Each New Year’s Eve I like to choose one word on which to focus, which serves as a compass and my overarching intention to apply to daily life in the coming year. They say, energy flows where intention goes. This word then helps to support and commit the pieces of my life into alignment. I start thinking about my word in the beginning of December and give it serious, considerable thought. 2017 was the year of Light. In every area of my life I did my best to apply this word and allow it to permeate and guide. However unwittingly, several people told me throughout the course of the year that I was like a light. Not only for myself, but for others as well - sometimes illuminating that which they hadn’t seen. I took that as confirmation that I was indeed on the right path. On this last day of 2017, I can truly say I feel lighter.
Upon investigating the word Light, I was surprised how many definitions there were! However, several specifically resonated with me: “Something that makes vision possible. Sight. Spiritual illumination. Inner light. Enlightenment. Truth. Bringing something to light. A particular aspect presented to view. Discover, reveal. A window. A particular expression of the eye. Beacon. Light in art. Luminous; illuminate . Radiant energy. A bright part. Mental insight, understanding. Ignite. Of little weight; not heavy. Of small amount of force, intensity, etc. Easy to endure, deal with or perform; not difficult or burdensome. Not serious; amusing or entertaining. Of little importance or consequence; trivial. Easily digested. Having fewer calories. Delicate. Buoyant. Agile. Free from trouble, sorrow, or worry; carefree. A light heart. Cheerful.”
Many of my experiences, practices, and observations during 2017 naturally led me to choose my word for 2018- Flow. Initially, I had my own cursory reasons for considering this word, but Merriam-Webster provided even more evidence that it was indeed the perfect word!
Flow: To move or run smoothly. Fluid; a stream or current. Movement. To circulate. Unbroken continuity. To proceed steadily, freely, and easily. To proceed with continual ease; effortlessness. Run. To be present in abundance. A continuous outpouring. A general tendency. To rise; arise. Spring. Natural happiness. To hang loosely. To abound in something. Emanate. An outpouring; overflowing. To “Go with the flow.”
What exactly does it mean to “Go with the Flow? I would assume that it is intended to be a positive idiom or why would people say it with such proud conviction? Are they purporting that we are to relax, and simply go along? Go along with what precisely? The crowd? The majority? This doesn’t sit well. Furthermore, I have never been one to “go along” with anything. Isn’t “going along” the fastest route to mediocrity? To me that insinuates laziness, or settling, or a sort of giving up. Not having a mind of one’s own and simply following, like sheeple. It falls into the category of apathy, doesn’t it? Conversely, to go against the flow insinuates that those who don’t “go with the flow” are troublemakers or even labeled as social outcasts. So while I believe one should not aim to swim upstream and force that which is not meant to be, I do think we need to travel the river of life as the flow- allowing ourselves to ride the energy of the water- while taking the navigational cues being sent to us along the way to point us where we were meant to go. Noting that this is certainly not a passive role- but an active one- requiring our participation. We want to be the flow, not simply resigned to it. There is a marked difference.
For my purposes, I need it to mean no resistance, no leaning forward, no force. A sitting back and allowing- knowing that good things typically flow easily. When I was a child, growing up beside a river that ran through our front yard, I would often play in the water. I would build a chair out of rocks, facing upstream in the middle of the river, and sit and catch whatever leaves would flow my way. Making a game out of how many I could collect without leaving the chair. This year, I’m catching leaves and I am not leaving the chair.
Flow is a beautiful river between chaos and rigidity. It is the delicate balance between the two undesirable extremes. Have too much structure and you close yourself off to anything fun or spontaneous to occur. This is undoubtedly safe, but incredibly boring! Be too capricious and all over the place and you’ll have no sense of order or safety, which breeds insecurity and fear. Nothing of value can be built amid chaos. My motto for the last 25 years has been, “Too much of anything is bad.” My kids have heard this statement a million times and I believe it to be applicable to practically every area of life and absolutely true!
The word Flow makes me immediately think of water. I am inherently drawn to the water and seafood is unsurprisingly my favorite fare. It is a symbol of life, purity, fertility, renewal, and reflection. Water will take the form of the container in which it is held and will flow along the path of least resistance. In this way, water is considered a metaphor for wisdom. The constant flow of water is so powerful that it can change the course of an entire river, move the earth, chisel out stone, create magnificent canyons, and over time will smooth the most jagged of rocks. A gradual, steady, consistent gain that is powerfly two-fold. The constant flow of the water itself (forward motion), and the path it is creating by gradual movement of earth, erosion, etc. (movement of the flow itself). Do you see the analogy? It needs to flow. The water has to move consistently forward in order to move the earth or change its own course. So then, mustn't our flow be as powerfully transformative?
“No river holds a grudge against a rock in its path.” - Vironika Tugaleva
I love to kayak, but depending on the body of water, the definition of flow differs dramatically. Kayaking on a river with a natural current provides the flow, which propels you forward with relative ease. It also allows one to look around and take in the beauty of their surroundings. But when I’m training for a triathlon, I paddle on a large lake with no particular current to carry me along. I have to propel myself forward at all times if I care to move. The rhythmic nature of the 3-6 mile paddle is purposeful, focused, strenuous, and meditative - and I am definitely in my flow. So in my mind there are two ways to look at flow. I prefer to go with the flow that allows me to participate in my course, while also honoring the larger flow that will carry me to my destination.
We were made to be in balance, to be in the flow of life. When something is right it typically just happens, naturally. You don’t have to force it, talk yourself into it, coerce, persuade, press, or impress. It’s not always difficult. It’s easy. Incredibly easy. Operating in the flow of life means that we are not in constant struggle against something. If something is always difficult, or you feel like you are beating your head against the wall, then that is not flow. When we are not in the natural flow of life, we are out of balance, out of alignment, and nothing is right. Listen to this gentle redirecting. I have known people who get addicted to the fight. To the drama, the strife. It’s been so long since they’ve been in the flow, they don’t recognize it anymore. Chaos and dysfunction become the new "normal." It's amazing what we can get used to over time.
"Be like water, soft, flowing, at ease." –Lao Tzu
I recently watched a fascinating TED talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Flow, the secret to happiness. He talks about the “Flow Experience” and how we are in flow when we are completely involved in what we are doing. Focused. Concentrated. So much so that we have a sense of being outside our everyday reality. When we are in flow, we have a sense of serenity, there is a loss of time, and hours pass by in minutes. We are in flow when our challenges and skills are high and we know that we are up to the task. When we are working on something that helps others while also making us happy while doing it, creating meaning and happiness. Thereby, whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.
I’m looking forward to the current of 2018, to learning more about the concept and practice of flow, and how to successfully apply it to every area of life. Especially, how to cultivate and increase my creative flow and feed that wonderfully insatiable creative monster. I know artists who will purposely start a new painting before they finish the one they are working on so as not to interrupt the flow. I hope you will join me in choosing a word to focus on in 2018!
Happy New Year - Flow unimpeded!
If you’d like to learn more about the One Little Word project, please visit here: https://aliedwards.com/projects/one-little-word
The Blessing Bands that I am wearing in the first two photos were made by Mindfully Made Studios in State College.
Their online store is here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MindfullyMadeStudios
MyIntent.org also makes Word bracelets.