Several years ago my family and I went tubing down a clear mountain river in Saluda, NC. I remember noticing, perhaps for the first time, the number of currents in the water. Some hugged the trees growing on the banks. Some meandered in the middle, and some brought a little spin to my inner-tube. Staying on course was an unexpected challenge. I often fell behind the rest of the group.
Perhaps I was trying too hard. Perhaps not.
That was also the day I unequivocally knew I was ready to have a child. Three months later I got pregnant. Then miscarried. Then the dog died. Two months after that I was in a car accident. My period went wonky and I became anxious that pregnancy wasn’t going to happen.
At day 40 in the 28 day cycle (sisters, you know how yucky that feels) while at a women’s retreat on the coast, I looked out over the water and said a prayer. I felt a pulse beating and pulling up from the center of the earth. A powerful wave crashed at my feet. My period started. Two weeks later I was pregnant with my son.
During that time in between pregnancies, during those days of grief, and injury, and frustration, I finished the first draft of my novel, Decoupage. I taught 7-9 classes a week as well as an online course in Ayurveda. I found my way back to church. Turmoil was everywhere. And so was equanimity. A sense of balance ran deep as I was graced with a visceral connection to an ineffable current, an underground spring. I was “in the flow.” But when am I not? When are we ever not?
Flow is a curious concept and one that carries the unfortunate new age connotation that if we just stop resisting, stop swimming against the current and go with the flow everything will be good. Life will unfold as we like and struggle will cease.
I’d like to interview Jesus, the disciples and all the folks in the bible who answered a call. Who listened and had the courage to say “yes.” Who experienced the first influx of their work unfolding with synchronicity and relative ease then watched as everything fell to pieces. I’d like to ask them the yogic questions, “How did your breathing change? What happened in your shoulders? Your digestive system. How did your attitude toward a situation shift the feeling in your belly?” I’d particularly like these answers as they pertain to the experience of crucifixion.
After giving birth to my son I had this notion that on a primal level I understood the crucifixion. Every moment of labor drenched me in sweat and insecurity. And yet I breathed. It hurt. God it hurt. And still I surrendered to my breath through contraction after contraction after contraction.
There was a moment during the transformation stage that I didn’t breathe. I tensed. I screamed. And I felt my pelvic bones separate like a violent earthquake. I did not resist again. I yelled, I shouted my readiness to be done, but I still breathed. The flow of labor was not tranquil. It was traumatic.
The crucifixion is not the end. It is followed by resurrection. And neither is the whole story. They exist together. As part of one current. Labor is followed by the sweetness of a newborn and the intense challenge of the post-partum days, months, years. White water rapids give way to peaceful waters that may soon cascade down the face of a cliff.
I mention all of this so that you will know what I mean by ease within the flow. I do not mean easiness. I do not mean the end of hardship.
I mean partnership. I mean the Breath as Grace. Grace as the deep current of equanimity guiding the river along its course even as the surface spins out of control. That power that pulls you – pulls me – back from the edge when life is just too much. An unfolding. And an enfolding.
To be in the flow, to find ease in shifting tides, is to answer the call to walk hand in hand with the forces of nature no matter how turbulent. Or tranquil. To swim with the current of Grace.