In these difficult economic times, we are constantly reminded of ‘struggle:’ employment struggles, company survival struggles, family budgeting struggles, health maintenance struggles, and so on. We must overcome some real difficulties, as individuals, as families and as communities.
Yet struggle is also a state of mind. You know people who are constantly struggling, even in affluence. Struggle seems to be in their nature. You know others who seem to get through almost anything with calm. By their very nature, they seem to be ‘in the flow.’
Which is more natural for people, struggle or flow? To answer that, I invite you to look at the human life cycle.
When you were a child, you had all sorts of right and wrongs, should and shouldn’ts, and good and bads put upon you by parents, teachers and other adults. It was largely a black and white existence, but in all likelihood, seasoned with lots of love.
Our parents struggled to raise us. We did not come with instruction books.
You learned through all those contrasting edicts and stories how to live in society. You learned how to become who you are. And, if you are old enough, you learned to become an adult in time to reproduce and struggle to instill your values in your own children.
All the black and white shoulds and shouldn’ts, a necessary part of child-rearing, created a lot of struggle. However, all that passes.
Fifty-year-olds, their children grown and off on their own paths, are at a different place in the life cycle. The psychological-spiritual work at that age is to let go of all the shoulds and other family baggage and learn to just live. To the extent you can do this, you shift from what seems like a natural state of struggle to the natural state of flow, whether you are rich or poor.
After 30 years of being an adult in society, you do not need shoulds to live your life. And worse, if you hold on to them, or if you allow others to impose their shoulds on you, you prolong the struggle. Switching your thoughts from “What should I do” to “What do I want to do,” lifts a huge weight from your shoulders.
Living naturally is living from your centre, living a purposeful and meaningful life. Living increasingly becomes a process of choice and creation. It is spiritual work, no matter what you call it.
Letting go of the old is about putting yourself first. If you and your partner each take responsibility for your own self-care, you leave room for loving care for each other. Your relationship flows. It can be as calm or as adventuresome as you want it to be, and it flows.
I have known male and female elders with a peaceful, judgment-free wisdom about them. They have emerged with naturally-flowing lives from all quarters, from among the deeply religious and the decidedly secular, from among the affluent and the very poor.
Over the years, I have reinvented myself quite a few times. In spite of much trauma and loss and the intense struggle that went with it, each decade of my life has been better than the one before. The periods of struggle have been shorter and the experience of flow has been present more of the time.
I invite you to do what you have to do to shed what no longer serves you, so you can be more fully present in the natural flow of life.
Dr. Neill Neill is a registered psychologist in Qualicum Beach. He helps capable people who feel stuck… trauma, relationships, addictions.