exactly how we get there. All we do is take step after step, and when we look back we can start to see the flow. But never can we see it when we are in it. For we can not see how the future will play out exactly.
Become the flow. Take the first step. Then the next first step. Then the next. And the next. And the next. Till you die. That’s how we become the flow of life. Not to be taken by it.
Part Three: A Profound Recognition
Still, I wondered if this was the way. Something within me resisted the idea of becoming the flow. It believed that to become the flow meant stressing out, not having time to rest. It didn’t believe that I was the flow, it wanted to believe that the flow was bigger than I was. Something I would never be able to control, simply to step back and not do anything. Until I saw this one thing. The thing I call the profound recognition.
We are life, and life is us. We can not be separated. Just like the tree can not live without its roots. Nor the bird without the wind. Or the house without its foundation.
That’s the profound recognition. That we are one. Becoming the flow doesn’t mean we have to get anxious or can not rest. Becoming the flow is recognizing that we have never been separate from it. We always believed that life simply happened, but life happened because we moved. Because we changed. Because we made a step. We didn’t graduate school, or college because life wanted it to happen. We did so because life and we are one. It showed us a school, we took the first step and continued taking step after step. We learned, we attended class, we failed and succeeded in tests, all to get a degree.
We believe that life simply happens, but life happens because we move first
We have never been separated from the flow. We are it. That’s the profound recognition. For us to believe that we simply go with the flow of life is denying our individual self. Denying our presence in this world. For we take action in harmony with life. So much that we can not distinguish the two from one another. We can not take a step without life taking that step as well. We can not flow with life without becoming the flow itself.
Successful people didn’t just go with the flow, and within weeks became successful. Nor did the monk become enlightened by going with the flow. Both took the first step. For a successful businesswoman, this is to craft a business idea, register it, and keep building it. For the monk, this is to join an ashram, to meditate each day, and to help others. Both aren’t going with the flow of life, they have become it. They can not be separated from it. The monk wouldn’t be a monk if he didn’t take that first step, nor would the businesswoman.
So don’t worry about your journey. Don’t worry about how you achieve your dreams. Just see your dreams, recognize the destiny within you. Dream about it, but don’t dwell on the path there. Simply take the first step. Then the next. And the next, and the next. That’s how you become the flow, that’s how you recognize the profound connection and oneness between you and life. That you are one, and inseparable. That’s how you achieve your dreams. Not all at once, nor by wondering how you will do it. Nor by going with the flow. But by taking step after step, and becoming one with the flow of life.
So you can say I made the most of my day today, by taking another step. To end your day and say Today I Lived!