Why You Need To Flow With Life, And Learn To Let Go
Seek out the Big Picture
All our efforts are temporary. They borrow from pre-existing forces, ride the current of natural events, and disappear according to the dictates of the situation. It is best to realize the transitory nature of things and work with it. Understanding the world’s ephemeral nature can be the biggest advantage of all.—Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao Daily Meditations
Taoism recognizes the fluidity of life. Nothing is permanent, everything constantly changes and transforms. Tai Chi uses this principle with its flowing motions of the body.
As Tai Chi teacher Douglas See writes,
“From motion you obtain serenity and stability by the release of tension through continuously shifting weight from one foot to the other: it is through this shifting that one side of the body becomes soft (muscles relaxed) and the other side hard (muscles contracted). As a result . . . circulation is improved and the person feels relaxed and not fatigued.”
Yoga works on the same principle.
The idea of “Flow and Let Go” works for us when we can flow, not fight, with the changes life brings. This seems a natural thing to do. All of nature and most animals operate upon this principle and are in harmony with it. But because as humans we have free will we have the constant challenge of mastering the mind. Our minds are analytical, planning, problem-solving tools. They are great servants and terrible masters.
Meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, prayer, and other spiritual practices help us learn to work with the mind and its constant craving. The mind, in order to maintain its existence, must always be engaged. That is why when you sit to meditate you must give it an object to work with such as the breath, a mantra, or a visualization.
It is impossible to completely suspend the mind without years of practice. As Indian mystic Ramakrishna said, “the mind is like a mad money, stung by a scorpion.”
It constantly works, obsesses, plans, rehashes, worries, remembers, and desires. It is in its nature to want control. But it is only a small part of our being; it is not who we are.
If we get caught up in the mind’s reactivity and allow it to control us, we find ourselves spinning in an endless wheel of thought, and we cannot merge our souls with the universal flow and find peace.
Floating in Faith
During a critical period in my life, everything seemed to have blown apart. All I thought I wanted, all I was supposed to have to be happy, all I was supposed to have achieved by that point in my life, was gone. It was as if the earth had been abruptly pulled out from under my feet. I was confused; I felt alone, ill, depressed, and full of anxiety.
My mind obsessed about all the bad “what if’s” it could come up with. After all, if so many bad things had happened, and I was a good person who did not hurt others, lie, cheat, steal, or in any way deserve what was happening, my mind told me anything could and would happen.
I began to feel the worst terror I have ever experienced, all a production of my mind. I was being tested—testing myself is perhaps a better way of putting it—as to how much I truly believed in my inner spiritual reality, with which my mind constantly wrestled.
My mind, given free reign and power to interpret the situation, judged me in its own logical way: if bad things happen, you must have done something wrong. I became more and more confused as I listened to its endless loop of chattering and judging.
With support from some compassionate people who could help me see through all this, I was finally able to begin finding myself again, to stop the self-judging critic of my mind, to kindly turn a deaf ear to the judgmental criticism of others, and to trust again the eternal Source. I had recurring visualization at the time that was very helpful.
When I allowed my mind or emotions to control me instead of my deep inner soul, it was like standing on the shoreline, looking at the ocean. I could see its vastness; I knew its depth, but I was connected only by the moistness at my feet. Every big wave that came in — every “bad” thing that happened — knocked me down.
As I drew up the courage to step out farther into the water, the waves had less and less effect on me. When I was able to have the courage to move out to the place where my feet no longer touched bottom, where I just floated on the water, each wave moved me up and down gently as I continued to float, and I gently moved out to the greater peace of being one with the flow of that ocean.
Deng Ming-Dao says, “Winter storms may destroy some things, but they also prepare the way for life. If things are swept away, it is appropriate. There must be an opportunity for new living things to emerge and begin their own cycle. All growth comes with a shock.”
Sometimes getting the courage to go out there where our feet don’t touch the bottom, to float in the faith that we are part of the eternal flow of creation, is difficult.
I believe at different stages of life, regardless of our beliefs or plans, each of us is called to this test. Some respond by holding even more tightly to the familiar and are pulled under by life’s riptides.
Whatever we give the mind to try to satisfy its cravings, it will want more. Therefore, we must find ways to suspend the mind and link ourselves to a deeper state of being through that part of us that we can call the “observer” self.
