As someone who has experienced a good deal of crisis in life, I have often drawn solace from the wisdom of the sages of old who liked to say, “Many crises means much growth in life.” The ancient Greeks had their own version on the same theme, stating that “He whom the gods would make great they first destroy.” In the Gospel According to Thomas, Jesus tells his disciples, “He who is close to the fire, let him know that he is close to Me.”
The wonderful and perennial play, “The Fantasticks,” described this same wisdom about as beautifully as anyone ever has.
“There is a curious paradox that no one can explain.
Who understands the secret of the reaping of the grain
Who understands why spring is born out of a winter’s laboring pain,
Or why we have to die a bit before we grow again?”
Which brings us to the first question I want to address here, which is this: Why is change often preceded by pain? Does it have to be this way? Why can’t we just receive the gift of evolution and get on with our lives?
Like most semi-reflective people, I’ve first had to dispense with the easy answers, such as: “I resist change – I’m stubborn – and therefore I suffer before I accept the new conditions. If I accepted things sooner, I would not suffer so much.”
Or, “I fear change because it forces me to step into the unknown. I’m afraid of the unknown.”
There’s truth to these responses, of course. I do resist change; I am stubborn; and I do fear the unknown. And no doubt, all of these factors cause suffering, especially during times of change. But some impulse urges me to look deeper and to hold these truths with greater compassion.
Looking deeper is actually listening more deeply to the subtle voice inside which advises me as follows: “You were designed to stay alive. If change is a kind of death, than why shouldn’t you resist it?”
Not satisfied, I question my soul further.
“But why can’t I just flow? Surely, you flow.” I say to my soul. “Why can’t I be like you? “
“Are you prepared to accept that there is no death?” the inner knowing tells me. “If you can truly experience that there is no death, but only a change in form, and if you can fully accept that life is a ceaseless series of changing forms, than you can stop suffering immediately. Until then, you’re going to resist change and suffer a bit. We don’t want you to suffer too much, however. The more you learn to flow, the less suffering you will experience. So the lesson we are teaching you now is to learn to flow.”
“How can I flow if I think that change is leading to something bad?” I ask.
“That’s the second lesson that we’re trying to teach you: Change doesn’t have to lead to something bad.”
“How do I experience change that doesn’t lead to something bad?” I ask.
“That’s the third lesson,” my soul tells me. “Once change has been initiated, you have the power to co-create your life with us. If you listen to the inner voice of love and compassion, you will experience a growing sense of comfort and ease. You will relax and let change occur. Very quickly, you will realize that whatever you need, it will be given to you.
“If you embrace and believe in the critical, pessimistic, doomsday voice inside of you, you can co-create an unhappy life. It’s your choice.
“You have been referring to the positive voice as ‘Story of Yes.’ You must learn to co-create with the voice of love, or the Story of Yes. Live that story, co-create from it, and change need not be painful.”
“Okay,” I say. “So what’s flow?”
Learning To Flow
The British mystic, Sufi scholar, and author Reshad Feild (The Last Barrier, and other works) put it beautifully when he described the true meaning of the Holy Mother’s virginity and its relationship to flow.
“The blessed Virgin Mary was chosen to bear the prophet Jesus because she kept her purity intact,” said Feild. “Ordinary people refer this as keeping her virginity, but those beings with the grace of a deeper understanding know that to be pure means to flow completely with each moment, fully adaptable, to become like a ceaseless river, cascading from the very waters of life itself. To attain purity is to be a messenger that spreads joy through the world. Joy is the unfoldment of the knowledge of the perfection of God.”
What part of me knows that God’s plan is perfect and that all change flows with the intention of manifesting that perfect plan in love? Well, it isn’t my mind, that’s for sure. Nor is it my ego. Only my soul knows the perfection of the Source and It’s plan for life. Which is one reason I don’t flow: because my mind and ego have their own plan, which, experience has taught me, is not always the same as the plan from the Source.
But isn’t that inevitable?
Ego is the organizing center of consciousness. It is not an inherently bad part of me, or anyone else. On the contrary, the creation of the ego, which is a relatively recent accomplishment in human evolution, made possible the sense of self in each of us. With that came the experience of the “I” in me. Without the living “I” in each of us, there is no individual growth, no path to self-realization, and no unified or integrated understanding of life. Indeed, as the clairvoyant, teacher, and inventor Rudolf Steiner said, the creation of the ego, and the emergence of the “I” in each of us, led to the understanding of the Oneness of God and of all creation. The path toward Unity, Oneness, and enlightenment was made possible by the emergence of the ego and the “I”.
