Flow

Flowing . . . Like Water

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I follow Maggie Smith (the poet, not the actress) on Instagram. Starting last year, and then into a good portion of this year, she shared thoughts about "moving forward" after a traumatic experience in her life. Her near-daily "snippets" were always insightful and usually quite universal . . . so much so that they are now being published in a new book, Moving Forward.

Anyway, here is one of Maggie Smith's "snippets" I saved for myself last year:

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When I started thinking about my word for the year - flow - way back in January, the image that came to mind . . . was flowing water. A river. With bends and turns and rapids and falls and log jams and rocks. To me, a river is the perfect way to think about . . . flow. And Maggie Smith's "snippet" addresses why. Because water just . . . keeps moving. It finds a way. Even when it encounters barriers. 

I think it's easy for us to think about Maggie's "snippet" . . . being the Story of 2020; about it being extra-relevant to this particular year and time.
Y'know. Lots of barriers.
(So. Many. Barriers.)

But. . . isn't that true of ANY year? ANY time?

If 2020 wasn't being lived out against the backdrop of the pandemic, there would still be plenty of barriers impeding the flow of my imaginary river . . . for me; for any of us. Some of the barriers would be the same barriers I'm encountering anyway (because life . . . ). Some of the barriers have completely disappeared because of the pandemic (fewer events on my calendar, for example), easing the flow of water somewhat. And, of course, there are some new log jams we couldn't have seen coming (but then, that's true in any year).

I guess what I'm getting at is . . . it's not just the year.
It's life. 

My lessons this month:

Be like water, my friend.
Flow.
Keep moving past the barriers.
Around. Over. Under.
Don't stop.
Keep moving.

(And I'm going to take it a bit further here. When water flows around a barrier? Well. That's where the changes happen.) (Stay tuned.)

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Be sure to visit Honoré, where she is hosting a link-up for others sharing their one-little-word experiences today.


Word Play

On the last Tuesday of the month, many of us in Bloglandia share updates about our "words" for the year. (Honoré hosts, check it out.) It's a really helpful way to reflect back on the month-nearly-ended . . . to see how our "words" have popped up in our worlds. It's especially fascinating to me to see how these words connect - all year - for so many of us. There is some mysterious power in having a word, that's for sure.

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When I first chose my word - flow - this year, one of the first things that popped up in my head was . . . yoga flow.

I've been doing yoga for a very long time. The first yoga class I can remember taking (although I'm pretty sure I took a class or two before this one) was when I was pregnant with Erin, and she turned 31 earlier this summer. Since then, for the most part, I've practiced yoga in some form or another. In more recent times (the past 15 years), I've taken a weekly studio class -- with daily sun salutations at home to stretch things out every morning.

The pandemic, of course, has changed my yoga practice in a big way. Actually, this is probably one of the best changes I've experienced in PandemicLife -- because now . . . I do yoga every day . . . with Adriene! (I highly recommend Yoga With Adriene, by the way, if you're looking for a good, solid yoga-anywhere practice. Her videos are available for free, although the for-pay option offers much more -- and at $10/month, it's less than most one-session studio yoga classes, so a good deal, too.)

I get so much benefit from my regular yoga practice. There's the physical stuff -- flexibility, improved balance, and strength (I feel like such a badass whenever I do a full chaturanga!). But there's also the mental stuff -- mindfulness, improved focus, and a sense of calm. (And who doesn't need that these days?)

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This month, I decided to learn a bit more about my favorite type of yoga: vinyasa, or . . . flow.

"Vinyasa" is a Sanskrit word, and like many Sanskrit words, it has multiple meanings on multiple levels. But if we break down the word, we get this translation:

Vin means to place.
Yasa means in a special way.

So . . . Vinyasa . . . means to place in a special way. Or, as Adriene explains it, to move with intention -- a systematic approach to moving from one point to the next . . . with the breath.

In the yoga studio, vinyasa classes tend to focus on "flowing" from one pose to another rather quickly -- always with a focus on the breath. (As opposed to hatha style classes, which tend to take a more slow approach -- holding the poses longer, but still with a focus on the breath.) And in most classes, there are many chances to "take your vinyasa" (yoga teacher speak) referring to that flow sequence between downward dogs that traditionally includes the chaturanga.

