Life is a series of natural and spontaneous change. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~ Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)
If you think about your life for a moment, you will realize that for the majority of the time, you have been resisting, fighting, struggling and generally refusing to accept and flow with the present moment reality.
When we were children we screamed and refused to do what our equally resistant parents demanded us to do. When we were teenagers we rebelled in defiance against the rules and expectations of our parents, teachers and higher authorities. And upon reaching adulthood we’re still in the habit of creating friction and obstruction in our lives.
We are creatures of disunity and discord.
One side of us strives to fulfill our social duties, obligations and expectations to attain a kind of illusive acceptance amongst our friends, lovers, families and colleagues. The other side of us craves to revolt against every belief, dogma and standard that has ever been unjustly imposed on us. We long to breathe life into our long-buried dreams, and to blow the dust off our unconventional visions, dreams and goals for life that we once had.
In one way or another, there is always some kind of chaotic resistance and duplicity boiling deep inside of us.
The hallmark of our lives as a species, you could say, is our relentless ability to block, combat and defy both ourselves, and our fellow neighbors on the earth.
It’s a miserable habit, wouldn’t you say?
Life is Short, Then You Die
The problem is, we think we have time. Sure, we may have 70-80 years of it, but even that isn’t guaranteed, as our lives, like our bodies, are so fragile and hang in the balance of luck and destiny.
It’s not nice to constantly contemplate our mortality, to come to terms with the fact that any minute or day we could find ourselves being carted away in a body bag to the local mortuary.
The sweet little fibs we tell ourselves keep us self-satisfied, stubborn and unmoving.
But a quiet, often smothered, whisper inside tells us of the truth of our reality: that we are fallible, fragile and vulnerable, no matter how highly or lowly esteemed we are. No matter our “profession”, man-made titles, or accomplishments.
Life is short, then we die.
So Simple, Yet So Hard
But life is not all doom and gloom. It’s the very fragility of life that makes it so precious. And when we truly come to terms with how precious and transient it is, we can then grow to fully appreciate it, and live like there’s no tomorrow.
I was born with a neurotic temperament. For most of my life I’ve been very cautious and careful because since childhood I’ve been so aware of how ephemeral life is. I’ve loathed the thought of wasting my life and squandering my time here on earth, only to find myself dead or dying one day, with little time to fulfill my visions or make a significant difference to the world. But that precise neurotic behavior has backfired on me many times (e.g. anxiety issues, starting too many projects and not finishing them, rushing into things).
I guess you could say that I have an immense passion to live life, but that hunger has often resulted in me rushing around too much, imposing my will on everything and everyone, and not taking time to actually be in the present moment.
There is a natural flow to life. Everything and everyone finds a solution in due time.
When people refer to “going with the flow”, they’re not spouting new age talk, they’re speaking of something much more profound. They’re speaking of the necessity to surrender to the stream of life, to let everything complete its natural course, the way it was intended to.
If it is the right time or place, open the door in front of you, but don’t run around like a headless chicken crazily painting doors for yourself to open. Life doesn’t work that way.
The Only Thing You Can Control is Your Perception
The raw truth is that you can’t control any single person – no matter how close or distant they are to you – ever. You will never be able to unless that person or group of people are willing to make the change.
You can also never control your external circumstances. Of course, you can manipulate, impose or resist certain events, but you can never have complete and impenetrable control. You can’t control what happens, when it decides to happen, where, why or how. We never have complete control over life or other people, and it’s foolish to waste our time, energy and resources in such a pursuit. It’s a race with no end.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous change. Some people believe these changes happen for a reason, others believe it’s all up to chance or luck. Whatever you believe, don’t resist.
I realize that it’s easy to just say that, but much harder to actually put into practice. But there are ways of fostering this change in your life.
On my journey of inner work, non-resistance is an extremely potent lesson I’ve learned that begins with self-awareness. Pay attention to what you are doing, thinking and planning. Without self-awareness you can never hope to let life flow naturally. Experimenting with various awareness-stimulating techniques can help set you on the same path I’m walking:
- Set little alarms to go off during regular intervals in the day (e.g. on your mobile phone). Whenever the alarm sounds, reflect on whether you are “going with the flow”, or not.
- Practice meditation each day for 10-15 minutes. This helps you to become aware of your thought patterns.
- Keep a journal that you record your daily progression in. This helps you to see what you are doing well with, and how you can improve. Learn more about how to journal.
We make our lives so hard, but in reality they can be so easy if we learn how to break the habit of resistance. We can never control other people or situations, but we can control ourselves and our approach to life.
Any of your thoughts or experiences on this topic are welcome below.