Embracing Your Ever-Changing Journey
Over at Adventures with Spirit, we've been chatting a lot about flow recently.
I find the "flow" conversation often comes up when either Andrea or I feel like we're hanging out in a desert 😂 Last week was my turn to kick up some sand.
I was trying very hard to flow with all of life's changes, but each day felt a little bit like a surfing accident I once had.
My husband and I were living in Puerto Rico during our mid to late 20s and I had decided to go out surfing with some friends. When we paddled out, the waves were mild. It was relaxing and filled my soul-need of “ocean”. Pretty soon though, the waters shifted and those mild rocking waves–which I was navigating pretty ok–turned into something bigger.
I decided to paddle in (I know when I’m out of my league) and the ocean so very graciously decided to help bring me on its terms. A rather large wave crashed on me, turning me upside down and raking me across the ocean floor. I was able to surface for a second, but waves come in threes and I knew I was about to go down again-- I still had two more waves in the set to go.
Each time I was forced under water, I had no control over how long I’d be under or what part of my body would take the hit. I just knew that if I panicked and tried to fight against the wave to make my way up sooner, I’d just be pushed down. So, instead, I slowed my mind down, took each wave in stride, and allowed the wave to provide momentum and push my head up above water for a second or two. All I needed to do was stay calm enough to get a quick breath of air in between, so I could wait out the next one.
I kept counting the waves, but it felt like an eternity. (It was probably like 3-4 minutes in reality.) On wave three, the last wave, I thought, ”You’re almost there”. And then that beautiful third wave decided to take me on a tour of the reef with my hand leading the way.
I finally washed up on shore, a tad worse for wear with a fairly battered hand, feeling like perhaps I was done for the day. (This experience in no way diminished my love for the ocean. You’ll still find me out there today dodging waves with the best of them.)
For the past week (ok…TBH year), I have felt like flow looks a lot like those waves in the Caribbean that day. I have found myself in a place where I don’t have control over quite a few things and, at times, it feels like I’m looking underwater wondering when I’ll rise to the top for a quick breath…
The more I sat with our podcast conversation about flow, the more I saw the surf story as a metaphor for my present situation and how similar flow is to the element of water--but not in the way you think. What caught my attention was the way water responds to its environment. Water doesn’t always flow and move.
Sometimes, it’s a frozen lake or a mucky swamp. Sometimes, water shows up like a raging river or a quiet pond. Water can increase in temperature, like it does with a hot spring, or even come to a boiling point when its form is a hot geyser.
With each new environment, the water responds to what is going on around it and then it adapts to its surroundings.
The water doesn’t cease to be just because it goes through external environmental changes. It adapts to what it needs to be to functional and meet those external demands. It flows with its present moment and doesn’t judge itself or find itself lacking. It simply discovers itself in a different stage than what it was before and knows that there is the possibility that it could change again–into a familiar form or one completely new to itself.
And that is the real life application of flow. It’s meeting yourself where you are, in a state of non-judgement, responding to what life throws at you, knowing you’re doing the best you can with the tools you have at the moment. Keeping in mind that you will at some point get a moment to catch a quick breath, even if it means you have to go underwater again.
But the intensity will end and the water will go back to gently rolling waves. And so you hold on to that knowledge, letting it buoy you in times that are rough. You remember that even though it wasn’t the type of “flow” you were expecting– even when it feels like you’re being spit out on a beach with a few bruises– you’re still moving forward. Your Soul, the essence of who you are, doesn’t go away. It meets the moment at hand with the wisdom, experience, and tools you’ve learned up to that point.
So, if you’re finding it hard to breathe at the moment or maybe you find yourself under the water more than above, give yourself some self-compassion. The essence of who you are is adapting to meet the moment at hand and is doing the best it can at that moment.
Oh–and don’t be shy about accepting help. Find the courage to reach out and ask for help. If you were in the water, you’d jump in the life raft or grab the floatation device, so why not do the same thing on dry land?