Flow

September 6, 2020

On Flow

In 2002, I lived in Marin County in California.  It has a high percentage of Buddhists practitioners.   Everywhere I would go there were announcements of offerings or articles on display.  On hot afternoon, I went to the local ice cream parlor and there was an article with snapshots of the Dali Lama’s face expressing various emotions in a short period of time.   You could see surprise, sadness, joy, anger, and fear.  It was a study of the experiencing emotions without holding onto them.   And then there was a kind of calm photo.    Since the article said it was done over a half hour interview, I was delighted to see how he could flow from one emotional landscape to the next.  

There are few of us who possess the fluidity to move from one emotional state to the next.  Most of us, though not all, seem to arrive back to a familiar place of anger, sadness, worry, grief or anger.  It isn’t complicated really.  We get stuck in some ways that seem quite realistic to us. It’s easy to keep returning to one place that colors our perspective.   We don’t flow from one emotion to the other without having to release the last moment that we have stored in our bodies.  

When we are able to move with flow our current interactions are more compassionate and skillful.  Once in the last 1980s, I was in England studying Acupuncture, and my roommate and I turned on the TV one evening and began watching Dr. Ruth interview a sports figure.  She asked a question that clearly touched a sensitive area, and she pulled back within seconds and substituted a different question.  My friend and I were in awe that she could be so attuned and able to make an uncomfortable situation comfortable again.  She was in an emotional relationship with flow and able to move with kindness and understanding with him.  If you asked me how many things I remember watching from that same decade I would have to admit that this is the only one.

In all healing traditions there has always been the inclusion of the emotions.  Chinese medicine is no different.  The overall basis for everything is the flow of the seasons, Autumn flows to Winter, Winter to Spring, Spring to Summer, and Summer to Late Summer. Each season is associated with an organ and is a metaphor for its nature.   And each organ has its own emotional landscape.  

AutumnWinterSpringSummer Late Summer
LungsKidneyLiverHeartEarth
Grief/LongingFearAngerSadnessWorry

We all experience every single one.  Some roll into the next easier.  How many of you have had a fight with your family where you end up laughing?  Just like with the seasons we flow from one to the other.   But there are places where we can’t quite find our flow.  But please know that don’t have to be in only one of the continual landscape of emotions.

The best is to be like the Dali Lama and to be able to move quickly in emotional reactions from one to the other.  Most of us need to do more work to get there.  Often, acupuncture helps.  But for me, it is meditation and doing Qigong that truly does the excavation to release the buried yet present emotional junk.  The real aim in it all is of course to be able to flow from one to the other with no effort.    Until I get there, I can be found doing my Qigong. 

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