A part of us can stand apart and observe ourselves. When we say, “I am,” who is it that speaks? It is the part of us that is connected to the greater whole, to the universal, macrocosmic “I” — the mind of God. If we can achieve connection with that greater “I,” even in a limited way, we can flow with the natural Way (Tao) and let go of small, individual mental attachments to plans, desires, and cravings.
This doesn’t mean we no longer think or feel or that we no longer grieve or rejoice. But our deeper self can observe this grieving and rejoice with the awareness that all things pass, and there is no limit to our connection with each other, the earth, the universe, and God.
The Tao is infinite, and we are an integral part of the whole. A cup dipped into the ocean contains the ocean, and when the container is broken, the water again merges with the ocean and cannot be separated out.
Our bodies and minds are like the container; they provide us with boundaries and a sense of ourselves as individuals with limits. But if our awareness encompasses the ocean, we know our true being is the ocean, not the container.
Another analogy is often given in yoga teachings: When a clear pool reflects the moon at night, that image is perfect; it reflects the moon but is not the moon. When the water is disturbed, the image breaks into a thousand images, but the moon itself remains unbroken. That is also true when our minds are in turmoil and our connection to Source is fragmented and doubtful.
When we still our minds, it is like stilling the water so the moon’s reflection can be seen in its entirety through our spiritual senses.
We are all, in our individuality, like those thousand images, a reflection of the one great Source, the Tao, Infinite Consciousness.
The more we can still the turbulent waters, the clearer the reflection becomes. Eventually, realization goes beyond even this, and we know we are the moon —our deepest self or soul is the Tao or God, and mind is merely a temporary reflecting plate.
The Big Picture
To be aware of this “big picture” is the experience we strive for, and is the reason we have evolved mind in the first place. Meditation cleans the pool, the mirror, the reflecting plate, so that we more readily and easily reflect our true being while still maintaining our individuality, our bodies, our emotions, and our loving connections with others.
Meditation cleans the pool, the mirror, the reflecting plate, so that we more readily and easily reflect our true being while still maintaining our individuality, our bodies, our emotions, and our loving connections with others.
This is about letting go of the small things in lieu of the larger relationships in our lives. It is more effective to work on the long-term view than on short-term goals. The urgency of short-term goals makes us feel they are important.
But if we remember the long-term goals and take time to work on them, which sometimes requires letting go of short-term goals, the “small stuff” will work out on its own.
Learning How to Let Go
Human life in the world is no more than that of a dayfly. This is true not only of ordinary people but also of gurus and Buddhas of all times as well. However, though a lifetime is limited, the spirit is unlimited. If we look on the universe from the point of view of our lifetime, our lifetimes are those of dayflies. But if we look on the universe from the point of view of our spirit, the universe, too, is like a dayfly.
Source gives us a way of looking at all life in the context of the big picture. When we can begin to evaluate things through this bigger lens, what is important and unimportant becomes more and more clear.
The best way to begin is by imagining our single lifetime, picturing our own death in our minds, and reviewing our life. In this context, how much weight does a particular matter have for us? If we do this every day for a while, we come closer and closer to our true purpose for being on this earth. Seemingly big matters become small, seemingly insignificant interactions become more important.
If we can go beyond even this, if we can imagine a view that encompasses an eternity of lifetimes, we can step into a flow of energy in which everything is part of one, eternal flow. It becomes easier to relax because we feel no pressure to get things done; we have all eternity to get it done, if indeed it needs doing. ‘Being’ assumes more importance than doing.
It is said, “It is better to be a human being than a human doing.” It becomes easier to let go because we know no one is ever truly gone. When we spend our lives in goodness and love, we can look forward to death and new life, knowing it can only get better as we come closer to the bliss of oneness with the Creator and thus with all things.
Taking time every day for silent meditation is one of the best ways to still the mind enough to glimpse this level of consciousness. If you are in the midst of making a family, this time may be difficult to come by, and in that case, awareness and conscious attention are your greatest tools.
Read the teachings of great masters and philosophers. Practice yoga, Tai Chi, or other activities that are spiritual in nature that help you contemplate your life and mission from a bigger perspective. Anything that helps you look at your life through the big picture lens will be helpful to you. In addition, practicing being present can get your mind into the present and help you experience the big picture rather just than thinking about it.
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