No Goodbye to Flow

Flow has been a good word for July (My 12 Words for 2018), because July has been a clunky month with lots of unanticipated interruptions and distractions. What better environment is there for exploring and practicing Flow, right? What is Flow, in all the chunks and clunks?

I have always loved the word Flow. To me, it is very appealing. It feels purposeful and full of momentum.

I’m strongly kinesthetic, and Flow is a sensing, feeling, touching kind of a word.

I like to move. I have a standing desk so I can move. I’m challenged most when I’m physically impaired in some way and my movement is limited.

But what is Flow, and how do we “be” Flow, or in Flow?

Mid-month, I knew that I needed to quit trying to define it and begin to experience it (duh!).

I quickly realized that I may not be able to define Flow, but I knew when I was “in Flow” and when I wasn’t in Flow.

I’m in Flow when I’m “firing on all cylinders,” mind, body, and spirit.

When I am in Flow:

  • My mind is sharp, clear, and focused
  • My body is flowing and flexible
  • I’m in tune with my deepest self and the spirit of inspiration is flowing

When I’m not in Flow, one or more of those three things is not in sync; mind, body and spirit are not in tune or in synergy.

Flow is that simple. Flow happens when I am in tune with mind, body, and spirit, and each of them is supporting the other.

So, how to sustain Flow?

I’ve been paying attention to Self Care, and to balancing the well-being of my mind, body and spirit. I’ve been making good Self Care essential, not optional. If you want to check in on your own Self Care, here’s a checklist to give you some ideas.

Sustaining Flow, for me, is a matter of keeping mind, body and spirit fine-tuned and in sync with each other.

That is easy to say, but actually living it, practicing it,  dare I say “rigorously,” is the next frontier.

I guess that Flow isn’t going to be neatly wrapped up in July. Flow is going to spill into the next month, and probably the next, and maybe the one after that, co-existing with the words for those months.

I certainly don’t want Flow to fall off the radar, because there is one thing that I do know about Flow: Living in Flow is essential to my highest well-being.

 

Flow Has Me Flummoxed

Flow is my July word (see the original 12 Words blog post, if you are just tuning in).

Flow has me flummoxed.

What is Flow?

We hear “Go with the Flow,” or “Tune into the Flow,” or “Align with the Flow.” But what is Flow?

When I look back at my whole life (what I can remember, anyway!), there is a discernible order in what, at the time, felt like chaos and uncertainty. There seems to be an organic unfolding. Sometimes I went with it easily, sometimes more reluctantly, and sometimes kicking and screaming.

I guess I have lived enough life at this point to believe that there is a creative flow or force operating in my life, one that underlies all the individual circumstances and situations. All the things that I thought at the time were bumps, roadblocks, stumbles, and wanderings, now make sense in the larger picture of my life.

Maybe that is Flow.

But in the daily moments, my life still often feels anything but Flow-y. It feels twisty and turn-y and at times inscrutable.

Maybe Flow just isn’t always to be known in the moment.

Yet, I still trust that there is an order, and a creative flow, and maybe that is what is important.

Maybe Flow is right here, and I am just not feeling it all the time.

You can see that I still have several crossed wires about Flow.

However, I trust that even as I write this, my understanding of Flow is sorting itself out, and all will be revealed in good time, and in right order.

In the meantime, What is Flow?

 

Expansion Happens

Expansion happens.

Life causes me to expand. Life gives me what I need to expand.

My Expansion (any of ours) is unfolding and emerging organically.

I want to engage with it, and not resist it. It is going to have its way with me anyway. 🙂

But, and it’s a Big But, how do I know it when I see it? How do I know what is authentic Expansion (coming from my inner essence, or True Self), and what are the Shoulds, Coulds, Oughtas, or the Next Shiny Thing?

For me, it is a kinesthetic sense. Expansion that originates from my True Self feels like a deep grounding of This-Feels-Right-ness within me.

I’ve practiced tuning into this inner essence long enough that I know when something feels right/is right.

But it is a continual dance with life, checking in, pausing, and resetting my course to align with what is calling me from my deep sense.

What is “mine to do”? What is it time for now?

