Flow

Maybe the Most Perfect Word

At the beginning of the year (you know . . . back when it all seemed so fresh and inviting and full of possibility?), I chose FLOW as my word for 2020. But it wasn't an obvious word choice. It was more that I had a . . . concept. . . in mind long before I had a word.

My concept? Well, I'd just spent a year on "intention" -- and I'd done a lot of work developing my personal values and understanding how important alignment is when it comes to intention, and - here is the biggie - coming to grips with reality-meeting-intentions. I really wanted to continue that work, but with a little more energy and some action -- and much more thinking.

I knew from the start that I wanted to focus more on mindfulness, and I wanted to explore how mindfulness could apply to my work flow and my creative flow. I wanted to do some very specific, flowing kind of movements -- more frequent yoga flows, for example, and spending more time on the water kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. I had been wanting to get away from calendar-time and tune in more to the lunar phases. And, mostly, I wanted to accept how to just . . . let that shit go . . . in my life.

One word just kept popping up as I thought about my concept: FLOW. So I went with it! It felt right to me. I decided to just kind of . . . see where the word took me. I didn't want to establish any set plans or specific goals, though. Not really. Because . . . that just seemed to be the antithesis of FLOW. Right?

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How could I have known then . . . what 2020 would throw my way!?!

Because, yeah. A global pandemic will kind of upend Every. Single. Thing.
Requiring . . . that you go with the flow!

FLOW . . . because no other alternative, really.

Things I'm learning these days (about living through a pandemic AND about going with the flow):

  • Mindfulness . . . is the key to getting me through my days.
  • Calendar? What calendar? I'll pay attention to the moon instead!
  • Stay rooted  . . . but flow! Change is everywhere.
  • Solitary time . . . brings clarity. And resourcefulness.
  • Getting into flow (through exercise or creative pursuits) . . . invites release, escape, and peace.
  • Let go of control . . . to see what emerges.

"Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing."
        --- Jon Kabat-Zinn

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How about YOU? What are you learning from your word this year?


Flowing Through April

It's early.  I'm watching some fog roll in.  Listening to the morning bird-joy outside.  Drinking some coffee.

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And thinking about how this year just isn't going in any direction that I thought it would when I cooked up that hopeful pot of black-eyed peas (way) back on January 1.  Picking my new word and setting my intentions for the year ahead.  Putting future dates and events and trips on my 2020 calendar.  Knowing that there would be some surprises in the coming months (because of course there are always surprises out there), but feeling confident in the overall direction of things, and full of hope for a fresh new year.

Well.

We know how quickly that all came off the rails now, don't we?

Back in January, when I first started out with my word (flow), I had some loose notions in mind of how I might frame my explorations . . . as I let my word work that One-Little-Word-magic in me.  I figured I'd use it as a springboard for thinking about and engaging with things that. . . well . . . flow.  Creativity.  Work.  Yoga.  Movement.  Water.  Words.  The moon.  There were things I wanted to learn about and think about and DO.  I knew, too, that I wanted to renew my commitment to and strengthen my mindfulness practice.  I wanted to be more present.  I wanted to listen more carefully to my own heart.  To let things go.  To be less driven by shoulds-and-oughts.  And to be okay with all that.

This morning, as I sat there listening to the birds and watching the fog and sipping from my flow-mug, I realized that EVERYTHING has changed.  

Except it also hasn't.

The world has changed, certainly.  MY world has changed, definitely.  But me?  I'm still interested in all those same things I was interested in back on January 1.  Things that flow.  Creativity.  Work.  Yoga.  Movement.  Water.  Words.  The moon.  There are still things I want to learn about and think about and DO.  Every day, I'm working to strengthen my mindfulness practice.  I'm trying to be more present.  I'm trying to listen more carefully to my own heart.  I'm trying to let things go, now more than ever.  I'm certainly less driven by shoulds-and-oughts.  I want to be okay with that.

I've realized that I am . . . still ME.
Still grounded.
Still rooted.
Still . . . THERE.

Sure.  The virus is out there and not going away.  The economy is in shambles.  Our "leader" is incapable of leading us.  (And certainly doesn't want to help any of us.)  We're basically stuck in a total toxic dumpster fire.  

All that crap, though?  I've got to let it go.  I have to let it flow around me.  I've got to keep moving.  I've got to find new ways of doing.  Of dealing.  Of living.  As Virginia Woolf said . . . 

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And that's where I am right now, here at the end of April in 2020.  
Working to stay rooted.  
While I let things flow.

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How about YOU?  What are you learning about your word these days?

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You can find my earlier One Little Word posts for the year here . . . 

Choosing My Word (January)

Getting Started (February)

Be Like Water (mid-March)

Pushing the River (March)


What a Month!

Oh, March!
Talk about going out like a lion!  
Let's end this very . . . trying . . . month with some thoughts on my One Little Word this year.

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I'll begin with a little trip down memory lane . . . to my 18th birthday . . . way back in 1977.

For my birthday that year (my senior year in high school), I received a gift (I think it was from my sister, although it might have been from my mom) that I had been coveting for some months.  It was what I called at the time . . . an "empty book" --   just a  plain bound book full of blank pages.  

I know that sounds silly these days -- because you can go to any brick-and-mortar book or stationery store - or anywhere online - and find dozens upon dozens of "empty books."  But back in 1977, you couldn't.  You could buy diaries (by year, and often with a lock) (and I did have a new one of those every year), but blank journals just weren't A Thing yet.  

