Finding Happiness By “Flowing” With Life
You have your own flow… find it
Posted Dec 07, 2014
Unfortunately, I see too many people who don’t allow themselves to flow with life. They fight life. Life is hard anyway, but it becomes harder when you fight life. These people may be working towards some goal, maybe academic or professional success, and because they’re working so hard towards their goal, they put aside their flowing, their natural love and passions of life in order to reach this goal. Others may have gotten caught up in some addiction; alcohol, drugs, relationships. Instead of doing things that would be good for them, they put their energy into their addiction. I think what we’re going to find in both of these situations is that we suffer because we’re not flowing with life. We’re not keeping our life simple and doing the things that fill us up emotionally and spiritually.
Imagine for a moment that we’re a beautiful flower and, as long as we get the proper sunshine and the right amount of healthy, good, clean water, we thrive. But when we’re put in dark places or when we’re deprived of water, or given water that’s unhealthy and contaminated, we stop thriving. We ourselves are like that flower, even on a physiological level.
I remember once reading a study about children who were put in front of a refrigerator and told they could eat whatever they wanted. They tended to eat very well. The study even discovered that when the children were low on potassium, they were able to listen to their bodies and would eat a lot of bananas or other things such as that. The children knew what to eat and they ate well. The only thing they couldn’t have was sugar. They were not allowed to have any sugar or candy available to them. If there was sugar and candy in the fridge, the children wouldn’t listen to their bodies and would not eat a well-balanced meal.
Our lives, in regards to happiness, are very much how the children’s bodies reacted in this study. As long as we take time to figure out what our needs are, what fills us up, what makes us happy so that our “flower” is being well watered with plenty of sunshine, then we make sure that we get these things because we know what we need to stay healthy, and we remain balanced. We are more aware of what we need when we keep our lives simple. Finding and enjoying happiness is really a very simple way to approach life. When life is stocked full of activities, of television, of things that distract us from our internal selves, or filled with things like drugs, alcohol, work-aholism, constant busy-ness, then we complicate and clutter our lives to the point that we don’t really know what we need.
The first step towards flow and flowing with life is to really simplify our life. We have to slow down and say, “What do I need?” By having moments of stillness, we often come to clarity about what we need. These needs may even change over time. For example, in my own life, with regard to my work,for many years I decided I would work three long days and then take four days off . After a while, the days, particularly the three days at work, seemed to get longer and longer. I decided it was time for me to change that schedule and stop working three long days. So instead, I began working four normal days. Now, as I continue to get older, what I’ve learned is that I do much better when my activities and my day is done earlier in the day and that I retire early. When I don’t work too late into the evenings, I do better. So now I’m in the process of slowing down my practice and not working as late. But I came to each of these discoveries in their own time by checking in, by taking time to see how I was doing. If we don’t take these times to check in and see how we’re doing, then we don’t know what we need.
What we really need to work towards is finding our flow … right now in our lives, when our lives aren’t too busy or full of activities. We must ask ourselves: What do we need to do that will make our day, our moments, go well? The answer is going to be very simple. Happiness has a flow to it; a flow that relates to who we are. For example, if someone is very passionate about the arts but they’re working in the medical field, then they need to find ways to make their work more artistic or consider changing to a different field. Doing something for the sake of money or for making other people proud of us, while we’re not really happy with what we do for a living, creates dissidence and suffering within us, and ultimately creates unhappiness. We’re not going to change this overnight, but in working toward the flow, we are saying, “What naturally is good for me, what fills me up, and puts a smile on my face?”. Then we work towards doing those things that keeps a smile on our face.
For example, having an affair may feel good at the time, but all the pain and suffering it’s going to cause isn’t, in the long run, going to keep that smile on our face. But coming home, spending time with the people that we love, letting them know how much we love them, and really making time for these relationships that are important to us is going to have a flow to it. It’s going to go well.
I don’t know if you ever read the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It is based on Thoreau’s own life story. He writes that he decided to live two years by a lake or pond called Walden, and he was just going to do only the amount of work he needed to do to meet his basic needs, such as food and shelter, but nothing beyond that. He wanted nothing pretentious, nothing to impress people. What he found was that he needed only about two hours a day to really support himself. He went for walks around the pond and in the nearby woods. He had people come to visit, he spent time reading, and he found it was a very moving, a very helpful time for him. Of course, we may not be able to create a “Walden” experience for ourselves overnight, but we need to move in that direction.
