Go with the Flow

I'm thinking about the flow of life, and about all the things that make time fly by.

I’m thinking about the flow of life, and about all the things that make time fly by.

It was Friday.  I was in the garden, performing the necessary tasks of pruning, planting and weeding.  When I realized that 3 hours had passed.  Three hours!  I even went inside to check my clocks because I didn’t trust that so much time had actually gone by.  But it had.  Such is Flow.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist with an unfortunately lengthy name, created the term.  It’s when you are so absorbed in something you are doing that you are literally in a trance-like state.  You are so fucking immersed that time literally stops.  No drugs involved.  Seriously.  For me, as for you, this happens when you are doing something that feeds your soul.   The thing about flow is that you have to feel both highly challenged and highly skilled at the time.  You can’t sleepwalk through flow.  You have to feel like you can get some tough stuff done, but also love the idea of diving into what you are about to do.  And when you start,  and the puzzle pieces start to fit together…you keep going…even though it might be hard.

This past weekend, I attended a work conference with my colleagues; all women, all smart, all really cool. There were 12 of us in addition to the other attendees, about 30 in all.  After the first day, despite it being a beautiful fall day outside with our families largely going on and having fun without us, we all were saying to each other how fast the day went. Our inspiring teacher challenged us, validated us and got us excited about our work.  We couldn’t wait to use this new information on the job with kids (we work with kids who have motor, sensory and social difficulties).  I wrote notes upon notes, shot videos, turned ideas over in my head, fretted over what I might have been doing wrong and asked questions. The day flew by.  That, my friends, is flow.

Sometimes I feel flow when I am doing yoga.  Yoga, after years of practice, has become my body moving while my mind is stilling, not the other way around  (like a lot of life).  When I am writing and it’s going well and it feels like all pistons are firing, then, hell yes, I am in flow.  It can also be when reading or cooking or even just encouraging your child when they’ve had a bad day.  Some would say, myself included, that flow is what makes life worth living.  It’s the sheer joy of being alive,  being presented with a challenge and taking it happily.  It’s feeling like you kick ass.  Without the hang-ups of things like carpools, keeping up with the Joneses and cleaning up dog shit.

Here in suburbia, there are more than a few of my friends and neighbors who are doing hard things, hoping to find the flow. Some are competing in hard-core fitness challenges.  Some are packing up and moving where new adventures beckon. Some are taking courses, starting new careers even.  Some are making a fresh start with new partners.   All are attempting to find the flow.  Navigate uncharted waters.  It’s no coincidence that the word “flow” comes from water.  Like life,  it’s fluid, rambling, changing and prone to having to change course once in a while.  And it can’t go in reverse.

Maybe you love knitting or scrapbooking or carving wooden ducks.  Maybe it’s a crisp walk with your dog at daybreak that you love.  It’s wherever you lose yourself, lose track of your watch, your phone, your calendar and your to-do list.  It’s letting go of the busy-ness of your day and peeking into the wayward journey of your life.  What could be better than that?

Where do you find your flow?

Where do you find your flow?

Flow is the place where time is forgotten.

Thanks to Barbara Paulsen for the inspiring photos.  We can see where you find your flow, girl.

“The river is one of my favorite metaphors, the symbol of the great flow of Life Itself. The river begins at Source, and returns to Source, unerringly. This happens every single time, without exception. We are no different.”
― Jeffrey R. AndersonThe Nature of Things – Navigating Everyday Life with Grace

Conversation #5: Shine a Light on Danelle

“How far that little candle throws his beams!  So shines a good deed in a weary world.”-  William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Have you ever met someone who, while you are standing there talking to them, becomes a source of light?  It’s kinda bizarre when it happens.  But that is precisely the experience of being around my friend Danelle.  It’s time for me to shine the proverbial light on her and let you get to know her too.

Danelle is a gift which yoga has given me.  She is an instructor at my studio, but practiced next to me long before I knew she taught as well.  I always saw her in class, smiling, but it took me an introverted long time to actually talk to her.  I remember thinking she was just way too positive and enlightened a  force to be down with a sailor-mouth like myself.  But that is the thing about her.  You are comfortable the minute you talk to her.  She is easy in an elegant, breath of fresh air, open and sing-song kind of way.  When you are in class, sweating your ass off, struggling, wishing for the end, that’s when Danelle steps in.  With her words and with her energetic presence, you are somehow reassured.  You know you can make it.  It’s a remarkable quality.

As well as being a yoga instructor, Danelle also runs a massage practice out of her cozy home.  Before I received a massage from her, I worried about telling her some things I didn’t like during a massage.  Like talking too much.  Or being cold.  Or pain.  But of course, she is incredibly honest and makes you feel so comfortable that things you might worry about are not an issue.  Not because it didn’t hurt a couple times.  It did.  But because her unspoken message to you is that you are her first concern and you will be given the TLC and difficult work that you are not able or willing to give yourself.  She knows things.  I am not sure how, but she does.  If she wasn’t such a goddamn charming combination of vulnerable and commanding, it would be annoying.

As someone who can quite easily go to self doubt and the “dark side,” I find Danelle’s dogged insistence on the positive to be refreshing.  You know those annoyingly upbeat people who you want to shake?  She is not one of them.  Danelle has had pain and heartache, but has a matched dose of realism.  She calls herself “woo-woo” and others have called her “dreamy” because of her upbeat and spiritual sensibility, but she is decidedly pragmatic.  She can be tearful and willing to bare her soul, but she also is able to put the hammer down when it comes to what she believes in.  For example, when talking about her adorable 4 year old son, she says her goal as a parent is that  “he will never, ever, ever (like 20 more evers…) feel that he is not good enough.”    And I feel the resolve in her words.   Spoken by a person who has known how it feels to be abandoned, but also knows she is not going to fucking let that happen to any child of hers.  Ever.

One of my favorite words is Sanskrit is satya or truth.  Danelle embodies truth.  She has an active meditation practice (I am jealous.  I am someone who has always wanted to have one) that relies heavily on mantras.  She is cognizant of how thoughts and vibrations can “create a situation” and is extremely self aware on how to stop this from happening.  During a disagreement with her husband, she might remind herself of the beach or something else she loves to change the energy. At times where she is frustrated or off center, she returns to places of happiness rather than adding fuel to the fire.  This is incredibly difficult to do, but she manages to pull it off.  She says the more you do it, the easier it gets.  And somehow, from within my deepest doubting self, I believe her.

Danelle also gives me a suburban smackdown.  When I ask her how she keeps the suburbs from crushing her soul, she tells me that the suburbs are not robbers of the soul, they are keepers of community.  As her voice cracks, and her big beautiful eyes widen, she tells me that the suburbs are a place of family, unlike the one where she grew up.  It’s about taking a deep breath, going and knocking on your neighbor’s door and asking for eggs.  Or a jumper cable.  It’s knowing that there is someone there to help.  Even if that someone is you.

In the future, Danelle hopes to open her own yoga studio from where she can have her massage practice as well.  She hopes that her globe-trekking pilot husband will be more local more often.  Her son will feel loved and accepted.  She will be making a profit and making a difference.  She is so task-oriented and organized, you know she will make it happen.  She is crystal clear on what she wants and where her skills lie.  She knows that in order to be there for others, your own needs have to be met and then you can be there for others.  (From her years in the airline industry, she knows you have to first put the oxygen mask on yourself).  I can’t wait for you to go to her studio!

You can’t help but be a better person simply by knowing her.


Many thanks as always to Barbara Paulsen at Mt. Hood Mama Iphoneography for the photo.