Go With the Flow


Only two more days of beach time left.

Today was very windy and with two fronts coming in, the waves were very high and powerful. As I hung out in the ocean, I noticed how quickly the waves were taking me down the shore away from my chair on the beach. A throwback to my childhood days at the lake when my mother required that we stay in view, I suppose, the reason I always try to stay in front of my place on the beach.

Today the waves were so powerful, that no matter how hard I swam (and I swim fairly well), I could not overtake the current carrying me quickly down the shore. I kicked for all I was worth, just to maintain position, and could not do it. I would swim fiercely against the waves, and eventually alternate walking and swimming to get back to my place, being carried backward with every wave. When I tired, I would let go, and feel the swell of the wave and let it carry me where it would. The feeling of surrendering the flow was marvelous, effortless, graceful, and humbling.

The contrast of letting the waves carry me versus the feeling of fighting them was extreme, and it occurred to me that this scenario is much like life for many of us. We have an idea of what we want and where we ought to be, and no matter how much life tries to carry us a different direction, we fight and struggle and use everything we have to oppose it. It might be a job, a relationship, or our “ideal weight”, but it’s all the same idea. We choose to oppose life, insisting on what we want, and the price is exhaustion, desperation, and constant struggle. And we are taught from a young age that we can arbitrarily choose and pursue whatever we want (the American dream!), so the idea is deeply rooted in our very view of reality.

Do you feel like life is a constant struggle? Are you exhausted much of the time from trying to keep it all together? What would it be like if you started to allow life to carry you where it wants to go? What if you let go of the worries, the expectations of others, the need to please? Would you change jobs or stop trying to do so much? Could you allow the toxic relationship to end? Would you move to the country? What would happen if you followed the call of your heart to play music, make art, or learn to dance, cook, or hike? Sometimes an objective, outside observer like a counselor or coach, or a very good friend, can tell us where they see life trying to take us when we are too close to it and can’t see the forest for the trees. I encourage you to ask others what they see – it can be incredibly enlightening and helpful.

Part of my own shift involved allowing the calling to counseling to overtake my career in academia, despite everything in me that feared it and fought it every step of the way. It was an oddly placed idea, and I couldn’t explain why I was taking up a second degree, following this unrelated, path that competed for the energy I needed for my academic career. I just was moved to do it and couldn’t explain it or stop it. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. I didn’t “choose” it, per se, but nothing has ever felt this right. There are other shifts lurking, and I have no doubt they are coming. The first one has made it easier to imagine and have faith in those to come.

Where can you start? How about something small like getting more sleep? Or how about turning off the tv when the little voice inside says “this is noise”, and going for a walk, or calling someone, or reading a good book instead? What about taking the art class, or planning a potluck, or building the bookshelf you’ve wanted to for so long? You do have a choice – you can fight until you are completely exhausted, and then give in to life. It all depends on how long you want to struggle.

As I write this, I can still feel the motion of the waves trying to carry me down the shore. I find it immensely relaxing and comforting. Where are the waves of life trying to take you? What if you stopped struggling, multitasking, trying to control it all, even for a moment. What would that be like? Can you feel it, even just a little?

It’s called peace.

About Cynthia M Clingan

Cynthia Clingan is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio who offers somatic psychotherapy, spiritual coaching, and meditation and mindfulness instruction.
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