Most of the time when someone talks to me about being in the flow, they’re not in the flow.
Going with the flow is a phrase that typically signifies that life is going according to someone’s preferences. The person is probably getting what they want and are able to avoid situations that they don’t want. Things in the external world may be particularly easy and comfortable.
But then, something changes. Life stops going the way the person wants, and they say that they’re out of the flow.
The true flow, however, is not an external flow. It has nothing to do with whether your ego gets what it wants or not. It is an internal sense. It is a place of non-resistance where we can act or not act, and that flow absolutely can and does exist when life is hard.
So let’s talk about what it means to flow when life is hard and how to perceive this true flow.
As I said to start, most people think that going with the flow is about getting what they want. So your job is going well; your kids are playing nice; and your uncle, whom you don’t generally like, is even being amenable. Things are great, and therefore, the ego thinks that you are in flow.
To be sure, it’s generally easier to surrender to life when it is easy and comfortable. Most people are less triggered by ease, although people can get stuck trying to hold onto and re-create good times. In this way, the ego can wreck even good times in life.
But then, things change. Because life is change. Your kids are getting in trouble in school. Your boss wants you to work late, and your uncle is being particularly miserable today. It feels like “nothing is going right,” and the ego concludes that you are no longer in the flow.
Ridiculous Spiritual Things People Do to Fix the Flow
Since people are often very ignorant to their own ego and they tend to look to the external world for what they want, they can come up with a lot of crazy things to do to try and influence the external world and get back to ease and comfort (which, as I said, is confused at the flow).
So people go do chakra clearings.
Or they re-feng shui their house.
Or they burn incense to clear spaces in their lives.
Or they go get astrology and other readings to figure out what moon or star is screwing up their lives.
And they do so much more instead of looking at where the suffering actually comes from–from within themselves.
Taking Ownership of Your Ego Suffering
Part of maturing on the spiritual path is taking ownership of your ego suffering. As I’ve written many times before, there is pain in life, but suffering is chosen. Pain is stepping on a thorn. It happens. Suffering is being upset about stepping on the thorn.
Furthermore, a lot of pain–particularly emotional pain–is chosen. However, people become so used to unconsciously choosing to be upset that it seems inevitable. The kids get in trouble at school, so of course you have to be upset. Your uncle is needling you about giving him more money and critiquing your money management skills, so of course you should be mad. Your boss wants you to work longer, and so of course you’re exasperated.
But none of these “of courses” are laws of nature. They’re choices, and they choices that cause suffering.
Surrendering to Your Ego Tantrums
Firstly, just noticing that you have an ego is important. But doing so won’t immediately make everything easy. In fact, you’ll have to get used to observing just how much suffering you cause yourself. That’s part of coming into awareness.
As we grow on the path and learn to surrender to the present moment, we watch how our ego reacts to EVERYTHING! The more reactive it is, the more extreme are emotions and physical sensations can be. This tends to wind up the mind to the point that it is running in five different directions trying to find a solution for everything, and that upsets a person’s emotions and body further.
So it is time to breathe. Come back to observing the breath again. Peel your attention away from the ego’s tantrums. Surrender to them, and the longer you don’t give those tantrums energy, the sooner they will subside.
Flowing Through Ego Resistance
In the space of surrender, ego resistance is seen and allowed. It doesn’t tend to immediately dissolve. Instead, a person learns to slow down, breathe, and take action from a deeper space. That tends to create an awareness of inner resistance because sometimes the ego doesn’t like those actions. Particularly if some inspiration comes up to do something differently, the ego will likely reject that newness. It trusts its familiar actions and behaviors even if those patterns are failures. This is part of the reality that human beings deeply fear the unknown.
In acting from a place of surrender during this time of ego resistance, it won’t feel like the flow most people are used to. The resistance will feel extremely present, but when you move from this deeper space of clarity and peace, you are actually flowing.
For example, we can go back to the problems with the uncle. Perhaps you have been capitulating to his demands in the past. Now, you say, “No.” He doesn’t like it. Your ego doesn’t like the new behavior or his displeasure. So you surrender to both. The ego resists and wants to appease your uncle, but you watch the ego instead. You are actually flowing through this moment even though you are not getting positive responses from your uncle and are feeling your own resistance.
However, over time, the ego resistance dissolves. The psychological and emotional disturbance it causes when saying, “No” to the uncle or to the boss who wants you to work late or to kids who want to go out to a movie after getting in trouble at school, dissolves. But it’s important to realize that even when these ego disturbances exist that the flow includes them. The deeper and truer the flow, the more all of your experiences are included.
Tapping Deeper Into Your Inner Flow
Does flowing through hard times get easier? Yes. But that is purely a quality of your inner states and the surrender of the ego. It is not like hard times are any more enjoyable.
When your mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, that’s not an enjoyable time. But you can flow through that time and all the emotions everyone involved feels and make all the decisions you need to make from a space of clarity.
When you lose your job, you can flow to the next job even if that is a difficult journey to find more work.
On a more metaphorical note, you can flow up any mountain, but it will be challenging in some ways. The key is surrendering to what is. That is what allows you to flow even when things are difficult.
Awakened Flow and Spiritual Transformation
I do want to make a note about the flow of awakened energy. The flow of awakened energy is a whole other kind of flow because it has an intelligence all of its own. Surrendering to that, particularly at the beginning, feels like you don’t have much choice in how you act or how you transform spiritually. That’s a temporary state, and later on, you have more choice. In general, there’s a lot of intelligence to that kind of flow.
I offer that distinction for those who have awakened and do not feel in control. The flowing that I’ve been talking about in the rest of the blog post requires the individual to be much more active in doing their inner work, surrendering, and making new choices in how they respond to their difficult life circumstances. Conversely, awakened energy flow makes a lot of choices for you at first, and that really is a good thing in the case of awakening, although over time the individual needs to take over the reigns and guide their spiritual growth more wisely once they understand what awakening has pointed them towards.
The Effortlessness of Surrender
The more someone surrenders their ego, the more effortless it is to be with oneself. When someone is at peace with themselves, it is so much easier to interact with the ups and downs of life.
And there will be downs. There will be difficulty. The spiritual path is not a release from hard times. It is simply the path to spiritual freedom so that you can flow as wisely, lovingly, and effortlessly into and through hard and easy times.