Many of us have heard of “flow” states – where effortlessness and ease move through us and we enter, as many athletes call it, “the zone”.
Living in the Flow is allowing more of the Divine to move through you and as you, as Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith says. It is as much about receiving as it is about doing and giving, just as the tides of the ocean come in and out.
Living in this Divine Flow is powerful, deeply moving, and joyful, even if imperfect. You can align with this Divine Flow through several simple principles. Simple isn’t always easy, but it is clear and doable.
First, Become Present
Whenever you want to connect to greater possibilities and discover what Flow is for you, the first step is always to become Present. This means to let go of attachment to any of your thoughts, allowing the mind to become more quiet. It also calls for an open heart, allowing energies to flow through you. Then, be aware of what is here in the present moment.
You can stop and practice Presence right now. Choose something nearby you to be Present with; something from nature, like a flower or tree, is an excellent choice, but it could also be any physical object, or even the movement in and out of your own breath. Focus your full awareness and attention on your object of choice, without straining or trying too hard.
Let your “thinking mind” take the back seat, releasing any thoughts that you notice and letting the mind slowly quiet down. Then, open your heart to whatever is here and now.
The Open Heart – Front and Back
When we think of opening our hearts, we often think of the heart center, in the middle of the chest, opening forward. But in order to be in Flow, just like anything that flows (water is the common example), there needs to be an inlet and an outlet – otherwise, water becomes stagnant and doesn’t move.
Flow, by definition, is in gentle movement, unhindered. Allow not only the front of your heart but also the back of your heart to open up. Or, if you prefer, the Flow can be from one side to the other. Let your experience flow into you, and release out. Enjoy the movement and how the Flow touches you, from whatever you experience. It may be as simple as the in and out action of your breath, flowing in and out.
The Importance of the Open System
This Flow that is open front and back is an open system. That means that there is an interaction with the environment or with your own thoughts, emotions, and sensations, which allows experience to enter and exit.
We may believe that it is better not to allow that to happen. For example, if something upsets us, we may prefer to shut it out. Healthy boundaries are an example of this, where we choose not to allow something into our energetic field. Boundaries are important in our interactions with others, but not very useful when attempting to tap into Flow.
On the other hand, you may also desire to hold onto things that you like – the experience of love, for example. When we feel that vibrant and expansive state, we don’t want to let it go. But the truth is, we all know that even love, and ecstatic spiritual states, ebb and flow all the time. They aren’t meant to remain static.
The Principle of Non-Clinging
This brings up the yogic principle of non-clinging, known as aparigraha in Sanskrit. Aparigraha translates not only as non-clinging, but also non-grasping, non-possessiveness, and non-greed.
The image, for me, that embodies aparigraha is of a fist opening. We release whatever we are holding onto in that tight grasp; and by opening the hand, we can actually receive. The more we hoard or cling, the less energy can flow into our lives. It blocks Divine Flow. Anytime that we believe we need to hold onto something, we’re buying into the concept of scarcity. When we are in Flow, as we let things go, more is always flowing into us.
Love, For Example
Take the example of love. If we try to grasp it, holding tightly to the experience, we will eventually be unable to experience it as we did, and this will lead to disappointment. Love, just like the weather and the tides, is always changing. At times ecstatic, at other times simply the feeling of ease in knowing someone is there, love has many flavors, and by clinging to one experience of love, we severely limit our capacity to both receive it as well as give it.
In practice, this means letting go and releasing thoughts, emotions, and experiences, and feeling gratitude for all that we have. When we open the heart, we allow that love, in whatever flavor it present, to flow into us, and allowing it to flow out, it has two benefits. First, it can be given to others in thoughts, words, and actions. And secondly, by letting the love flow through and out in an open system, we make space to continue to receive more, which deepens our gratitude. This is living in the Flow.
Another clear example is breathing itself. If we don’t exhale fully, it is not possible to receive a full inhalation. One necessitates the other. Our breath can be a great teacher of aparigraha, non-clinging, and living in the Flow!
