Go with the Flow
By Trace Sahaja Bonner of Holy Cow Yoga
“Go with the flow!” We hear this phrase often as advice when we are struggling under pressure or we are experiencing something uncomfortable. Its intention is to shift us out of trying to control the outcome so that we accept what is happening and relax into the moment. While these are healthy considerations, the question might be, how does one actually go with the flow? How do we let go of control when sometimes control is actually required? How do we accept what is happening when something unjustifiable is happening? And, how do we relax into the moment of ‘what is’ when the moment is requiring us to be on high alert? Let’s break down each word of this phrase to see if they can reveal some possible insights.
The word “go” indicates action. It means an impetus to move or shift. Many times when an experience is requiring us to go, we seem stuck or frozen, especially when there are indicators that the approach we are currently taking is not supportive to our physical, mental, or emotional well-being. We are unable to shift out of a habitual or predictable pattern. For example, you have plans with a friend but they cancel at the last minute due to an unforeseen circumstance. Instead of feeling let down but understanding the situation (going with the flow), we might feel dejected or let the feeling of disappointment make us feel depressed. Changing any long-held reaction or pattern is challenging, but if we can stay conscious of our response, we have an opportunity to apply wisdom (prajna). With that wisdom we can shift away from habitual responses as well as resistance to “what is.” The Ego believes that if it gets what it wants then that is good, and if it doesn’t get what it wants then that is bad. This reasoning blocks or obstructs the infinite possibilities of growth that any given situation or experience offers. To practice “go,” we must stay vigilant to see the habitual patterns of response and be willing to apply a shift away from destructive patterns by staying awake and present.
The word “with” indicates going along. While this may seem passive, it can have a positive and empowering result. For instance, replacing the word “for” with the word “with” can create profound relationship shifts. Instead of saying, “I work for someone,” changing that phrase to “I work with someone,” can shift how we relate to those at our place of employment. “With” implies collaboration, such as the spiritual idea that we are co-creators of our lives. We collaborate with our higher self, or inner goodness, to create a life of good. Or, as Swami Satchidananda says, a life that is useful. The opposite of “with” is against. The act of going against is a form of resistance. The image that comes to mind is rowing upstream. How exhausting! Or perhaps, we want apples, but instead of planting an apple tree we plant an orange tree; then we resort to all kinds of ridiculous manipulations to make the orange tree produce apples. Another example that I once read on a marquee was: “A negative mind will never produce a positive life.” Many people want peace or positivity, but engage in actions that are counter-productive to peace or positive energy. The outcome usually creates feelings of frustration that we never got “apples” or a positive life.
The final word of our phrase is “flow.” Flow indicates continuous movement in a specific direction. From a yogic perspective, we could think of this flow as the universal flow of “what is,” such as: the world is spinning, expanding, and things are coming and going. Swami Satchidananda taught us to practice being at peace in this coming and going. The energy behind this flow is called: God, Universe, Consciousness, Supreme, Purusha, etc. The Yogic name of this flow is Ishvara. Ishvara has sometimes been defined as God, but another interpretation that we could insert is the word Love. Love is the essence or quality of this flow. We are made of this Love—we share this Love. When we connect to it, we feel expansive and a sense of oneness, and when we are not connected we feel separated and alone. To go with this flow is to say, “Yes, I accept,” to what is happening. This does not mean we can’t apply conscious actions that change the outcome. But, if we begin by denying or pushing away “what is,” then the Ego responds with old habitual reactions, and we start to feel the separation from the flow. How do we know when we are NOT in alignment to the Flow? We feel inward struggle or suffering (dukkha). This struggle teaches us to surrender to the flow, called Ishvara Pranidhana. We, in essence, surrender to Love. However, don’t think that this idea of surrender means giving up. Instead, it is an opportunity to apply wisdom (prajna) and stay open to move in a specific direction toward Ishvara (God or Love).
Now, the work! To practice applying a conscious action (go) that goes along (with) in a specific direction that leads us toward Love (flow) is not easy. But, then our personal growth and evolution is meant to be transformational. We practice accepting our struggles and suffering (tapas) through this process called Life. An image that has been helpful to me is that of an raw gold nugget that is being refined to pure gold through heat. We are each nuggets of gold undergoing a purification. Then, when we are undergoing a struggle or suffering, we can understand it is as a sign of alchemy. Or, it may be that we are holding on too tightly to how we think something needs to be. If we loosen the grip of our mind’s rigidity, we might see the infinite possibilities and transformation that can arise from all experiences. We essentially learn to “Go with the flow.”