Without ego and a sense of self, everyone would over-identify with the tribe, or current group, which was exactly the case among all ancient, primitive peoples. All too often, we still over-identify with our tribe – whether it be a political party, a religion, a social movement, or spiritual community. This over-identification with a group leads us inevitably into conflict, because the group starts behaving in ways with which we disagree. At that point, we must choose between our own ethical or moral code and that of the group. Hence, we face the moral choice that compels each of us toward a higher ethical standard and individuation.
The ego emerged to inform us that each of us has choices, and is responsible for our choices, which means that we have the chance to learn from our mistakes and to grow as individuals. Without the ego — and the self that it bestows upon us — there is no opportunity for individual evolution.
But it’s also true that all growth is a triumph over the ego, and the identity that it has forged within us. In order for evolution to occur, the old identity – and many of its internal and external structures – must dissolve, or be destroyed. In time, a new identity, and a new “I”, will emerge. As this process continues, the small “I” gets larger and larger. Eventually, it will identify completely with the collective “I Am,” which is the Source, Tao, or God. Perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to teach us when he said, “The Father and I are One,” meaning his “I” had reached that state of evolution at which he identified completely with the Source or God.
I find my little self protesting against my soul. “But I’m not there yet,”
I say. “I still have an ego that identifies with my little life, which feels very separate from other lives. What will help me flow at this level of maturity?”
“Contrary to what you may believe or understand, change is not random, but part of the Divine plan,” my soul tells me. “It unfolds in an orderly process and with a clear intention, which is to allow me, your soul, to manifest more fully in your everyday life. The more I am present in your consciousness, the more relaxed you will be, the more comforted you will feel, and the more you will flow.”
“If change is orderly, than what is the order?” I ask.
“The first phase is de-structure and opening,” my soul says. “You occasionally experience this phase as destruction. But that is only your ego speaking. Your ego has lost control and is doing all it can to get it back. But it’s too late. Old ways of being, old habits, and former beliefs are collapsing and falling away. Suddenly, there is a new opening. When you are sufficiently open, the next phase of change will arise.
“This second phase can be called inspiration and creation. It is characterized by the sudden encounter with new knowledge, understanding, and a new point of view, all of which imbue you with enthusiasm and energy. There are numerous synchronistic events that lead you to this new understanding. You read something, or make a new friend, or experience a sudden epiphany. These events seem random haphazard. They’re not. They are part of a larger plan. Whatever the catalyst, change for the better arises. With that change come rebirth and a new understanding of life, one that is better adapted to the challenges you will now face. That rebirth also signals a new, creative phase of your life. You will now be engaged more fully in the act of co-creation with us. “The third phase is re-structuring, which is intended to form a new ‘I’ that identifies more fully with us, meaning your soul and the All with which I am joined. New structures and new beliefs emerge, all of which allow you far greater freedom than you experienced before.”
My soul continues: “Many people think of growth as a path. This can be a misleading metaphor. Growth occurs by opening to that which already lives within you. Your path offers you opportunities to open. The more you open, the greater your happiness and freedom.”
Okay, I get why flow is important. Still, I realize that it’s easy to tell people to flow, and hard to live in the flow yourself, especially if you’re like me and afraid of the unknown. But if change can be understood in these phases, than it might be possible to understand what flow looks like in each phase, and how we can navigate the white water so that we suffer less.
Phase One: De-Structuring Some Part Of Your Life
Obviously, de-structuring is the most difficult phase of change. And clearly, the world is in a de-structuring phase right now. But let’s stay with the personal. If each of us navigates the personal aspect of change more effectively, than the world as a whole will naturally flow more smoothly into phase two – the embrace of new ideas and new inspiration — which we so desperately need.
De-structuring often brings radical change to our lives and for this reason it usually brings the most fear. Externally, these changes often appear in the areas of relationship, career, and business. Internally, they are associated with dramatic changes in emotions, mental and emotional stability, and physical health.
During this period, many people face challenges in their most important relationships. Others lose their jobs, or change careers, or let go of businesses. Many experience changes in their financial situations. Others undergo challenges to their own health, or the health of a loved one. Some form of trauma can also trigger precipitous change – the death of a parent, for example, or someone else you dearly love.
Flow is most difficult to pull off during phase one. But perhaps the answer lies in understanding the goal of this period, which is to open. We open by dropping as many attitudes and perspectives as we can. Most of all, we must stop trying to prove that we are right, or argue with the intention of sustaining the status quo.
Struggling to win an argument, or to have our opinion or perspective prevail, only brings more conflict, strife, and suffering. As best you can, give up being right. Let go of old grudges and old power structures. Don’t pursue your own image of justice. Rather, withdraw from all arguments and try to be as open as you can to the ideas of others. The key to flow at this phase is to listen. A lot. And when you’re done listening, listen some more.