These questions are beginning to be a more unconscious feeling and response now, but in the beginning I needed to stop and pause and go within, many times during a day, in order to stay aligned with the true course that I want to be on.

And, this process and practice applies to everything for me, right down to the mundane and minute as well as the “big questions” of life.

It has become a path of sensing the “inner impulse of knowing”.

Many times, I don’t know the answers to all of my questions. This way of being in the world doesn’t guarantee that every answer comes to me just because I want it to, and when I want it to.

I’ve had to learn that in order to respect true Expansion, I must respect true Expansion’s timing. So I spend a lot of time in the Land of Not Knowing. But I have found that if I hold my questions gently and curiously, without attachment, the answers come right when I need them.

Expansion has been a wise teacher this month. I’ve re-learned some things that I already knew but had been neglecting, and I learned some new things. This seems to be the way that it has been going with the 12 Words this year.

Now…drum roll please…it is on to July’s word: Flow. Maybe I will just let Expansion flow, and then be done for the month. 🙂 I am sure Flow has more in store for me than just that. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Expansion Does Not Equal Productivity

As I have been playing with Expansion this month, I’ve realized that periods of rest and restoration are an essential aspect of Expansion.

This is, in a way, counterintuitive to me.

However, if you look at nature, there are cycles of renewal and expansion. Tulips owe their blooms of brilliant color to the restoration process that the bulbs go through during the off season.

I believe that Expansion for us is similar. There are periods of regeneration that support our Expansion. And, those cycles of renewal are a necessary aspect of our Expansion.

So, Expansion does not equal productivity.

This may be obvious, but it wasn’t to me. For some reason, I had been thinking that if I am growing and expanding, it means that I am producing at a steady and energetic pace. And, that the reverse was also true: if I am producing at a steady and energetic pace, I am expanding.

I now believe that we are still expanding during quieter cycles of renewal and reflection, but that it just looks different. These are times of inner expansion, and in these times of quiet and inner connection, we are deepening the foundation that is also part of expansion. We are expanding in an inner sense. This Expansion may not be visible on the outside.

I learned this through my experience in the Direct Watercolor Challenge that I mentioned in this blog post. I’ve been expanding in many ways through producing a painting and sharing it every day. The Challenge has pushed my skills and tested my commitment.

But during the month, I have needed to have several cycles of contemplation and “step-back”, to renew my faith in myself and my courage to keep going, and to understand the nature of my commitment to the process. I needed to keep asking myself what was inspiring my continued engagement and commitment. I needed to refocus my intentions for the project several times during the month. I needed to keep digging deep for the courage to post the “failures” as well as the “successes”. (Turns out they were all successes from the standpoint of the process, as opposed to the outcome, of course.)

In the process of this exploration of Expansion, a question arose in me, which I will share with you, because it is still an open question for me, and I’m very curious about it. If restoration time is an essential part of Expansion, how do you know the difference between a restoration cycle, and inner resistance to Expansion?

Expansion

Our June word (see 12 Words) is Expansion.

I have a core belief that as humans we naturally expand through our life experiences.

But what is different as we engage consciously with our own expansion process?

How do we do that?

What is required of us, to do that?

How do we invite expansion and open ourselves to new or greater possibilities?

How much do we choose to engage in experiences that will stretch us?

These are the questions that are currently active in me about expansion, and I don’t have many answers yet.

This month, I’m participating in an art challenge called 30 X 30 Direct Watercolor. I’ve committed to create and post a new watercolor painting every day for 30 days, without using any pencil or ink lines.

I’ve participated in a number of art challenges, most of which involve a commitment to do a specific kind of art every day, and then to share it on social media with the other participants in the challenge. I always learn and grow from these challenges. My art, and I, always seem to expand from the experience, often in ways that I cannot anticipate.

This challenge is kicking my butt because it is a much bigger challenge, for me, than its predecessors. It is also giving me seemingly endless opportunities to expand my focus and my skill as an artist, and it seems to be doing the same for the other participating artists. I am having a lot of fun with it, along with some frustrating growing pains.

It has made me think about the nature of expansion, and about our role in it.

Sometimes expansion just happens to us, as a result of our life circumstances, and we react to it.

Sometimes we make something happen, by our sheer will and determination, and we expand.

