Do you feel things could run more smoothly with less frustration to tire you out? Like mislaying the garden tools or the favourite recipe book for that special meal, not to mention difficulty finding a satisfying job, loving partner, comfortable home? When you seem to be swimming against the current of life, then don’t you feel dispirited and drained? Wouldn’t you rather go with the flow?
Animals in their natural habitats don’t have these difficulties. They seem to be in harmony with the flow of nature. Call it instinct but they have less trouble finding food to eat, building their shelter, finding their mate, caring for their young and all this without having any instruction or money.
So how does one go with the flow?
Go with the flow by getting absorbed in the ‘here and now’
Part of the trick is getting absorbed in the ‘here and now’. Focusing your entire mind on what is happening in the present moment. This means no spare time to worry about the future or feel guilty about the past. In other words to go with the flow is similar to what they say in Buddhist circles about mindfulness. They are talking about attentive awareness to the reality of things. Mindfulness practice, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction. One needs to lose oneself in the flow of life in order to find oneself.
Part of an inner focus of mindfulness is an attitude of fully engaging in what one is doing. It means facing experience head on and accepting whatever the challenges and opportunities it offers instead of avoiding it or trying to make it into something else. Dealing with the immediacy of the current situation, rather than possible futures or the past. The Zen Buddhist masters used every conceivable means to awaken their students to the ‘eternal now’. The ultimate reality is seen to lie right at the heart of daily existence, if one but knows how the grasp the absolute moment.
Go with the flow in ordinary situations
Adrenaline junkies seek out dangerous situations like snowboarding down mountains. It’s as if they cannot experience a sense of being really alive in just ordinary situations. They are missing out on the ‘power of now’ to give them any buzz in their normal life at home and work.
Perhaps they don’t know about, what has been called, the ‘illusion of senses’. This is holding to a mistaken notion that the external side of life determines one’s inner sense of well-being. According to many spiritual thinkers, the reality is different.
Go with the flow of spiritual life from within the soul
What exists within the human spirit flows into what is on the external side of life. In other words, happiness, contentment, excitement flows from the divine presence within our soul to the outer part of experience and not the other way round. It is not what happens to us that matters but our attitude towards it. The mystic can fathom this, by standing aside from sensory impressions: instead to go with the flow from what is within.
But for the rest of us existence seems very different. There is a sense of self as being somehow apart from the rest of life, apart from the one – the one source of all life, the one creator of everything, the one divine source of life. We are caught up in how life appears – our own individual interpretations, our own reconstructed memories, our own misconceptions. We follow what self-intelligence sees as the appearance rather than trusting in the reality.
Go with the flow of heat and light from the Divine
Swedenborg suggests that this notion of inflow of divine reality is like the flow of heat and light from the sun into earthly objects. For example this inflow gives rise to plant-life producing different colours. And so going with the flow involves recognising the inflow of the divine into the mundane. Spiritual heat creates warm-heartedness and spiritual light causes an enlightened understanding.
Seeing the flow into our experiences of what is uplifting, creative, illuminating, and fortunately co-incidental, will inspire hope, love, trust. When things go pear-shaped the flow of illumination can show us where we are going wrong and we can learn from our mistakes.
Go with the flow of the stream of Providence
Going with the flow also means learning to trust in what Swedenborg calls the ‘stream of providence’ instead of trusting in oneself. Life’s journey is a bit like floating down a river. This will involve going with a gentle flow but it also could mean getting stranded on mudflats, blocked midstream by rocky outcrops, having to cope with rapids, and cross-currents. The point is no matter what life throws at you, it is possible to keep one’s balance by believing that what is needed will be provided, what is vulnerable to harm will be protected, what is lost will be found. In other words trusting in the stream of divine providence.
Swedenborg also points out that orientating towards the divine flow requires a change. The individual becomes no longer orientated towards self. No longer preoccupied with what suits one’s own desires. For example how things impinge on one’s comfort zone. For when the love of self no longer rules your heart, then you rise above your worries concerning the transient things of the world.
“Those are not in the stream of Providence who trust in themselves alone and attribute all things to themselves… Be it known also that insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far he is in a state of peace.
(Swedenborg. Arcana Coelestia section 8478 4)
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems