I’ve always envied my hippie yoga friends who seem to live in a perpetual state of flow. They don’t do much planning or organizing, they rarely create To Do lists, and they don’t seem as attached to their calendar as I am. They float from task to task and place to place, and somehow, things always seem to work out for them. They’ll take a trip on a whim and suddenly the perfect friend materializes to offer them a place to stay. Or they’ll lose their job and be offered a new job a week later – without having to submit a resume.
Of course these people’s lives aren’t perfect, and it’s not like things work out for them 100% of the time, but for the most part they embody a sense of grace and ease that I’ve always admired. My life, on the other hand, feels vastly different than what I observe in my flow-y friends.
Why? Because I organize the sh*t out of everything.
I plan right down to the most minute detail – leaving nothing up to chance. As a teen and young adult I put hours of thought and research into big decisions like where I would go to university, what type of degree I would pursue, and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I sought out and actively pursued everything – from companies and professors that I wanted to work for to men that I wanted to date. This level of planning and detail has led to some personal and professional success – and a lot of stress.
I always seem to be trying too hard.
Every once and awhile, however, I would catch glimpses of a flow-like intervention. Like the time I submitted my resume to a company only to run into the CEO at a pub later that night. He gave me his business card and asked me to send my resume straight to him – and I got the job. Or the time when I quit that job and attended a Hay House “I Can Do It” conference on my last day of work – where I found out that Hay House had just opened a self-publishing platform that subsequently published my book.
Often when we think about getting into a state of flow, we imagine it feeling easy. Like my hippie yoga friends, we will suddenly enter a magical realm where every door is an opportunity and every meeting a bridge.
But here’s how it seems to work for me. Getting into a flow state is messy and excruciating. For me, it requires a level of courage that I’m often not comfortable with. It requires me to take leaps of faith that leave my security blankets (i.e. my calendar and To Do list) behind. It means that I leave prestigious jobs with steady incomes, or relationships that are safe but unhappy.
For me, flow states start with butterflies – and sometimes pain – in my stomach. I get nervous over finances and unanswered questions and the general unknown. I feel fearful that nothing will work out and everything will be lost.
For me, flow has to be forced. (At least at first).
I have to push myself off the cliff and pray that the net will appear. I have to surrender how I want things to be, and accept things as they are. I have to trust that as long as I listen to the still, soft voice within, somehow things will work out. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be stress or tears or adversity. There will almost always be plenty of these things. It just means that instead of fighting it, I access the beauty and sweetness that exists even in darkness. I’m able to hold the mystery and paradox of being human – and of forcing flow.
It’s like shifting the tiny jib sail on a catamaran boat. One small movement and the entire boat can change direction. It’s a small, internal shift that can produce big results.
I’ve spent the past two months living in a more flow-like way than I have ever lived. I currently have no home, no car, no kids, no job, and, subsequently, no keys. Sometimes this feels excruciating. Other times it feels like paradise. And the beautiful thing is that I’ve been supported every step of the way. From my mom picking up my mail, to my brother-in-law hosting me at a beautiful cottage, to my sister-in-law sharing freshly made green juice, to my father-in-law letting me stay at his condo overlooking lake Ontario, to my husband driving me to the airport so I can attend a retreat in Montana, to my colleagues offering me consulting gigs when I’m ready to re-enter the working world in August, to far-off relatives helping me find an apartment for my next step in Prague.
I feel blessed beyond measure.
However this blessing didn’t come in an easy peasy way. It came from me having the courage to force myself into a flow.
To escape the drudgery of a nine to five routine that felt comfortable and safe. To trust that, even though I might be a hyper-organized control freak:
Let’s keep the flow going! When have you experienced flow in your life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
Image courtesy of Matthew Wiebe.