And then there are those times in life when expansion feels like pure magic: Life unfolds naturally and we respond with joy, and it all feels like a seamless and fluid dance. To me, that’s the best kind of expansion.

Receptivity is Living Surrendered

We’re already at the end of April, and I have not posted much about Receptivity. This month has been very interesting, as have the past 3 months, with the 12 Words.

I’ve thought a lot about Receptivity, and journaled a lot about it. I’ve been committed to embodying Receptivity, as much as I can.

For me, Receptivity has been the most challenging of the words so far to understand, at a deep level, and to embody.

At first I thought that Receptivity is easy, just to receive. What could be easier than receiving?

But the more I learned and experienced Receptivity, the more it became clear that it isn’t a passive state. It’s an active practice, and an active presence.

It is a constant, conscious shedding, or letting go, of my expectations and assumptions of how things should be, or how they should go.

It is continual clearing of my “field”, so that I may be an open, fertile field of openness and awareness.

It is living surrendered.

It’s not a destination, but a practice.

To really receive the fullness of anything, inner wisdom, someone’s love, an opportunity, a possibility, a surprise, a challenge, we need to be open and aware.

And, if we are looking for something in particular, or we are expecting something to come in a particular way, we’re not open.

If we are assuming that something in our lives is broken, and needs fixing, all we tend to see is the “broken,” and we miss the inspiration that is flowing through us continuously, moving us towards an even fuller experience of deep well-being, and a knowing of our true nature.

Once again, it essentially comes down to living our lives actively present in the moment.

As I have said before, for me, that’s a pretty big challenge, but so worth it.

What have you learned about Receptivity this month?

All Roads Lead to Presence

It’s already past mid-month, so it’s time to weigh in on my word for April, Receptivity.

It seems like all of my words so far (Curiosity, Vitality, Eagerness, and Receptivity) have led me back to Presence: Being in the Present Moment. So simple, but not always so easy, at least for me.

For a long time, I thought of being Receptive as passive, like a field laying fallow, waiting for the farmer to plant something in it.

I’m discovering that, for me, Receptivity is a combination of Readiness and Willingness. And, it is far from passive.

Readiness seems like a sort of active alertness, a state of being with all of my “receptors” turned on and ready to receive, in fact, expecting to receive. This state of being has a quality of positive expectancy.

Willingness is also active. It’s a “Yes!” to life, to what is currently unfolding in my life. It is an active clearing of my inner landscape of what I think things “should” look like in my life, in favor of what really wants to happen in my life from deep within. It’s not a passive waiting; it’s a process of actively offering a clear “landing spot” for creative inspiration from within, and then, when the inspiration “lands,” engaging with it.

For many years, I’ve lived my life with a commitment to acting in alignment with my inner guidance and inspiration. This has required Receptivity. I’ve developed practices to help me live that commitment to Receptivity.

I can feel in my body when I’m being receptive, and when I’m not.

Not Receptive feels like constriction.

Receptivity feels like spaciousness.

My body knows, and I know when I tune into my body.

For me, moving from constriction to spaciousness is a simple practice of becoming conscious that I am constricted, letting go of how I think things should be, and breathing deeply until I feel spacious inside.

What’s Receptivity for you?

 

 

 

12 Words at 3 Months

Apologies for the late publication of this 12 Words stock-take; I meant for it to publish on March 31. It is an Operator Error: I forgot to push the Publish button! Sometimes life is so gloriously simple. 🙂  By now, I’m well into my exploration of Receptivity; I expect to have a blog post about it in a few days.

The first three of the 12 Words have taught me so much.

Eagerness (March word) is the quickening – a signal – that points to what’s emerging next through me.

  • It arises spontaneously from within.
  • It needs space to “land”.
  • It’s the breadcrumb trail of my true self.

Vitality (February word) is the energy and aliveness that I feel when I am aligned with the creative flow of life unfolding.

  • It is a commitment to presence.
  • It’s a letting go of prior beliefs and assumptions of how things ought to be.
  • It is respect for innate rhythm.

Curiosity (January word) is an intention to meet life with an open heart and an enthusiasm to discover.

  • It is a commitment to embrace what is, and be curious about it.
  • It is a “what if” way of being in the world.
  • It is living with a sense of adventure.