When I first saw one (I think at our local Hallmark store), I was entranced!  I had to have it!

I still have it. . . 

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It's nearly full.  

I used it to collect "sayings" (as I called them then).  And poems.  I drew in it a bit.  Practiced calligraphy.  There are LOTS of song lyrics in there!  Sometimes friends wrote things they thought I might like in my "empty book" (with my permission).  Unfortnately, I didn't always attribute the "sayings" or poems to their authors.  And I didn't date any of my entries.  But I know I started right out in March 1977 . . . and put the book away about the same time I graduated from college.  (There are no dates, but just based on the types of things I was writing down, I can tell what was going on in my life:  new love, break-ups, betrayals, growing up, discovering my own life.)

Anyway.

Here's the first page . . . the very first things I captured in my "empty book" back in March 1977 . . . 

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Now.

Let's take a closer look at the sideways writing on the right-hand side of that page . . . 

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"Don't push the river . . . it flows by itself."

You can probably HEAR my kids rolling their eyes out there right this moment.  Because this has been a constant mantra in my life  . . . well . . . since 1977 (at least).  And my kids heard it PLENTY as they were going through rough patches in their lives growing up.  Although I didn't attribute the quote to anyone at all, it turns out it's from Frederick S. Perls, who is the father of Gestalt therapy.  (Who knew?)

When I chose FLOW as my word for 2020, my first thought was, of course, "don't push the river . . . it flows by itself."

Pretty much a lifetime mantra for me.
How could I have known that it would be more important than ever for me this year?

These March days have been all about me . . . trying to push the river.  Wanting to control things I can't control.  Worrying.  Stressing.  Struggling.

It's time to quit pushing.
And let it flow.

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What have you learned from your word this month?

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Also -- thank you so much for all the wonderful birthday wishes yesterday!  You all made my self-isolating, social-distancing birthday so much nicer!  (What would I do without this commUNITY???)  


Be Like Water

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water.  If you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup.  You put water in a bottle and it becomes the bottle.  You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.  Now, water can flow, or it can crash.  Be like water, my friend."
    --- Bruce Lee

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I've been struggling a little bit these last few days.  Which has kind of surprised me, actually.  I mean . . . I should be really good at "self-isolating."  I have my knitting and sewing and art projects.  I have plenty of things to read.  I've got a well-stocked pantry. Streaming services.  The daily New York Times crossword puzzle.  Friends and family to talk to.  Tom at home.  Dogs to walk.  Plenty of cleaning and home-organizing tasks.  Gardening when the weather allows.  Really.  I have no end of things to occupy myself.  And I'm an introvert, to boot!  I actually enjoy quiet time at home!

And yet . . . 

While I'm not exactly anxious, I am definitely . . . unsettled, scattered, finding it hard to focus.  

So yesterday I spent some time meditating.  
And journaling.  
And I started thinking about . . . flow.

Be like water, my friend.

Keep moving.  
Tumble and rush over the rocks.  
Move smoothly around the obstacles in your path.  
Push outside the banks and boundaries.  
Rest quietly behind the log jams.  

Be like water, my friend.

Flow.

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Today in the Look for Joy department, I have 2 things for you:

Thing 1:  If you'd like another Instagram distraction especially good for These Days, check out @goodnewsmovement. It's full of joy.  Also smiles and good chuckles.

Thing 2:  Knit designer Heather Sebastian is offering all her little "monster" patterns for free right now over on Ravelry.  She wants to "bring some light into this sad, scary situation we’re all in - and what better way than with monsters!"  I have knit her Minions before -- and they are adorable!  Yeah, they're futsy knitting.  But also fun.  And cheery.  Joyful, even. 

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And in the COVID-19 department:

Do the empty shelves at the grocery store trouble you?  Maybe this article will help you feel better.

Stay well.
Wash your hands.
Flatten the curve.

 


Starting Things Off

"Flow doesn't come to those who try to do things well.  It comes to those who try to do things freely."
                    --- Barry Michaels

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Each year, I always begin to think about and work with my "one little word" the same way:  by inviting the word into my life.

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I start with tangible things:

  • I find quotes that inspire.
  • I put the word in front of me.
  • I start a word-inspired playlist.
  • I identify books I want to read.
  • I create a dedicated word journal.
  • I search for a poem.

This kind of "stuff" helps me get my word firmly in my head, and sets the tone for the thinking-work ahead. 

Next, I come up with a list of . . . things? activities? themes? . . . that might help me link up with my word through the year.  Of course, this kind of list - put together at the beginning of the year - will change and evolve as the year goes on, but it does give me a place to begin.  

On my list this year:

  • Pay attention to things that flow (lunar cycles, my attention span, water . . . ).
  • Give myself space (in my life, in my days, in my closet . . . ) to let ideas and thoughts flow more freely.
  • Practice flow, especially related to my own creative activities.
  • Analyze my own work flow -- figuring out how to give my days the structure I need while still allowing flow to happen.
  • Show up in the "now" with intentional work on mindfulness and presence.
  • Explore the work of Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, the founder of the "flow state" concept in psychology.
  • Bring more yoga-flow to my life by doing . . . even more yoga.
  • Let love flow by more intentionally practicing kindness.

So.

I have no clever conclusions or meaningful progress or life changes to report yet.  Just forward movement -- and a whole lot of ideas!

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If you choose a word, what are some things you do as the year begins?