I'm starting to recognize what it feels like to flow with the Tao, and what it feels like to be in opposition to it. I'm actually starting to feel it in my body.
(Definition: The Tao is an ancient Chinese term meaning "the way," and basically refers to the unspeakable, mysterious force that underlies everything. Similar words in other "languages" might be "the universe," "God," "Allah," "energy," etc.)
I see the Tao as a river; an unstoppable river of life, possibility, and happening. It has been flowing for long before I appeared in this form, and will continue for long after this body is decayed in the ground. I have been learning over the past few years how to flow with the Tao, instead of being in opposition to it. Just like it takes a lot more energy and is often less successful to travel upstream, so it is with opposing the Tao.
Let me elaborate.
I like being in control. When something is going "wrong" in my life, I examine it, analyze it, and ask myself, "What can I do about this?" This question assumes a two things:
1. Something needs to be done, or fixed.
2. I need to do it.
But sometimes (in fact, most of the time), life just happens. It doesn't always have to be good or bad. I don't need to exhaust myself by living in a constant cycling of doing and fixing, doing and fixing, doing and fixing. This is like rowing my boat upstream, and moving each rock out of my way as I go.
Instead of asking "What can I do?" I can ask, "What is already happening, and how can I align myself with that?" This is like stopping to look at the stream first, then deciding to allow my boat to flow down river with the current, lying on my back and basking in the sun instead of moving rocks out of my way.
A great deal of my suffering has been alleviated by this shift in mentality.
I make these small choices several times a day - to stop opposing what is happening and ask how I can flow with it instead. I notice that when I am in opposition to the Tao, my shoulders are raised, my jaw is clenched, and my stomach may be tight. As soon as I let go of whatever it is I'm trying to make happen, I instantly drop my shoulders, relax my jaw, breathe into my center, and smile. These aren't even voluntary bodily reactions. I don't even notice that my shoulders up in my ears until I feel them come out.
I have been using these bodily reactions as my clues for when I am flowing, and when I am in opposition. Now, when I feel my shoulders drop or my jaw loosen into a smile, I think, "Oh! I was sort of pushing there, wasn't I. Fascinating. Guess life wasn't supposed to happen that way."
The most challenging part about living this way for me has been not always understanding why the Tao is flowing how it is. So often, I will see that I am pushing too hard to make life happen in a certain way, I'll know that I need to let it go and flow with what is happening instead, and I'll think, "But I know what will happen in my version! I've got it all figured out!" If I let go and flow instead, I must also allow myself to be surprised by what comes along next.