Picture, in pure, real-life, analogue color, a stream cascading down a snow-capped, cloud-kissed mountain. The water moves forward seemingly without effort, without resistance; winding down some paths; going straight on others. And faced with “obstacles” like stones or rocks or trees, it merely backs off for a second and then eddies its way around; and sometimes even going through them smoothening handsome surfaces with a flowing patience. And along its journey, it nourishes, feeds, hydrates and sustains life in all its biodiversity. But in a flash, it too can flood and uproot and pull apart and destroy; but all without ill-intent and simply doing what it does, it flows on and on. In ‘hard’ times, it may dry up, but it is always there as a stream bed; content, and ready to pick up again at any time.
Our life is like this too; except that we have a brain and consciousness that allows us to think. And the act of thinking creates concepts and constructs such as of time, of a self or ego, and of free will or volition. Speaking of the latter, it is interesting that neurological studies actually show that a person’s brain already commits to certain actions before a person becomes conscious of that action. With brain scanning techniques, scientists are able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects will press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject becomes aware of having made that choice! We feel that “we” choose’ but we don’t; our natural intelligence does and we simply go along for the ride.
If you look back from your birth to where you are now, you will realize how much you have simply flowed; even from one lifetime to the next. This perspective brings an awareness of life’s essential unity; and we simply learn to cooperate with its natural flow and order. You can attain a state of being that is both fully free and independent and at the same time fully connected to the life force of the Universe; a life force known as mana in Hawaii and as prana or qi or chi in other cultures and practices.
There are many meditative practices, including yoga, that nurture the feeling state of being aware of your Life Force, the elan vital as coined by the French philosopher, Henri Bergson. However to do that requires stilling the body, controlling your breath, turning your senses inward, so that we can focus and concentrate the mind in order to meditate and let go of and stop thoughts so as to feel this state of pure Self-Awareness, of the Universal Life Force that you are. You are not apart from but a part of this unity, this ‘one verse.’ It is a feeling of complete trust and total collaboration with what is presenting itself to you. It is like when you have that ‘perfect’ connection with a ballroom dance partner that you actually move as ‘one body.’
The ‘trick’ is to not let emotions compulsively drive you; or to over think and over analyze. Thinking is a tool that creates concepts and objectifies. “Problems” exist only in thoughts; all judgments and problems vanish when thoughts stop. What is fear? It is only a thought with its corresponding feelings. Stop thinking and end your problems. It means acceptance and letting go of the past. You want to end time and feel eternal? Then stop thinking it. ‘Past, present, and future’ are artificial breakdowns in the conceptual construction of time, in what is really a continuum. Even cause and effect are only separate in ‘time;’ without time, they are one.
We think and create the idea of a separate individual, an ego; and in so doing, we objectify ourselves. I become an object every time I think of myself. We don’t know our true Self because our thoughts create us as a separate object. You have no objective existence outside of thinking; not even a subjective existence as you. Because the moment you see yourself as ‘subject,’ then you have made you, the subject, an object. You really only exist as Existence itself! Stop objectifying yourself and you become Eternal because only objects can be born and can die; move beyond the concept of time, and flow.
In Taoism, they speak of the way of Wu Wei: moved only by the “Will of God.” In Christianity, we say, “Let Go, Let God.” These both reflect the idea that when you stop objectifying, you live without volition. Every time “I” act as myself, it is an object which acts; and as an actor, I take full responsibility. Better yet, I can act directly as that Life Force; but then there is no “I” that acts and I simply Witness my life as it flows, completely free and unburdened.
Learn to follow your heart, be yourself, and trust your instinct. Accept that everything is not in our control and react in the moment. Be aware, trust the Intelligence that you are, go with the grain, swim with the current. Experience yourself as part of the unity of life. Listen to your inner voice and to the voices around you in our environment in a receptive manner, without resistance. And in so doing you live and perform even better, always moving forward like a mountain stream.
Mihaly Csikszentmilhalyi, a Hungarian psychologist, described his concept of flow as a highly focused mental state in which people are at their happiest. It is a “state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation that nothing else seems to matter.” People describe this state as being ‘in the zone’ or ‘in the groove.’ He has described it “as doing an activity for its own sake; and in so doing, ego falls away, time flies. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” You can learn more about how people have used his concept of flow in their lives at next TEDxHonolulu on July 9th, 2016 at the Blaisdell Arena.
We can consciously cultivate being in this flow. Live simply; do no harm to you or others; be truthful and live with integrity; do not steal or be occupied with lust or greed. Live clean and pure lives; be content; practice austerity even in speech; keep learning and studying and be devoted to a practice and/or a spiritual tradition. This lifestyle is promoted by all major Religions and mind-body practices such as yoga, qi gong, etc. Such practices teach us the skills of controlling the body and thought activity so we can attain that state of complete absorption and Self-awareness; to realize that we are all Spirit in bodies; and not bodies with a ‘spirit.’ And together, in that one Consciousness, we manifest this world. As Rumi so beautifully writes, “Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your Spirit.”” Stop acting so small,” he writes, “You are the entire universe in ecstatic motion!”
So let us all play together and play well in this game of life, as Bernard de Koven advices in his book, “The Well-Played Game.” Let us meet our losses and gains with equanimity. That itself is a spiritual practice. Play to grow, to learn, to feel the Truth of what we are; and play for the sake of enjoying playing. Play well and live well; and it is the realization of the well-played game and the well-lived life that makes us timeless. If you play and live well, you are complete. You are moving forward; like a mountain stream.
Photo Credit: 白士 李: River at the Li Song Hot Spring (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pslee999/24152793252/), woodleywonderworks: finding balance (https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/9533293701/), Jaime González: Arroyo Cerradillas (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jgonzac/22085223823/)