How to Go with the Flow

Yesterday I went for a walk with a friend. We spoke of many things and we enjoyed the trees, the rocks and the water meandering through all of it. The water was making a constant, gentle sound which was the exact right auditive background for our exploring both this part of the Great North Walk and our thoughts and feelings.

We had to climb, step, jump, pause, choose, watch, listen, distinguish and at one point even run because we were attacked by leeches. We had to take care of ourselves and help each other. We had to meander like the water itself when we crawled under a tree that had fallen over the path. We enjoyed, we worried, we disliked and liked, we yelled at the leeches and we laughed at ourselves.

One of the topics that we spoke about was wanting to go with the flow and how that is not as easy as it sounds. But while walking through the forest, gowing with the flow was not difficult at all. So how come this was different? We did not think much about how to walk the walk we were walking: we just followed the path. But we are thinking so much about how to live the life we are living that our thinking is hindering the flow.

The walk and the way we experienced it, was in fact an example of how we would like to live life: in flow!

Going with the flow in a western oriented and – educated life is like wanting to be natural in a cultivated place. We are so conscious, so aware, so critical and judgemental that it is hardly possible for us to let go and just go.

A challenge for us in this highly thinking and developed culture is to use our free will to stop using our wonderful ability to think when we ourselves want to. It’s just another step on the ladder of awareness. But it’s a hard one. We have learned to make use of our thinking so well that having to learn to sometimes not use that which we have learned to use so well, is an unlogical contradiction. Logic goes together with thinking and thus is hard to “switch off” too.

So how do we stop thinking? We don’t. We can’t. But here is what we CAN do.

We can stop listening to our thoughts by focusing on something else. There are many other things to focus on besides thinking. We only need to become aware of the alternatives. The same awareness that made us such successful thinkers can now be used to forget about the thinking and develop something new.

We can choose not to listen as closely to the thinking as we have become used to. Depending on the circumstances, we can, if we take the example of a walk through the forest, decide to focus more on the sound of running water. It is like a volume button: we can turn down the volume of our thinking, so to speak, and we can turn up the volume of whatever else it is that we do want to focus on. Using our powerful thinking to think about the thinking less, is the way to begin to effortlessly going with the flow like we used to when we had not yet developed our thinking into the powerful tool it is now.

We have to master our thoughts instead of being mastered by them. Once we get accustomed to that, it becomes more and more easy to enjoy a moment in freedom and to go with the flow. Once we master our mind instead of being mindmastered, we can live our lives as if we were walking a meandering path in the forest.

Our thoughts then are making a constant, gentle sound which is the exact right auditive background for our flowing through life:  we climb, step, jump, pause, choose, watch, listen, distinguish and sometimes even run. We take care of ourselves and help each other. We meander like water when we face various challenges. We enjoy, we worry, we dislike and like, we yell at things that go wrong and we laugh at ourselves. We just go with the flow.

Miriam Aziz

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