Going With the Flow

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.

Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow.

Let reality be reality.

Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Lao-Tzu

What I especially like about this quote is the reminder to let reality be reality. How often do we ignore the reality we do not like or which nudges us to take action? We resist listening to what presents itself and hold on to the status quo. But what does it mean to go with the flow of things?

“Go with the flow” has become a very popular phrase. It means a state of nonresistance which encourages you to flow with life as if you are flowing on a river. “Go with the flow” is such a simple short and sweet statement. However, there are some pitfalls in this mantra.

Like many “spiritual” principles, the idea contains an apparent contradiction. Because of this, we might interpret the principle as “let life happen without using your will power.” It is quite easy to see “go with a flow” as a call to inactivity, inaction or laziness, waiting for things to fall into your lap, making the choice not to make a choice. When we don’t make a choice, another person makes it for us, or the situation becomes so unbearable that the decision is forced upon us. Inactivity is not what this spiritual principle means.

It is often quite easy to trick the mind into confusing going with the flow with maintaining the status quo of things, because our subconscious mind likes a sense of equilibrium. It prefers experiences that are familiar, pleasant and comfortable. When its sense of equilibrium is threatened, we unconsciously might choose to stay with what is familiar even if a part of us knows it’s not good for us.

That applies each time you are confronted with a situation or a person’s actions that are not acceptable but you are hesitating to take action. An example would be if you are dealing with somebody who is being passive-aggressive: someone is making rude, disrespectful or hurtful comments about you and disguising it as humor. “Oh, I am just kidding. Have a sense of humour!” Your sense of equilibrium may tell you to be silent about it instead of risking a fight. You may feel some physical response, perhaps some tension in the body, in your solar plexus or in your throat chakra, that prevents you from claiming your power and speaking up, speaking your truth.

But your body is actually telling you that you are not really going with the flow but that you are avoiding to unsettle the status quo. If we want to stay happy, healthy and, most importantly, true to ourselves, we need to listen to our intuition. If you listen to your intuition and speak up calmly and assertively to this person, your body gives you the feedback that you are on the right path. Your throat chakra clears up or your solar plexus settles down. You notice a sudden freedom, a greater “flow” and an increased ability to embrace life’s experiences as life unfolds.

You might have thought that going with the flow was about accepting the inappropriate comments or behaviour, just ignoring reality. But after exercising your assertiveness, you realize that acceptance means accepting the experience and letting go of the hurt, but not of the lesson this person has taught you. It is about following the call to action that the comments were inviting. You truly went with the flow. This person’s job was to teach you something about self-respect. You might even want to thank them (or the Universe) for the lesson.

Meditation can help us learn to go with the flow.  It gives us the clarity to see why certain doors or paths have been closed for us. That usually happens when we are not supposed to be in a certain place, be that a particular job or certain relationship, when we are meant to be somewhere different. It shows us new doors to knock on or doors that have already started to open for us. It also helps us understand where our fear of change has tricked us into believing it is best to “keep the peace”, keep the status quo of a situation, even if we sacrifice being authentic and happy. It helps us decide how to move forward, go with the flow to get to where we really want to go, be who we really want to be.

Join me for this meditation below to contemplate where in your life you can go more with the flow. You might also want to check out other free 10-15 minute long meditations.