Hello Human Being. It’s a beautiful day in Indiana. The thaw is over and new life is springing up everywhere. The last month has been a beast with bitter cold, high winds, and snow a little more than a week ago. Those final days seemed to punctuate a season that was already intolerably cold and unforgiving. But as is so often the case in the Midwest, the weather has changed abruptly, like a hard right turn at 60 miles per hour. We’ve come slip-sliding sideways into the season of rebirth. I’m finding myself today, incredibly grateful for the season and contemplative about my path. This morning it was raining outside, intermittent thunder was cracking through the clouds. Days like this are great for contemplation.
I find that I often think my best thoughts when the sky breaks open and water falls freely.
I try to remain actively thoughtful throughout my day to day experiences and think often about how to better enhance my life by remaining present and aware from moment to moment. In fact, this idea of presence, and the recognition that I am not particularly strong at remaining actively open to life’s experience, was one of the major factors in starting this blog. Writing helps me clear my mind and allows me to organize my thoughts. I find that after putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard in this case, I am better able to engage with others and engage in life on a more general level. I feel that I can more readily exist without analyzing, planning, and calculating. I can simply be.
At this point I want to reiterate that the act of being present is not a passive feat.
It takes work to stay actively engaged and present from one experience to the next. As humans our minds tend to wander and as an American my attention is often divided. We move quickly. We make vain attempts to “multi-task” (a fallacy), and our focus shifts constantly. In a world that is constantly moving and changing it is easy to feel a little lost. It is equally easy to get the sense that if you stop to indulge in a moment you will be left behind. However, it remains true that the world is a relatively small place and we are connected in many ways. Despite the rush of transformation we remain inexplicably tied to one another and to the planet.
I have always been one to pay attention to the abstract and to make connections where there may appear to be none. I have always been told that you should pay attention to coincidence. I believe that if something comes up in your life in three or more seemingly random or unrelated occurrences, it is no longer a simple coincidence. I believe that it is a sign. I believe that there is a connection to be made.
Well, in recent weeks it has become abundantly clear that the Universe has a very specific message for me; The concept of fluidity has found its way into a number of important conversations and situations among my friends, family, and colleagues. But let me take a step back to provide a little more context.
I am a textbook Virgo in most scenarios with a smattering of Libra traits, as I was born on the cusp of the two signs. Virgo is an Earth sign. A quick web search will provide many descriptions of the Virgo type. For example, about.com characterizes Virgo with a short list of traits:
Modest and shy
Meticulous and reliable
Practical and diligent
Intelligent and analytic
Fussy and a worrier
Overcritical and harsh
Perfectionist and conservative
I would add to this list that we Virgos (or at least “I, Virgo”) are very rigid and often approach change with apprehension, reservation, and anxiety. It is not that we Virgos can’t roll with the punches, it is that we feel more comfortable after going through the motions of over-analyzing and considering every. possible. scenario. This is not unique to Virgos (and in some cases may not even be true), but my personal experience has supported this truth. Which brings me back to the intention behind this entry, that is, to explore the idea of fluidity.
I must make a conscious effort to remain “fluid” and to see the positive aspects of changes as they come into my life, even when I am the one to initiate those changes. I’ve mentioned in a couple of my previous posts that this is an issue I’ve struggled with throughout my life, and my anxiety is one of the single greatest sources of frustration for me. It is hard to simply be, when you’re reviewing a never-ending mental list of “what-ifs” and criticisms.
It may seem that I am contradicting myself here, but I want to make a distinction. As I mentioned, being is an active process. Being requires thoughtfulness too. It is simply that the type of thinking we do can either encourage fluidity or stonewall us completely. This is the difference between positive and negative thinking, and the difference between being and doing.
Lately there have been a lot of questions in my life. I’ve found myself re-evaluating friendships, professional interests, and artistic endeavors. To be frank, fluidity has infiltrated my life from every angle. I have felt stuck in the mud, but this feeling has triggered in me the motivation to reconsider how I can think about these things in a more positive way with more focus toward the present and future. I am consciously shifting my thoughts because I have finally recognized that my thoughts need to mirror the ways of the world.
I am reminded at every turn that there is no such thing as constancy. There is no such thing as permanence.
There is only the proverbial rushing water through which everything moves, and flows, and drifts.
Have you ever been caught in a situation in which you find yourself clinging to the past? I have. And I’ve learned that the more I clung to the past, the more banged up, bruised, and defeated I felt when I finally accepted the present.
So what do we do to encourage fluidity in our lives? How can we remain now-focused and gain the most from our present situations?
First and foremost I think it’s important to honor your temple, meaning take care of your body. Our bodies are the receptacles for our souls and we should take care to maintain them in the best shape possible. In psychology the hierarchy of needs posits that one cannot move effectively toward a higher plane of thinking until basic needs are met: safety, health, nutrition, well-being (physical and mental). Having an unwell body will very literally block us from “higher experiences”. This happens because we become consumed with our physical woes. I know this is true of me and I’ve witnessed the same in others.
