We all have this idea of what “being in the flow” is all about; artists and those who like to think they live creatively, instinctively and oh-so spontaneously tend to refer to it more than most, urging everyone else to “just go with the flow, go with the flow” but, really, we all do it.
Life itself is “the flow” and that means that, sometimes, its a babbling brook fizzing over small rocks with all the lightness and effervescence of a chatty drinks party; at other times, its a raging torrent and we get swept up in its rip tides, crashed against rocks. Most of us try to veer towards the gently progressing direction that feels like we are getting somewhere with our aspirations but, really, all of these extremes are flow, even when we feel washed into an inlet and stuck in the mud.
In short, nothing that is life in a physical form is not an experience of flow, measured (by our senses) against all these outside props designed to mirror back to us the places we are getting hung up on overhanging branches or spun in endless whirlpools.
I’ve been feeling a bit knocked about by life and so exploring some of my own stuck places in recent weeks, going deeply into the frustration of it all, on the one hand and yet, on the other, marveling at how a more centred “me” has learned so much from the experience and remains calm and at peace.
And that’s the very thing to remember: right at the heart of all our variable experiences of the flow of life is the “us” that gets to experience it all and to choose how to react. What’s more, this amounts to a sense of self that we could get to know by no other means than by measuring it against the variable currents that pass us by or seem so very determined to sweep us off our intended course. In getting to know and so to hold that space of self, we also get to experience a state of grace from within the very turmoil of life and there is really no better place than there to experience such a thing…and then to realise that it is unwaveringly yours, whatever life may seem to throw at you. In fact, the biggest transition of all can occur once we realise that the flow really is us and all of its tugs and currents, and its apparently sudden changes in direction, are there for us and come bearing gifts.
On one of my recent walks, I was sat with my feet overhanging the river bank when two adolescent swans came into view; the very epitome of grace as their pure whiteness came gliding past, oh-so effortlessly, on the water beyond all the frenzy of dragonflies and bees that I had been watching.
The space where I was sat was like a portal into the world of the river, being a person’s-width hole cut into all the verdant growth along the bank, designed as a fishing station. These two swans went gliding past my viewing portal once…then again…then again, always turning around to swim backwards against the current only to free-flow back down river, sometimes sideways, backwards, spinning slightly – they really didn’t’ seem to mind where the flow took them. It was easy to see they were enjoying themselves, had found somewhere with a strong enough current to take them on a ride, which they were happy to surrender to, for all the fun of just seeing where and in what way it took them…over and over again. It was so obvious they have come to love the feeling of the flow so very much that they just can’t get enough of it and keep going back in for more.
It was around that time that I was coming very close to finishing a painting I had been working on for several weeks, of a graceful swan gliding serenely away across the kind of water that is alive with over-layered currents and reflection from all that is going on around it. The very day I finished it was the one when I took all the light-filled photos of a swan feather found on this same riverbank that were shared in my recent post The Opportunist Photographer; a gift left on the shore so that I could have that magical moment with it.
It was beginning to feel like all the many swans of my summer walks were conveying some kind of message to me. Like the very symbol of that least dishevelled and most serene, perpetually intact aspect of the self that is right there throughout all the apparent thick and thin, shove and pull of life’s big adventure, they had become part of my own flow, and I part of the coincidence of them appearing to me over and over again, weaving in and out of my consciousness to serve as this very distinct reminder of the fact that I, too, am that unruffled, unsullied self at my deepest core and, from that place, I glide on through it all…and am (not so) secretly enjoying each and every aspect of the ride.
‘Grace’ is an original painting in oils on a deep-sided unframed canvas, dimensions 60 x 60 cm. There is a true depth to the depiction of the water that varies in colour and tone according to the light conditions, while the swan holds her continuous state of grace. You can view high resolution images of this painting at www.helenwhite.org (or click on image).