You owe it to yourself to get help and support from compassionate and non-judgmental healers. Everyone who is committed to growth is, from time to time, forced to examine and release his or her obsolete beliefs and behavior patterns. This is the proverbial “dark night of the soul,” and it is inescapable.
Meanwhile, pray and meditate daily. Ask for what you need. Pray from your desperate need. Don’t hesitate to spill all your pain, suffering, bitter anger, and hopelessness to the Source. The Source knows better than you do how much you are struggling and all the painful emotions you are experiencing. Acknowledge them; state them clearly. Honesty brings compassion for yourself.
Listen most of all to the internal voice of love and compassion, the Voice of Yes, which will continually assure you that you’re going to be fine, you’re being helped, and that this period is meant to free you from old ideas, beliefs, and behaviors that are closing you off and holding you back from your happiness.
Eat simply and well. Focus primarily on plant foods, because these foods contain the energy and consciousness of nature whose greatest talent is to flow with change. Plant foods contain nature’s secret gift for flow. When the wind blows, plants bend; when the rain pounds, plants drink; when the sun bakes, plants endure. Foods from the factory – such as processed animal foods, chemicalized, and highly processed fare – sustain the consciousness of the factory, which is stiff, hot, resistant to change, and unable to flow.
Open, listen, eat plants, pray, and love. That’s what flow looks like in Phase One.
Phase Two: Learn And Be Grateful. You’ve Been Delivered
Synchronicity happens. You turn a corner and meet an old friend who happens to know about a job opening, which is exactly what you need. You encounter a new form of knowledge that blows your mind and restores your enthusiasm for life. You meet someone special and fall in love.
That’s what flow looks like now. You’re in love – in love with new knowledge, or new ideas, or a new job, or a new person. And all of it is exceedingly inspiring. Love, enthusiasm, and inspiration combine and generate new energy. With it, you begin creating something altogether new. And all of it is because your soul has manifested more fully in your life.
The de-structuring has done its job. Many old beliefs, behaviors, and patterns that held you back have been cleared away. Light has infused places within you that were in darkness. Your soul has brought new energy, understanding, and wisdom into your life.
At this phase, flow is also experienced as rebirth. You’re younger than you’ve been in a long time. And you’re eager. You’re also wizened by all that you’ve been through in life. You’re no fool. But still, you’re happy to be able to jump on the train that’s leaving hell. Good bye to all that!
Which brings us to yet another characteristic of flow at this stage: Gratitude. If you’re half awake, you realize that the events that led you to such good fortune cannot be explained in any sort of rational terms. You really don’t know how good fortune has fallen to you. The coincidences were too many to explain. The odds were too long. You didn’t do it alone. You may have participated in the creation of the moment, but you didn’t do it all by yourself. You exhale and say you were lucky. But you’re too smart t leave it at that. You’re grateful to the Source, because you secretly know that it didn’t have to happen like this.
Gratitude ensures that you will remain open and humble, which is yet another characteristic of flow at this phase. We are filled with enthusiasm, charged with new energy, and reborn. We are grateful and humble, which means were are open to keep learning and keep returning to the Source for help.
Rumi, the great Persian poet, put it this way. “When Mary’s mother bore her, she made a vow to dedicate her daughter to the house of God and not to interfere in her upbringing in any way. So she left her in a corner of the temple. There she was found by the high priest, Zachariah… Every day, Zachariah would bring food to the child, and every day he would always find the exact replica of what he was bringing her in the same corner of the temple. He asked her, ‘Where do you get the other food?’ Mary said, “Whenever I feel hungry, I ask God, and whatever I ask God, He sends. His generosity and compassion are infinite; whoever relies on Him finds His Help never fails!”
Phase Three: The New You
At this stage of change, a new order is formed. New structures are put in place. Our day is defined by new challenges, new people, new behaviors. In time, these conditions can seem routine again. We will be tempted to forget all that we have been through, all that has happened in previous phases.
When life becomes routine, we often close off from people and new ideas. We get stuck in a rut and calcify. This is the danger of at this stage of life – hardness, stiffness, and inflexibility, all of which lead to misfortune.
We prevent such conditions by remaining open, flexible, and devoted, which is what flow looks like at this stage of life. Devotion means sustaining the awareness of where all things originate and come to us. Being open means maintaining devotion to the Source, which itself means maintaining a daily practice of prayer and meditation, even when things are going well. Having a daily practice can keep us humble and open to new ideas and people. It will also help us when the cycle of change begins again.
It’s good to remember that change is ceaseless, and the phases of change are a never-ending cycle.