I find that my life tends to oscillate between two poles – being STUCK and being in the FLOW. Being in the flow feels like I’m surfing right at the white, frothing edge of a riptiding curl and it is launching me everywhere I need to go.
I’m meeting the right people, I’m putting in the time, I’m saturated with excitement, I’m playing worryfree, I’m grateful, and everything seems to be lining up in perfect harmony.
Being stuck on the otherhand feels like there are maggots slowly draining the life and potential out of my soul, and something feels completely out of tune. My momentum has hit a hitch. Life feels half-assed in some way. Sometimes I feel confused, clunky, antsy, or bored with my life direction; sometimes the stuckness is subtle and hard notice until one day I’ll get up, look at myself in the mirror and be like “Damn homie! You’re stuck in a funk right now.”
Perhaps you can relate. This begs the important question: why are we sometimes in the flow, and sometimes stuck? First I want to talk about how to be in the flow, and then I want to talk about how to not be stuck.
I believe we are in the flow when our actions are lining up perfectly with our desires.
I think the movement of desire works like this:
Arisal of Desire → Clarity of Desire → Action on Desire
Allow me to expound.
Arisal of Desire
When I say ‘desire’ i just mean that which my human is pulled towards. On a microscale this may mean: after a long day’s work, knowing that I really want to take a walk in the woods. Or if I’m about to put on music to enjoy, it may be knowing that right now I want to listen to a creamy acoustic sitar jam session instead of a firecrackin’ 80’s hair metal tune. Or if I’m dancing, it may mean knowing exactly how my body wants to move in a particular moment. In every single moment and situation, my human has wants, whether or not I tune in.
But desires also exists in the same way on a macro level. Do I want to be in this relationship? What city do I want to move to? Where do I want to take my career? How do I want to spend my life? How, if at all, do I want to give to humanity? Each human is this complex multiweb of billions of desires that tap into different parts of our character and exist on different time scales.
And oftentimes desires conflict. For example, say I’m about to get coffee with a personal rolemodel in my field of work; I’ve long been yearning to meet her and tap into her insightfulness. But at the same time I am so nervous right beforehand that a part of me wants to tell her I’m sick, run away, and abort the coffee date. Well, being in the flow requires that I orient myself towards a certain type of desire – that which serve my greatest excitement. My greatest excitement aligns with me pursuing a life of passion, and so if I want to propel myself into the flow, then best believe I’m gonna be at that coffee date!
Clarity of Desire
This web of desires is always there; my human always wants to move through life (micro and macro) in a particular way. So it is my job, if I want to live in the flow, to tune in and listen very clearly to what it is that my human wants in the present, so that I can comply. It’s hard to create what I want if I don’t know what I want.
Acting on Desire
And once I know what I want then I can act accordingly. When my decisions are aligned with my desires, that’s when life starts gushing out in that juicy mojo flow.
But sometimes I feel stuck. Sometimes I feel like my flow has dried up into a crusty wasteland. And that’s because stuckness comes about when there’s a kink in the link between arisal of desire, clarity of desire, and acting on desire. When it feels like I’m battling against life, and hiking uphill all the time then that’s a clear sign that I’ve got some life finetunin’ to do. When little thought-critters scuttle from the dank depths of my mind and whisper things like ‘’you’re not getting the most out of life’’ is when I know that I’m stuck. And I find the best thing to do when I’m stuck is to acknowledge where I’m at, get unstuck and back into the flow, and then learn from what happened.
Here are 5 ways I’ve been stuck before, and what I’ve found useful for getting back into the flow:
- Golden Handcuffs.
This is when life is so comfortable, that I’m resistant to making any change. This is to say, I am blind to my actual desires, and hence not acting on them. This may be the giant raise that’s keeping me at a job that’s not perfect, or it might be staying in a relationship because it’s satisfactory. In this case comfort is obscuring my awareness of my desires. Solution? Get uncomfortable in the way I’m afraid to. Here’s the question that hits home for me: “If I’m at the end of my life looking back, and I don’t make any changes to how I’m living now, would I regret it?” Seriously sit with that question. Journal on it. It’s really easy to wait to make changes only when life starts sucking, but to live in true boldness is to be able to make a change when life is good knowing that life can be great.
- Skating through life.
This is when I know I’m not doing what I want to be doing; I’m ignoring the call. I have some clarity of my desires, but no action whatsoever. For me, this is when I knew I wanted to start this blog for MONTHS, but was taking no action. If you’re skating through life, you know (on some level) you’re skating through life. You know you’re shortchanging yourself of the life you could have. And if feels fuckin’ terrible. The solution is simple – stop waiting. Just DO. Just do something. Take one step today, that’s all you can do. One step. And then when tomorrow comes, take one step. For me this was just working on this blog for 10 minutes a day until it became a real thing. Here’s a quote from my boy Will Smith: “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t start with the biggest, baddest wall that’s ever been built. You say ‘I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ And you do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”
- Stuck in the Mud.
This is when I know I’m stuck, and I feel like shit, and I’m READY to take action, but I have no idea where to go…so instead I just sit in the cesspool and wait for a clear sign from the universe. Here’s what’s worked for me — stop waiting and just take SOME action and learn from it. For example, when I was in my stuckest of sticky mud a few years back, I decided to work at a senior center. Ultimately that job sucked eggs, but I learned I enjoyed connecting one-on-one with people, and that I had an ability to be patient and get interested in virtually anything (such as a longwinded story about a broken laundry machine). This information became vital in my future pursuits of coaching. The action you take almost doesn’t matter. Taking action opens up all kinds of doors that weren’t there before and gives you a lot more data on yourself than you had before. Here’s some fun questions to give a clue of where to send that action: If I won the lottery, how would I spend my time? If I was told by a doctor (or an evil supervillain) that I’d die in 12 months, what would I do? If I were the last person on earth, how would I spend my days? If I got to live my life 10 different times in a row, which life paths would I choose? So if you’re paralyzed, think about those questions, pick something, and just do it.
This is the most recent type of stuck I’ve been in. It’s when you know what you want to do and how you want to live, but you’re waiting for some external thing to happen before you start living that way. “Once I get promoted, then I’ll start enjoying myself.” “Once I have my finances figured out, then I’ll start writing my book.” “Once I reach this checkpoint then I’ll start living how I want to.” The excuses are endless, and the result is the same — getting stuck in a tarpit of melted gummybears and sandy molasses and waiting to actually LIVE. Solution? Detail how you would be living your life if you had the desired thing/accomplishment you are waiting for. Write it out – what activities would you be doing? what would your social life be like? what would your morning routine look like? And once you know how you want to be living, then start living that way. No need to wait!
I’ve found that to get unstuck, I must first notice that I’m stuck. And then notice how i’m stuck; which is to tune into what my human wants, and then observe how my actions aren’t aligned with them. And at that point I can take the action to get back into the flow.
Living is like conducting a dynamic orchestra. It’s always playing, and new instruments are coming in and out all the time. But when everything is playing together in harmony, then THAT is living in the flow (and this orchestra is better than any creamy sitar jam sesh I’ve heard!). It’s crucial to be aware of our desires, and I think as we become more and more attuned, we can approach a state of being where we’re so naturally in tune with our desires that there is a seamless connection between arisal of desire and action – it’s this one continuous flowing motion without any thought or resistance to clunk up the gears. Where your action is the co-unfolding and immediate embodiment of your human’s desires. Living life like flowing water.
But to get to that point requires a lot of unsticking along the way.