5 Ways To Let Go Of Effort & Surrender To The Flow Of Life
We are conditioned to put effort into everything we do, and consequently having a "go with the flow" attitude to life is not always easy...
We plan, we strive, we achieve, we repeat. So when COVID-19 pandemic wiped out my plans like a massive tidal wave and washed me up onto a beach of uncertainty, this is what I discovered.
Before becoming a yoga teacher I spent 12 years working in business development roles for media companies. I strived for better job titles, bigger salary packets, and for more external "stuff" to feel accomplished. But each achievement left me feeling empty.
Throughout my corporate career I always had this gut feeling that I was not living my best life. Despite that, I continued to put huge amounts of effort into striving for more. I didn't realise at the time that I was swimming up stream. If you've ever swam upstream you'll know it's tiring, so it's no wonder I was close to burn out!
Discovering yoga helped me to feel confidence in my decision to quit my corporate career and begin a new path as a yoga teacher. However, all those years of 'effort' were etched into my subconscious, and I still find myself planning, striving, pushing, reaching to achieve some goal or accolade.
And that's where COVID-19 (aka life) comes in. When lockdown hit, my entire yoga business was wiped out. Clients cancelled , events were cancelled, and my heart sank to think that all of the effort I had put into building my business had been flushed away.
Although I was very anxious about the uncertainty, I spent the first days of lockdown exploring the "5 ways" listed below. With an stronger awareness of the present moment, I started to accept what was. I let go of the 'effort' and surrendered to the flow of life.
Here are those 5 ways:
1. Tune into your intuition
As COVID-19 reminded us, we can plan all we want but we cannot control the future. Life is a giant map of unknown lands with no set route.
What we do have however is a built-in GPS system, aka our intuition. “Wrong turn” is that queasy twist in your stomach when something feels wrong, “Continue ahead” is the electric flutter of butterflies.
I’ve always heard my intuition, sometimes as loud as alarm bells, but rarely followed its navigation. When something felt wrong I’d rationalise it with “I’m sure it will get better”.
But intuition’s bells doesn’t go away. It is our inner compass and the more you follow its subtle calls the stronger it gets. So have trust in your gut feelings, it’s your powerful tool to help guide you on your journey.
When you tune into your intuition you will feel more at peace with navigating those unknown lands.
2. Allow yourself to feel everything
When shit happens it's so tempting to run away from really feeling it. 'Run away' could mean making yourself busy with friends, or throwing yourself into work, or numbing yourself with consumption. But even if you run, you have stop sometime, and all those feelings will still be there when you do.
But if you can sit with feeling everything, even if it feels horrible, you can start to process. When you process, you give yourself an opportunity let go, and when you let go you can start to heal.
3. Seek out joy in creativity
“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”
―Roy T. Bennett,The Light in the Heart
I adore this quote. What a wonderful idea that we can redirect our energy from something negative like worry into something positively nourishing like creativity. Next time you are worrying about a future you can't control try creating (writing, painting, cooking, dancing, singing etc). Not only will you be moving with the flow of life but you be harnessing that energy into creating something. That's powerful stuff.
4. Trust that the journey is an opportunity to learn
The journey is about learning, and growing from those lessons. The process of learning and growing, with all it's ups and downs, is the reward itself. This is the real reward we should strive towards.
5. Practice letting go of effort in yoga
On the mat, we use effort to move into a yoga pose, but we can practice letting go of all the effort in order to come deeper into a pose.
For example, in finale relaxation (Savasana), I invite students to let go of all effort and feel the body completely supported by the earth. Notice if there is still holding or gripping in the body. Bring awareness to those areas and direct the breath there. The breath can help to create space on the inhale and release tension on the exhale to melt any lasting tensions. If we can let go of all effort, and let the breath work it's magic, the body will come deeper into relaxation.
Image - Final Relaxation (Svasana)
So why is it important to let go of effort to surrender into the flow of life?
As it turned out my initial anxiety about work (or lack of) was completely misplaced. More people than ever turned to yoga during COVID-19 . I regained my old clients and started teaching lots of new ones too. This whole experience was like a mini epiphany.
You can let go of effort by releasing the desire to plan and strive for things in the future. Instead embraced where you are and not where you think you need to be.
When you surrender to the flow of life, you let life unfold with curiosity rather than anxiety. Swimming with the flow, will open you to possibilities, often so much greater than you could ever have 'planned'. Swimming against the flow of life forces experiences that may not be right (for example me in my corporate career).
There are times in our life when we need effort in order to be focused. However, not at the expense of our ability to be content with what is, and being OK with not knowing what's next.
So even when life comes at you with a massive tidal wave, let life flow as it will and surf the tempestuous waters. When you surrender, you invite life to flow with you, not against you. You will feel more peace and more joy, in the present moment.
Do you need to let go of the effort and invite more 'go with the flow' into your life?