It's complicated (multiple meanings on multiple levels). And kind of technical. I hope you'll pardon this yoga-digression, but for me this month, it's been all about thinking of flow in a bigger "life" sense by examining flow in a more direct "yoga" sense.

My one little word lesson this month? Focus on vinyasa!

to place . . . in a special way
to move with intention
to flow

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How about you? What did you learn from your word this month?

 


A Steady, Continuous Stream of Something

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As I've been playing around with the word "flow" this year, I've discovered that it is a word with many definitions. (I've also discovered that it comes up in regular conversation ALL the time. I've never had a word so easy to find "in the world" as this one.) Anyway, of all the definitions I've found, this one is my favorite:

Flow. (n.) a steady, continuous stream of something

As you can see . . . flow . . . means the opposite of being stuck. But lately? I've been feeling pretty . . . stuck.
Not steady.
Not continuous.
Definitely not a stream of anything.

But that's how it is sometimes, isn't it?

"Between the banks of pain and pleasure the river of life flows. It is only when the mind refuses to flow with life, and gets stuck at the banks, that it becomes a problem."
            -- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

So. My dilemma: How to get unstuck (at the banks)?
And start that steady, continuous stream of something . . . again?

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For me, I headed back to my "basics" -- the five elements I discovered several years ago (when my word was balance). I stripped my days down to the 5 basic elements I need in my life every day:

  1. Reflection (this usually comes through journaling)
  2. Meditation and yoga
  3. Moving my body (working up a sweat)
  4. Breathing fresh air
  5. Creating . . . something (anything, really)

Sometimes, when I get busy -- or when my brain gets busy -- I leave one or more of these elements out of my day. (It's usually reflection, which I think is telling.) And when I get overwhelmed with bleak thoughts or the relentless stream (a flow . . . ) of disturbing news, I tend to forget about these five things altogether and approach them in a very haphazard way. 

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Earlier this month, I realized this was happening again (that haphazard thing). So a couple of weeks ago I made myself a little checklist in my day planner with my 5 basic elements, and I started tracking them and giving myself checkmarks at the end of each day. (I'll do almost anything for a checkmark.) I really concentrated on those 5 elements. Every day.

Every.
Damn.
Day.

And with a more steady focus on my 5 things . . . coupled with a pretty extensive "unplugging" (of blogging, of the news, of Instagram, etc.), I'm starting to feel a shift in myself.

I wouldn't quite call it a steady, continuous stream of something quite yet.
But . . . maybe closer.

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Did you choose a word for this year? If you did, what have you discovered this month? Be sure to visit Honoré today to read what others have shared about their word.

 


Still Rooted. Still Flowing.

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Here we are.
At the midpoint of 2020.
(Hard to believe, I know.) (Time is so out-of-whack.)
(SO. OUT. OF. WHACK.)

Usually . . . in the Before Times . . . about now I'd be looking back at the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I'd be assessing. Figuring out if my goals were working. If they were actually a reasonable set of guidelines. Or not. And plot out where I might need to go next.

But this year?

Well.

First of all, I didn't ever SET any goals for myself for 2020.

(Prescient? Ummm. No.)

I didn't go along with the "20 for 20" thing.

(Clairvoyant? Ummm. No.)

It was just . . . with a word like "flow" . . . well. You just don't want to box yourself in now, do you?

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Instead, I set myself a few wide-open intentions for 2020:

  • be healthy and get strong
  • practice the things I love
  • pay attention to the moon
  • be kind
  • let love flow
  • focus on flexibility and stretching
  • keep my eyes open
  • be mindful of the world I live in
  • SHOW UP
  • make space

Hmmm.

I kinda look like a freaking genius now, don't I? 

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Because never ever in my history . . . have I established a set of intentions that so perfectly fits the reality . . . of the life that is unfolding. (But maybe we could all say that for whatever word we picked this year. Because these words do seem to show us things -- if we allow them to.)

So. Where I am at the mid-point with my word?

FLOW.

Point yourself in a direction.
See where it takes you.
And ride it out, baby. Ride it out.

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How about you? How are you doing? And if you have a word for 2020, how is it serving you?

 


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?