Therefore it is one of my primary goals to maintain my health through physical exercise, spiritual practice, eating good, raw foods, and most importantly drinking tons of water. Recall that our bodies are made up of 70% water. Our bodies are much like the planet, the surface of which is also 70% covered in water. It is important to replenish the water we lose from our bodies on a daily basis. The average person eliminates about 1.2 liters of water in urine each day, and also eliminates about 1 liter a day through perspiration and respiration. When this water is not replenished many things can happen to our bodies and I find that many of us don’t recognize that lack of hydration is the root cause. First our digestion slows and becomes less efficient. Our bowels need water to break down waste and effectively remove it from the body. When we don’t get enough water, digestion slows, toxins build up and other areas are affected. In many cases a poor complexion, chronic headaches, and muscle spasms can all be linked back to a lack of hydration. Water also helps to balance our pH levels, which is not something we typically think about, but if our system becomes unbalanced we risk infection and other illnesses. This is why I’ve committed myself to drinking at least 2 liters of water a day. This is a challenge, in that I love coffee, and will choose it over water, without thinking most days. Therefore the act of drinking that much water is a small exercise in mindfulness that helps me to get on the track of more fluid thinking.
Speaking of being in balance, we must also consider the way our bodies are affected by the moon, and how it affects our fluidity. Much like the ocean tide our bodies also respond to the moon phases. In fact, women have historically experienced their menstrual cycles in sync with the moon phases, ovulating on the full moon and menstruating on the new moon. As we as a people have advanced in terms of technology, lifestyle, et cetera, we have moved away from this natural ebb and flow. I believe this has happened because we have become less in tune with our body’s cues. If we pay close attention our bodies will tell us what they need.
In my experience yoga has helped me immensely in terms of reconnecting with my body and therefore reconnecting with the natural flow of our planet. At my studio we pay close attention to the moon phases and develop practices around them. Often on a full moon (when gravity’s pull is the strongest) we will notice that our balance is not as strong. This is because the moon creates a mini ocean tide within our bodies. When I first began to notice this connection between the moon, and water, and our bodies, I was floored. Actually, quite literally, as my lack of balance required a practice that was primarily on the ground! It was something I was able to validate through my practice and when I gave in to the idea of it, and found myself more cognizant of the moon phases, I found that my body responded favorably.
This was incredibly encouraging, and got me thinking about the other ways that yoga has enhanced fluidity in my life. Obviously there is the fluid movement that we engage in during a physical practice, but there was something else too. That is, the yoga of life, meaning the idea of mindfulness through everyday experience and the exploration of positive thoughts. I mentioned earlier how some thoughts are fluid and others are stonewalls. In yoga, the language is entirely fluid. Yoga is focused on observance, kindness, acceptance, and gratitude. Yoga does not care about your past or your future, just a healthy and ego-free experience of the present. Yoga is the expression of both fluid minds and fluid bodies.
Yoga does not care about what was, and yoga does not care what will be.
Yoga is a practice of what is in this moment.
Yoga is also often about finding space in idleness. It is about patience and finding quiet, peaceful fulfillment in little moments. A strong meditation practice has allowed me to find comfort in the idle spaces in my life. This space has allowed for a great many wonderful streams of thought, that have spurned forth creative ideas and deeper, more helpful questions. Meditation allowed me to find a higher plane on which to ponder and explore.
“My mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way.” -Virginia Woolf
When I think like a yogi, I find that I am in a happier place. It is one of kindness and acceptance. It is one that reminds me to let go and to be and to let experiences pass over me like the flow of water across a rocky creek bed. This was never more helpful than when I found myself in a situation in which my two closest girlfriends turned their backs on me. I found myself stuck, asking why it had to happen, asking how long it would last, and fervently clinging to the idea of what our friendship was. This became a tedious and exhausting experience. I was mentally and emotionally tapped out. I could cry at the drop of a hat. I could not focus at work and I could not be present at home. These girls, and the psychological warfare they committed against me (or so it seemed), had consumed me completely. Instead of letting the experience pass I found myself caught up in the questions. Because I was so insistent that things should go back to “the way they were” I blocked myself from better experiences with other people who wanted to be a part of my life. It was through yoga, that I gained the symbolism and the framework by which to reconstruct my thoughts and move away from all these hindrances to my happy life. When I was finally able to let go of what was, I saw the truth. The truth is friendships are like organisms. They grow, change, morph, adapt, and sometimes they expire. Sometimes they need to expire.
This brings me to my next, and final major point. Sometimes the relationships we have with others play into negative habits. Some friends are toxic. How do you recognize a toxic friendship? Well, that’s something I’d like to explore in a future post. Suffice it to say that in the realm of friendship and love relationships for that matter, the people you surround yourself should encourage you, and lift you up. They should energize you and they should love you as you are. They will be there when times are tough, and not just when the water runs smooth.
“Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.”
― Steve Maraboli
None of what I’ve said here comes easily. I’ve had many struggles, moments of apprehension, massive anxiety, and moments of pondering. However, I am learning to trust my intuition and accepting sometimes we are meant to live through life’s questions. Sometimes the essence of being fluid is that, like water, you don’t always know where you’re going. Sometimes life moves slowly, smoothly; other times we rush and tumble and diverge from our intended path. It’s all ok. Let go, and enjoy the ride. With that, another quote, that is close to my heart:
“I beg you… to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. The point is, to live everything. live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. ” -Rainer Maria Rilke