Flow is going to have nature in it. It’s just going to have lots and lots of nature, because nature is simple, nature is beautiful, and nature is rejuvenating. It fills us up. After we’re in nature, we feel better. When we go on vacation, if it’s a natural, relaxing vacation, we come back refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to continue our life of work and serving others. These are the type of vacations my family and I go on often. Life goes best when we flow with it. Even in the process of helping and caring for others, if we like something, we should make time for ourselves to take part in what we like and enjoy. For example, if we enjoy building things with our hands, we should take time out of our everyday lives and do something like work with Habitat for Humanity, acharity that builds homes for deserving people in need. This fits our personality. If we really hate working with money, then we probably shouldn’t volunteer to help an organization keep its books. Spending our free time doing something we dislike is counterproductive to finding happiness and working in our flow. A lot of life is working towards our flow. Flow is simple in a way that it’s not simplistic, but there isn’t much complication to it. We do things every day that are good for us, things that don’t require a lot of strain or anxiety.
We all know it’s good for us to exercise. It’s a healthy thing to do, and it helps keep us happy. But if, for example, we hate going to the gym but we love going on hikes, then we should go on hikes. Or if we really love riding a bike but we don’t like swimming, then let’s make sure we ride our bikes. Flow is all about really listening to ourselves and saying, “Hey, what works for me? What is just naturally good for my soul?” If we love gardening, then we have to make time to garden, and that should be a big part of our lives. If we love nature and love animals, then we should be involved with animals and nature. Flow is just finding what fills us up. We ask first, what, when we do it, adds to us and doesn’t take away from us? Secondly, what do we love to do? Because the things that add to us and that we love to do will fill us up.
An easy way to determine this is to ask, “After I do this activity, do I feel better or do I feel worse?” Certainly there are going to be exceptions to this, but then that only makes sense. Think of the sugar and candy analogy I made earlier. If a kid has been given candy when he’s put in front of the fridge and then the candy is suddenly taken away, initially he is going to be upset by that. However, once he gets used to not having that candy, he will adjust and figure out what’s good for him. So we have to figure out what that “candy” is in our life that’s causing us to suffer? Figuring this out may be as elementary as coming home after work and enjoying a couple glasses of wine, unwinding, and watching a couple of mindless TV shows. I think that’s going to click with lots of people. It could just be having an enjoyable cup of coffee every morning to get our day started.
What we’re looking for is that flow that works best for us, right now, that we don’t have to fight. If we’re not a morning person, then we need to move in the direction of making our lives less dictated by the routine of being a morning person. Or if we’re not an evening person, like myself, we need to start winding our days down earlier. Again, we have to first figure out what works for me. When I’m taking care of myself, what’s a good rhythm for me? Once you have that answer, then work in the direction of making these things happen.
Now, of course, the hard part is that it can seem overwhelming at first. Here’s a 5% rule that can be helpful. Just make a 5% improvement every day, every week, every month and, over time, that 5% becomes the 100% change you were seeking. If we try to do something too quickly, we often quit and don’t do it anymore because it seems impossible to accomplish. But if we move in the right direction a little bit at a time, we are more apt to stick with the change and see it through. For example, we might say, “Hey, I’m going to go to bed a little bit earlier each night by just 10 or 15 minutes. Eventually, when I get up in the morning, I’ll wake up little bit more refreshed” .Or perhaps, for example, you decide, “I’m not used to coming home and walking each night after work. So instead of coming home and having those two nightly glasses of wine, maybe on the weekends I’ll walk a little bit more and work towards just walking around the neighborhood a block or so before I get into my normal routine”. Over time, you will see that you will have moved into the direction of having achieved some great self-care and flowing with life.
In flowing with life, we flow with happiness. This is a simple approach to life. Often the things that are good for us are very simple. Simple things, like walking; I like my walking, so every day I walk and spend time in nature. What this does is that it requires us to say ‘no’ to certain other, distracting things. Part of flowing with life is, as I started off earlier saying, a simple life. A simple life is one that not cluttered with activity. So what I’ve done in my own life is I say no to things all the time. I am regularly invited to social events, asked to give talks to groups, visit, be part of the media and so on, but I say no to them quite often. Probably for every ten things I get invited to, I may say yes to only one or two of them. I do this because I’ve learned that, in order for my life to flow well, I need time for my walks, for that flow. I dismiss myself by simply saying, “I’m busy” and that busy-ness may be that I’m going for a walk along the beach; that busy-ness may be that I’m spending time over the weekend with my family; the busy-ness may be that I’m meditating an hour in the morning and half hour to an hour every night. People accept that simple answer, which is the truth, and I, in return, can stay with my flow and remain happy. You can do this too.
Flowing is really good for us. We have to listen to our bodies, listen to our souls, and flow with life. Then life goes well and we really can find the happiness that we seek.