Remembering the Outflow
The outflow, as we noted in our exhalation, is essential for living in the Flow. Consider this when trying to avoid a “negative” emotion or situation.
Even when we are deeply in Divine Flow, life can bring us challenges. We may fall ill, experience hurtful behaviors from others, or have old wounds triggered. Trying to push them away simply creates resistance in us, as well as reinforces a subtle belief that these situations are scary and can overpower us.
But one of the most powerful gifts of Flow is learning how to embrace what comes and witness it. By allowing our feelings to flow through us without getting attached to the outcome (another application of aparigraha!), we can discover that our Divine Self is much bigger than any emotion or circumstance, which always shifts and changes. We can be Present with it, let it flow through, and let it go out the back of the heart. The heart, and our Self, always remain.
Carried by the Flow
Living in the Flow aligns us with the Divine within us, like riding gently down a stream in a boat. You’ve probably imagined this metaphor when you think of living in the Flow. This image helps us to let the Divine guide, support, and carry us through life. This brings more ease and clarity than trying to figure everything out, working really hard at stuff, and putting a ton of effort into “manifesting”!
Besides which the infinite nature of the Divine can think of even better possibilities for our lives that we can come up with! Yes, it’s fine to have goals and intentions. But let them be more focused on qualities you want to embody and how you want to feel within yourself, and less about specific physical outcomes… then Divine Flow can happen in almost any circumstance.
After all, you’re probably looking for true happiness and inner strength, for example, rather than the expectation that a certain job or place to live will provide that for you. Let the Flow reveal to you something even better!
Living in the Flow, by allowing the Divine to “do the heavy lifting” (in the words of Lola Jones), results in less effort for you. Don’t mistake this as totally effortless – there may still be some actions that need to be taken or focusing of energy on a project. But by releasing the resistances and unnecessary habits of mind, trusting in the process, and having your open heart to receive fully and let go will result in less effort and more effectiveness in whatever you set out to do.
Keep coming back to the image of floating in that boat down the stream. You really can be carried more through life by the Divine. And if you want to stop somewhere to explore the shore or get out and swim, you can always choose that, too.
Giving Flows from Receiving
The last principle of living in the Flow once again touches on the open heart. For this metaphor, you may imagine the flow of the heart from back to front: open in the back allows you to receive from the Divine (which always has your back!), and open to the front allows you to give to the world through your thoughts, words, and actions.
I repeat those three words – thoughts, words, and actions – because they are the three ways that we express. Thoughts are related to our energy. We can send energy out through intentional or unintentional thought, and clearly we also do the same with words and actions.
When we are living in the Flow, our thoughts, words, and actions are intentional. We open to the Flow, receive the blessings from the Divine, and then offer out what wishes to benefit others. We fill ourselves first with that Divine energy, and then allow the overflow to be given to others around us and in service to the world.
Remember to open to receive and fill your cup first! A fountain always fills up a bowl or cup first, and then the excess trickles over in abundance. If you fill yourself in this way like a fountain from Divine Flow, you will not burn yourself out or become depleted.
You Can Live in the Flow!
Living in the Flow is a practice, and that means it isn’t perfect – so let yourself play, experiment, and learn! You can begin right now.
Allow yourself to become as Present as you can. Open the heart, front and back. When thoughts, emotions, or sensations arise, let them come and don’t cling – whether “good” or “bad”, let them go! Imagine the energy of Spirit flowing to you and through you. Be filled, receiving, and then when there is overflow, allow it to express in a way that feels aligned with your Divine Self. It doesn’t require a lot of effort; simply learning to let go of so much effort and expectations. You can be carried downstream with more ease and joy as you begin to live in the Divine Flow.
For more exploration of Presence, the open heart, becoming bigger than your circumstances, and allowing emotions to flow through you and guide you, pick up a copy of Awakening from Anxiety: A Spiritual Guide to Living a More Calm, Confident, and Courageous Life!
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