Happy New Years, friends! TWENTY SIXTEEN: GONNA BE A GOOD YEAR.
Every New Years the eAmbassador team joins in on this nifty tradition of #OneWord365. You can visit their website for details and opportunities to get involved in the community, but the essential concept is that instead of a lengthy list of resolutions that we will all ultimately ‘break’ by February, a single word is chosen to symbolize the direction you want this year to take you, the trait you most want to develop in yourself. In this way there is no possibility of ‘breaking’ anything–you simply evaluate each situation you find yourself in, each decision you have to make, with your word in mind. Some days it’ll work, and others it won’t but the cool thing about having a one-word resolution is that you can just pick yourself up and try again.
I started doing the one-word resolution a few years ago, before I knew there was a movement surrounding it. I must have heard about it in some article or other, but I never knew it was such a large-scale phenomenon. This year it took me a while to settle on a decision; I was thisclose to writing a blog post centered around a completely different word, but then this morning I woke up and a different one was floating in my line of sight, so I grabbed at it.
So for 2016, my word is Flow.
What Is Flow?
Flow is most commonly used as a verb–we use it when we describe things like rivers or pouring milk into a bowl or blood flowing across the canteen floor. It represents adaptability, ease of movement, a balance struck between relentlessness and grace.
But flow is also a noun–and a much-researched psychological state of consciousness. Parkour in particular explores and exploits the concept of flow as a state of mind:
Central to the attainment of flow is a situation in which there is a perfect match between the perceived demands of an activity and the skills that you bring to it. Such a match promotes flow while an overbearing or unrealistic challenge can easily cause anxiety. On the flip side, if you bring a high level of skill to an activity and the challenge that it provides is relatively low, this may just as easily result in boredom.
Apathy is what happens when both challenge and skill are low. This is typified by comments such as, “I can’t be bothered with this” or “I can’t see what all the fuss is about”. In essence, to attain flow, it is important to find challenges that are going to stretch you just that little bit further than you’ve been stretched before.
During a flow experience, performers tend to lose self-consciousness and become one with the activity. This engenders a state in which they are rewarded solely by the movement patterns involved and not by the consequences of success or failure. […] It represents an optimal psychological state and an experience that is deeply pleasurable.
Western yogis also tend to call their practices ‘yoga flows’, specifically when the asanas all blend into one another in one stretchy daisy-chain. All in all, whether we’re using it as a process or as a state, flow means motion–and motion means change. In this case, it is preferably change that is as graceful and seamless as possible.
A Very Backwards Year: Astrology for 2016
Let’s get weird and spacey for a second.
Mercury went retrograde today, and it’s going to do that another three times in 2016. But 2016 also has three other planets going into retrograde throughout the course of the year: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. What does this mean to someone who isn’t well-read in astrology?
Retrogrades mean that the usual function of the planet in the astrological paradigm is reversed–which means that basically, this year is going to be one hell of a year for stops and starts. A lot of plans are going to be turned on their heads; boundaries are going to be tested and reset; a lot of actions are either going to putter out or escalate out of control; and you’re going to feel like you’re cleaning up miscommunications almost as often as you’re actually communicating. It’s going to be a bumpy year. And a year for serious reorganization and re-evaluation.
As we know, I’m a chronic overachiever. I operate at 2x standard speed, and I can get impatient and frustrated (as is my Aries nature) if things aren’t done well, done fast, and done to plan. I’m also crappy at transitioning between activities–I can absorb myself in a task for upwards of 12 hours and not burn myself out, but once I finish that task and need to move into another one, I get stuck. My yoga practice has gotten me more comfortable with the concept of letting go and working without such a minute-to-minute schedule, but even still, if there are too many hiccups throughout the day, or if one big (and unexpected) change sneaks up on me, I revert to old patterns of behaviour that do not serve me or anyone else.
So what with 2016 being Year of the Retrogrades, I feel that the only way to proceed responsibly is to make the conscious choice to be as adaptable as possible. Being able to let things go and to accept newness and mystery and to take it one day at a time and to trust that, whatever mayhem is afoot, things are working themselves out. To shed unnecessary layers of life and to focus down on what makes me feel like my best self–but also to be elastic. The halfway point between resilience and flexibility: stretch to any situation, snap back to self. In other words…
Be Formless, Shapeless–Like Water
Bruce Lee once gave a little speech about the sort of mindset it takes to master martial arts, which included a fantastic extended metaphor. The full interview can be found here, but the key points for this post can be summed up in the equally-excellent Melodysheep track:
This little two-minute-twenty-second ditty is going to be my anthem for 2016.
Instead of succumbing to that oh-so human need for control, I’m going to use this year for developing my love of the unknown, and with it, my love of discovery. I’m going to take all the complications that are coming up this year and I’m going to roll with them to the best of my ability; I’m going to hone in on what’s important to me now and slough off what’s no longer relevant or useful and most of all, I’m going to refine my ability to transition–to flow from one scenario to the next.
In terms of relationships, that means allowing my relationships to mature and unfold in whatever patterns they naturally follow without trying to cling too hard to ‘how things were’. This includes allowing my rotating cast of amazing friends to continue to be a rotating cast (here meaning, to let people slide in and out of the spotlight as necessary), and forging ahead with a new phase of Anna’s and my relationship (instead of a several-weeks-long trip every 2-3 months, we’re going to try having Anna drive up monthly for a long weekend, and we’re expecting it to change a lot about how we perceive our time together!)
In terms of school and work, it means giving myself the space not to complete All The Things (especially while it’s still hella dark out and I’m still dragging around the sack of SAD tied to my ankle), but it also means giving other people the space not to complete All The Things–to be late, or sick, or on holiday, or just not feeling it–and cultivating enough peace of mind to not get stressed over stalled or misunderstood communications. It means loosening the noose of the To Do List a little. It means allowing unexpected opportunities to present their cases–but it also means a careful examination of all my myriad plans, and a pause button on the ambitions in my life that are dragging on where I need to be right now.
In terms of emotional development, it means making progress in humanity’s eternal struggle to trust the world around us. It means accepting challenge and change with serenity (and sometimes with enthusiasm!) and it means relinquishing the (false) sense of control I have over anything except my own response to events and experiences. (Pro Tip: as Aaron Burr/Leslie Odom, Jr. sings so poignantly, “I am the one thing in life I can control.”)
2016 is going to be a year of obstacles. With any luck, it’ll have a glorious, life-affirming finale, but before that happens, there’s gonna be a lot of rocks in the river. The intention I’m setting is to flow around them instead of dashing against them.
Wishing you love and luck and wonder for this new year,