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Notes on Balancing Effort and Surrender

by Carlo Alcos Aug 28, 2011

THE WORD ‘FLOW’ is an oft-heard one around the city of Nelson. “Let’s just see how it flows.” “I’m just gonna flow and see where it takes me.” It’s one of the reasons I love it here. But sometimes it can get to be too much. I have a friend that I haven’t seen all summer. She lives about a 15-minute walk from me and has no cell phone. I’d love to see her and catch up, but efforts to make plans never seem to take. She usually ends these efforts with something like, “Let’s flow with it, it’ll work out.”

One of the “quintessential” Kootenay* summer experiences is to float down the Slocan River on a hot, sunny day, sitting in an inflatable tube/chair/boat/whatever, drinks (alcoholic or not) tied and immersed in the cold water, friends to laugh with and make should you choose to. In yoga today, our instructor — who had done the float twice in the past week — was talking about flow.

Most of the time the river guides you to where to need to go, but sometimes you need to put in some muscle and paddle.

She was talking about the parts of the river that branched off and where one wanted to avoid going down. (Stay left.) She said most of the time the river guides you to where to need to go, but that sometimes you need to put in some muscle and paddle. She was talking about the balance between effort and surrender. It was something my friends and I talked about when we went a couple of weeks ago.

A few always seemed to be on guard, giving instructions to paddle this way to avoid something. Someone asked, “Won’t the river just take us where we need to go?” I stopped paddling as much and went with the flow. The river did indeed seem to guide us down, taking us on curves without any effort to turn. But, yes, sometimes it was absolutely necessary to put some effort into it (illustrated by the remnants of a deflated boat hanging from a tree branch).

Life is a river. There are those that fight against the current and fight against where it might be leading us. There are those who put the paddle away and get caught in the dead branches or get taken down an undesirable arm. How do we determine when to paddle and when to put our feet up? I like to think that our higher selves — our heart, soul, intuition — know the answer. The trick is learning how to listen to it.

Each life experience gives us a bit more wisdom, provided that we get in the right mindset and learn the lessons we are meant to learn. And it’s something that never ends; it’s not a goal to be attained. It just keeps flowing. *The Kootenays is a mountainous region in southern BC in which Nelson is located.

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