Some weeks ago I had a mental image of flow as a metaphor for all kinds of life situations I have encountered. I wrote some words about it but they didn’t make much sense without the image. So I finally got around to drawing an echo of what I envisioned.
At the heart of the image is a strong current with clear direction. It describes my path through life. Being in this flow is exhilarating. It is obviously present when I am teaching Yoga or when I am creating.
Then just outside this strong core current, there is a weaker current. It’s still in the right direction, though not as strong. This feels more like my day to day life – sometimes it shines forth, other times I need to remember to look and appreciate what’s before me.
Then there is another current which is similar in quality, it is mostly in the right direction but it is not clear and focused – so it tends pull slightly away from the core currents. This feels like situations in which I am distracted, preoccupied or a bit tired.
If I notice that I am distracted or tired I can do something about it. I can get some rest, watch a movie, pull some weeds around the house, there are many options. But if I don’t notice it or fail to do something about it – I experience a messy current. It is inconsistent, sometimes even moving in the wrong direction. It’s very difficult for me to navigate through this – it’s as if the steering doesn’t work.
If things get really messy and out of control (which fortunately doesn’t happen much) – then I find myself in a chaotic turbulence. It’s really an unpleasant experience.
I recall a story (I read in “The 5th Discipline”) about a man whose canoe flipped in turbulent waters. He fought and struggled to get free from the currents but he failed, drowned and died. Shortly after, his body surfaced near by. Apparently, had he surrendered to the currents, instead of fighting them, he had a good chance of making out alive. This story must have impressed me to have stayed with me for so long (I read the book 7 or 8 years ago) and I take it’s lesson to heart.
Yoga taught me surrender. In retrospect I can see it in many elements of my practice, though it was not as apparent to me when I received these teachings. Bending the knees has a quality of surrendering to limitations of my physical body. Moving inside breath is a constant surrender of physical aspirations to make room for subtle developments of the breath. Practicing softly inside my limits rather then pushing through them is another great quality of surrender. It goes on and on. When surrender in the body is practiced continuously it eventually affects mind as well.
I believe that surrender in mind and body enabled me to experience my first sensations of a path – of a central current that is guiding me, even when I am not aware of it or actively resisting it. I learned to have faith in a path and in my commitment to it. This prepared me for my encounters with art, photography and dance where I was gifted with many opportunities to dive head first into the water and experience bliss.
I believe that surrender is a great, and often times an only, key to releasing myself from raging currents and flowing back into a steady, peaceful and embracing core current, for finding my way out of confusion and into clarity. Surrender is not giving up, but rather about giving in, it is not a random act of cowardice but rather a directed act of faith.
As I drew the currents in the image I recognized additional qualities which hadn’t occurred to me before:
- Most of the currents are moving in the direction of life.
- Misdirecting currents are generally weaker then the core life currents.
- Misdirecting currents sometimes flow in direction of the core life currents.
- Misdirecting currents are always in contact with currents that flow better, therefore it is just a matter of time before we get pulled into a better flow.
- All currents are connected and flow forward together with the core current, therefore even when we are in a disturbed and chaotic current, moving in what feels like an opposite direction, we are still moving forward in life.
- No matter what we do, what we feel, what we perceive – we are in an embrace of flowing life.