Even More Thoughts on Flowing

February 9, 2014

Even More Thoughts on Flowing

I really wasn’t kidding when I said that of all the five rhythms of 5Rhythms—Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness—the teachings of Flowing have had the most to offer me. I attribute this to the fact that Flowing is furthest from my natural inclinations.

Yesterday I hosted a fourth birthday party for my son. After the first twenty or so guests, I greeted people at the door with the expression, “Welcome to the jungle!” It was wild. Kids roved, screaming, dancing. I couldn’t resist taking it up another notch, again and again. At one point, the entire house was bouncing to the booty-shaking, maximum-energy Gummy Bear song. After we sang and everyone grabbed their chosen cupcake, I walked around with a can of whipped cream, topping off the cupcakes. I worried about how those with more refined sensibilities were experiencing the chaos, but that is pretty much how things go in my house.

Flowing opens me up to a gentler possibility. In Friday’s class, Tammy commented that the room had a lot of nervous energy. This was certainly true for me. I was shivering with joy when I arrived, and spent the first ten minutes doing nothing but noticing the feeling of my feet on the floor. In the spirit of Flowing, Tammy noticed what was arising and went with it, making it part of the teaching.

In Flowing, there is often instruction about seeking the empty space and moving into it. Another common instruction is to yield, if someone is in your way, for example. Tammy often says, “if someone is in your way, get out of their way.”

Another thing I like to explore in the receptive space of Flowing is how I get swept into what is happening around me, rather than just yielding or looking for empty space. Sometimes I coil right into someone’s field and am pulled closer or repelled away. Sometimes I get sucked right into someone’s powerful wake as they cut through space, soaring across the room, and trail them until something else pulls me more strongly and coils me into it.

In the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, there is a formal instruction called Aimless Wandering. In Aimless Wandering, practitioners set out to wander aimlessly for a period of time, noticing things as they move with no set goal or agenda. This is tough for New Yorkers. Maybe it is tough for everyone! I quickly realized it was impossible for me to have no agenda. It was then that the beauty of the exercise opened for me. My inner dialogue was like, “What’s that over there? I will go look at it.” Then, I would be going over there and something else would pull me. A car would pull up in front of me and I would change direction, swirling into someone’s energetic field, pulled or repelled, I would discover a beautiful inch of graffiti and pause to inspect it, then I would notice someone sitting quietly on a doorstep and acknowledge them. Deciding to cross the street, I felt the rush of cars, the vibration of the sidewalk from nearby construction. It was rapture—the space of spontaneous poetry and wordless love.

Many of my colleagues talked of their frustration and inability to be aimless, and I smiled quietly, feeling like I cheated, because so much practice of Flowing allowed me to feel so at home with aimlessness.

For me, Flowing is the direct experience of what is happening at this moment. It is accepting presence. And it is, without question, a gateway to joy.

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