As for the process of the 12 words, I could never have imagined how this practice of attention would enrich my life, when I began this journey in January.

It has grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and taken me on a road of greater awakening to my life.

More and more, I am releasing into and trusting the flow of creative spirit unfolding from within, as it takes me in and around and back and forth.

It is an unpredictable ride, and it takes me to unexpected places. I think my business is going in this direction, and it is “that”. I assume my health is this, and “that” shows up. And, always, wholeness is calling me to a deeper truth of fundamental well-being that is beyond the apparent circumstances.

As a life coach, I have always known that our lives are our greatest creative endeavors, and that it really is all about the journey and not the destination. I am now being challenged to live that knowing even more fully, in a wholly committed way.

What the 12 Words have done for me most, so far, I think, is to demand my full presence and attention, right in this red hot moment. It’s a cliche that the present moment is all we’ve got, but it’s more than that. It’s where all the curiosity, vitality, and eagerness of life actually are.

I am curious to discover what April’s word, Receptivity, has in store for me.

At first glance, Receptivity seems like a soft and passive word to me, but I am sure I will discover that it is much more than that, as I travel further on the path of greater vitality and eagerness in my life.

What have Curiosity, Vitality, and Eagerness taught you, so far?

 

Eagerness – Be Empty

I came across a quote from Lao-Tsu: “Clay is molded into vessels, and because of the space where there is nothing, you can carry water. Space is carved out from a wall, and because of the place where there is nothing, you can receive light. Be empty, and you will remain full.”

This was a message to me about Eagerness, my March Word.

Eagerness is a call to pay attention, to open, to receive, and to follow.

Eagerness is an energy that arises within me, a signpost or breadcrumb, illuminating the path of my true self.

However, Eagerness needs for me to be spacious and receptive in order to show itself to me. If I am too filled, I will miss its energy and its beckoning.

For me, attending to Eagerness leads to engagement: it shows me the way to a much fuller engagement with my life.

It’s identified by a quickening from within, a very visceral sensation.

So I’m practicing emptying, so that the subtle and not so subtle breadcrumbs of Eagerness are apparent to me.

I’m emptying my mind as I go through my day. I try to remember to empty my mind each time I walk over a threshold or doorway, during my day.

I’m also emptying myself of preconceived notions, beliefs, assumptions, and perceptions, so as to be a receptive field for Eagerness to land.

“Be empty, and you will remain full.”

What are the ways that you empty yourself, so that you are a receptive vessel for the call of your true self?

 

Inscrutable Eagerness

Eagerness is my word (see 12 Words) for March.

I’ve thought a lot about Eagerness this month. I’ve “hearted” a lot about Eagerness. I’ve even written a lot about it.

Eagerness has been inscrutable for me.

I have noticed that Curiosity (my January word) and Eagerness are frequent companions. At first, I thought they were the same thing. Then I realized that Curiosity is something that I choose to invoke. Eagerness is something that arises spontaneously from within me, and invites me to respond to it.

They have a similar feeling to me: a quickening, and a palpable sense of positive anticipation.

As a kid growing up in Northern California, I was fortunate to spend many summer vacations in Yosemite National Park. This was before it was an insanely popular tourist destination. It was one of my parents’ favorite places. I  spent quite a few summers in my 20’s backpacking Upper Yosemite. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Yosemite.

One of Yosemite’s hallmarks is its sheer granite cliffs.

I still remember Curiosity driving me to the edges of those sheer drops of thousands of feet in Yosemite. I couldn’t wait to see what I could see from the edges, and to feel the sense of expansive vistas.

Curiosity pushes me to the edges of my comfort zone, and into new and expansive experiences, and Curiosity brings Eagerness with it.

Eagerness is an energy that bubbles up spontaneously from within me.

It’s a pathfinder. It points to an opportunity for joy.

Eagerness invites me to follow it.

I’ve been playing with the invitations of Eagerness this month.

When I feel its spark within me, I stop, breathe, and allow it to fill me with its delicious and enticing energy.

I see where it leads me.

I savor the experience of Eagerness, and the joy it leads me to.

What is Eagerness for you?

 

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