Before you start reading this blog, call to mind a situation that is challenging you at the moment. Something that life has thrown at you, that you don’t necessarily like, but that you are still having to deal with.
It could be a problem, an irritation, a conflict, a really difficult situation or relationship; something that’s not working for you right now.
And ask yourself: Am I ‘Pushing Against’ or ‘Flowing With’ whatever is going on?
This is a theme I have been paying attention to in my own life and work during the last few weeks, which has prompted me to write about it. Push Against - Flow With is a ‘Transformational Presence’ concept which I learnt about from Alan Seale; writer, speaker, international coach and founder of the Center for Transformational Presence.
So how do you know when you’re ‘Pushing Against’ a situation?... It feels tense. You feel resistance. May be stress. Inside, you’re saying to yourself that you just do not want this circumstance, and you either try to push it away or solve it as quickly as possible so it goes away. It’s a constricted, closed down way of approaching the stuff that life throws at you. It costs energy. And it’s about as effective as trying to push against a wave to prevent it from flowing over you and crashing to the shore.
And what about ‘Flowing With’? Let me start by saying what Flowing With is not: Flowing With a situation or challenge does not mean ‘going with the flow’. Going with the flow is a passive response to stuff, a bit like giving up and letting the wave or current that you find yourself in, just take you wherever it is going. With this response, you are in danger of becoming a victim to your circumstances, loosing sense of yourself, and ending up somewhere that does not work for you or for others involved.
Flowing With in contrast, is an active response to what life hands you
Imagine life as improvisation theatre. If you are part of an improvisation performance, whatever it is that your fellow actor hands you, you must take and work with, otherwise the whole performance falls apart. It’s the same in life. Whatever circumstance or challenge you are handed, there is an invitation to you to accept it (you don’t have to like it!) and to actively engage and work with it. This is Flowing With the situation.
Flowing With asks that we listen to and ‘sense into’ the challenge; what is it trying to show us? What isn’t working and what wants to shift? Also inside of us? If there was a message for us in the situation, what would it be? And what do we have to learn from this challenge? It asks that we pay attention to where a door may want to open, or to where the energy may be flowing, and to work with that to unlock the potential in even the most challenging of circumstances.
Returning to the water metaphor; a skilled surfer flows with the wave
It is a very active way of being and doing; harnessing the energy, power and potential of the wave. He or she does not and cannot control the wave, but the surfer does master both him- or herself and the power of the wave. Every situation, project or challenge also has its own energy and potential. Like the wave.
When you Flow With a situation, you look and sense into where the energy is and where it wants to flow. You listen to what the situation is trying to show you. What are the messages and what wants to shift? If there is something here for you to learn, what is that? Flowing With also involves being able to step back from the situation and see the bigger picture.
Flowing With situations doesn’t mean you necessarily like what’s happening, but it does mean that you take responsibility for your own role in what’s going on and that you engage with situations to move forward in a way that feels right and gives you positive energy. It is a healthy way of living and working which embraces what life hands to you as a way of learning, growing and shaping circumstances, based on what the circumstances themselves are showing you about what wants to shift.
So recall to mind your own situation again, and notice during the coming days which approach you take to the challenges that show up for you. And notice what shifts when you Flow With and listen to what truly wants to happen in your challenge going forward.
With thanks to Alan Seale for his continued inspiration and support.